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The Super Bowl is over and Valentine's Day is 7 days away.  We're in the zone where added sugars are abundant --- junk foods, party fare, chocolate treats!  There's no better time to do this, Friends: Let's talk about the sweet stuff.

Doubt I need to tell you that too much sugar is associated with all kinds of health risks.  When we consume too much sugar we are not only likely to gain weight, but also increase our risk for heart disease, chronic inflammation, diabetes and impaired immune function.  It's wild, but evidence shows that sugar consumption (regardless of the source - table sugar, honey and unsweetened orange juice were in the study) depressed the immune system of healthy volunteers by about 50 percent for up to five hours. If you consume sugars at every meal or in beverages between meals then we're talking about a significant impact on immune function.

According to a 2009 study in Circulation, annual sugar intake increased 19% from 1970 to 2005. In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) reported Americans were ingesting an average of 111 grams of sugar per day which is the equivalent of about 450 calories per day! Currently, most Americans are consuming about 30% more added sugar than in 1970 however, the top20% of U.S. adults and children are consuming between 650-730 calories of added sugar every day!


The AHA suggests limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than 100 calories per day(about 6 teaspoons) for women and no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) per day for men. 


The other factor to consider is that high-glycemic foods (think: white bread, potatoes, and corn syrup) can trigger cravings and light up the parts of your brain linked to addiction.  So, when you open that can of Pringles or box of chocolates, there are physiological and psychological reasons why you can't eat just one.


Don't be bummed! You can still eat sweets!

The trick to satisfying your sweet tooth comes in WHAT you choose to eat (and WHEN you choose to eat it... but we're gonna save that piece for another day).  Working with the Glycemic Index, you can know WHAT choices are LESS LIKELY to spike your blood sugar and impact your health negatively. 

Here's how the glycemic index (GI) breaks down:

  • low-glycemic have a GI of <55;
  • moderate-glycemic foods have a GI of 56-69;
  • high-glycemic foods have a GI of >70 .

White table sugar has a GI of 80 and high fructose corn syrup registers at 87. 


The good news is there are healthy, low glycemic alternatives!  My favorite:

  • Liquid stevia. 
    GI 0
    Stevia doesn't spike blood sugar, has zero calories and it comes in plain and flavored versions.  A little goes a long way!  Stevia is actually 300 times sweeter than sugar. This herb has been used as a sweetener for centuries in South America, and it's even said to aid digestion. However, it does have a slight aftertaste, which may take some getting used to.

That said, stevia doesn't work for everyone (or in everything). Here are other lower glycemic options you can use to replace high fructose corn syrup and processed table sugar:

  • Yacon syrup.
    GI 1
    This liquid has the benefit of being rich in prebiotics (which feed good gut bacteria), but can cause some gas or bloating because of this! Extracted from the yacon plant (a South American tuber) the syrup has half the calories of sugar and a high concentration of indigestible inulin, a complex sugar that breaks down slowly. It's an excellent source of potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, 20 amino acids.  Use 2/3 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.

  • Lucuma.
    GI 25
    Lucuma powder is made from the Peruvian lucuma fruit, and is rich in minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B3, beta-carotene, and fiber. One tablespoon of white sugar contains 14 g of sugar calories, while one tablespoon of lucuma only contains 2 grams (although it still has 60 calories overall). The powder tastes a bit like maple syrup.  You can also substitute it directly (1:1 ratio to sugar) in baking recipes, especially if brown sugar is called for. 

  • Brown Rice Syrup.
    GI 25
    Brown rice syrup is made from boiled brown rice and has a gooey consistency like thick honey. It's really sweet, and has a distinct butterscotch flavor. The syrup contains trace minerals of vitamin B, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. This is a sweetener that's a better option for you than refined sugar because it won't digest as rapidly, but it still contains as many calories as sugar -- so use it sparingly.

  • Raw local honey.
    GI 30
    This golden stuff is rich in antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, and phytonutrients.  It is thought to have some medicinal properties and can help with seasonal allergies. With a much lower-glycemic rating than table sugar, raw honey is a great alternative sweetener. It has more calories than sugar, but because it is sweeter, you can use less.

     If you're vegan, it's not for you because it's considered an animal product.

  • Coconut Palm sugar.
    GI 35
    Coconut sugar is the evaporated sap from coconut trees.  It's granulated and can be swapped 1:1 for white sugar in recipes.  Has the added benefit of being rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins.

  • Grade B Maple Syrup.
    GI 58
    Darker and usually thinner than honey, grade B maple syrup is definitely higher glycemic so best used occasionally or as a treat.  It's also high in zinc and manganese. Calorie-wise it's comparable to sugar, but because of its sweeter taste, you only need to use 2/3 cup of maple syrup per 1 cup sugar. Be sure you're buying pure maple syrup, not anything that's been cut with high fructose corn syrup! 

You may have noticed that agave isn't on the list.  Even though it doesn't spike blood sugar, it turns out that it's not so great.  Recent research has shown that agave is processed in the body (by the liver) similar to high fructose corn syrup... yikes!  Steer clear of it as much as possible and opt for one of the other sweet alternatives instead!


Check back for a few more posts this week that will include recipes featuring some of these alternative sweeteners.  Health is a matter of balance and synergy.  To thrive, we don't deprive!  Join me and learn simple shifts that will help you be your healthiest in 2018!


Coach Sarah

Sarah Lawrence

Coconut Almond Cookie Dough Bites

Who hasn't snuck a knob of cookie dough at one point or another?  Well, these tasty bites are the perfect thing, really.  I’m not going to suggest that they’re healthy.  No, even I can’t go that far with a sweet.  But, as cookie dough goes, popping one or two of these little gems isn’t a horrible choice.  Coconut oil is a source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids and has multiple health benefits, but of greatest note in 2012 was the research that showed significant improvement in Alzheimers patients who used a coconut oil protocol.  Almond meal is the bulk of the dough so there is nothing overly processed and no gluten to gum up the gut.  If you want to take these bites over the top, you can coat them in chocolate and even add a few mini chips to the dough.  This recipe makes enough for a party.  The dough can also be stored in the freezer wrapped well in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag so you can make a few bites at a time. 006 Coconut Almond Cookie Dough Bites ½ cup coconut oil, room temperature ½ cup coconut sugar 1 tsp vanilla powder 1 ½ cups almond meal 1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, ½ for melting and ½ for dough (optional, but yummy!) In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and coconut sugar with the paddle attachment until the coconut sugar has “melted” into the oil and is no longer grainy.  Add the vanilla powder and almond meal.  Beat again for a few minutes to get the almond meal incorporated.   You will need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  The dough will not make a ball, but should keep together.  Because coconut oil is liquid at room temp, the dough will be soft.  At this point, if you want chocolate chips in the cookie, go ahead and stir in ¼ - ½ cup to suite your taste.  You can omit them and have a lovely treat all the same. Tip the batter into a smaller bowl and pop it into the freezer for about 5-10 minutes to firm up.  If you leave it too long the dough will go quite solid and will need to sit at room temp for a bit to be soft enough to roll.  We are looking to be able to roll smallish, teaspoon size balls of dough.  You can make the dough balls larger, but this size is nice for popping as the occasional sweet treat and it’s also great for potlucks and parties. While the dough is firming up, take the ½ cup of mini chips and put them in a small heat proof bowl.  You need to melt the chips.  If you have a tried and true method, go ahead and get on with your renegade self.  If not, follow the leader… I boil water in the kettle and pour it into a pan that is a bit deeper and bigger than the bowl I chose for the chips.  I set the chip bowl carefully into the water bath, being sure that the water doesn’t get into the chips.  Leave the whole thing to warm for a few minutes, remove and stir the melted chips. Voila! Now back to the dough.  It should be a good temp for rolling so go ahead and scoop out teaspoons-full and roll them.  If your dough is too hard to scoop and roll, just leave it ococonut almond cookie dough bitesn the counter a minute to warm up again.  Place the rolled dough onto a baking sheet or plate.  If the dough balls get too soft, you can pop the plate into the freezer to firm up before enrobing them in chocolate (doesn’t that sound so much sexier than dipping or drizzling?) Heavenly cookie dough balls, meet chocolate bath.  Roll them around in it and then rescue them gently with a spoon.  Place the drenched goodies onto a piece of wax paper or parchment or silpat.  They will need to go back to the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up the coating before serving, so if the whole operation is on a plate, that’s great.  Once the chocolate has set you can serve them or pop them off the plate and store in a freezer safe container.  For freezing, position the bites so they aren’t touching much, and separate layers with wax paper so they don’t stick. At room temp, the chocolate coating is fabulously finger licking good.  We like these best right out of the freezer when the dough is super cold and firm. For a variation, roll the dough balls in finely shredded coconut instead of chocolate… or, (mercy) roll in chocolate and then top with coconut! (You’re totally welcome!)