Sugar has been the subject of a heated health debate for the last couple of years with experts, doctors, governments and even chefs urging us to reduce our sugar consumption.
Last year, a new WHO guideline recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars (i.e. all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices) to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
Many recent studies have brought to light what sugar does to our bodies and how most of us are exceeding our recommended daily intake without even realizing it. Most of us know the several reasons why sugar is not good for us. Not only does it not give you any nutrition, it is addictive and doesn’t satisfy hunger, making you overeat easily. Recent scientific research suggests that sugar contributes majorly to obesity and is considered to increase our chances of developing chronic ailments such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease and even cancer.
Sugary drinks, cakes, desserts are all to blame. But most of the sugars consumed today are hidden in processed foods that are not even seen as sweets. In 2015, a documentary called, “That Sugar Film” by Australian actor-director, Damon Gameau was aimed at showing consumers the hidden sugars in everyday food that we buy from supermarkets and how it all unknowingly adds up to exceed our daily intake. As part of an experiment, the actor altered his diet to include more processed foods marketed to be healthier options such as low-fat yoghurt, fruit juice and cereal bars and quickly saw weight gain, mood swings and his health decline.
But how easy is it to eliminate refined sugars from our diets? How do we deny sweet treats to our children when supermarkets are full of attractive boxes calling out to them? I’ve tried eliminating sugar from my diet for 21 days but slowly found it creeping back into my diet. The solution I have found, by experience, is to create a balance. I endeavor to gradually cut out refined sugar and processed foods one at a time, read labels more carefully so I know what I am putting in my body and instead of denying myself totally, substitute sugary treats with healthier versions. If you want your children to eat healthy, you need to make a lifestyle change yourself and lead by example. Though honey and maple syrup are included as free sugars, I still prefer to use them for their nutritional value and restrict my portion sizes. In any case, anything homemade has way less sugar than the supermarket variants.
Thanks to the growing awareness and efforts by some very creative home cooks and chefs, there have emerged many new recipes to cook without refined sugar. These are delicious, use wholesome healthier ingredients and you wouldn’t believe don’t have sugar in them. Here, are some of my favorites that have become a part of my family’s meals.
I love lemony desserts, especially in summer. If you are a lemon fan you have got to try these! With almonds, coconut and organic lemon, they make an amazing snack. I don’t use the powdered sugar in the recipe and instead, prefer rolling these in coconut flakes.
What I love about this recipe is that you don’t need an ice cream maker for this. This is a simple recipe with wholesome ingredients that yields a rich, creamy, perfectly sweet treat without using any sugar. My daughter loves ice cream, and summer to her feels incomplete without it. So my solution is to allow occasional treats but still keep it healthy: I make smoothies and lollies at home with her. She enjoys the process and the result, of course.
I’m a fan of raw desserts as they retain the wholeness and nutritional goodness of the ingredients. This beautiful cheesecake is a perfect summer treat with berries, yogurt and nuts. Pure maple syrup, though still a simple sugar, has antioxidants and might help fight inflammation. It has a lower glycemic index rating than cane sugar.
These are made with wholemeal flour and use honey and applesauce instead of sugar. The spices fill the house with a pleasing aroma as these bake in the oven.
This a good recipe for a simple birthday cake that is full of healthy ingredients. It uses buckwheat flour, almond flour, Greek yogurt and coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is a low glycemic food containing B vitamins, and a high mineral content (potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron). It also contains glutamine.
Often, you get a sweet craving when you feel low in energy. But don’t reach out for that chocolate bar. Instead, try this quick two-ingredient treat. Bananas are the perfect pick me up food containing vitamin B6 and are a good source of manganese, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, and copper.
8. Mango Tart
Surprise your friends with this show-stopping dessert. Watch their jaws hit the floor when you tell them it’s healthy, natural and refined sugar-free!
Sticky toffee pudding without all the nastiness? You’ve got to be kidding! Well, almost! This is a healthier version. So it’s got butter and dates but no refined sugar or gluten. I use lesser quantities of dates for this as my palate has adjusted to a lower level of sweetness over time. So, feel free to do the same. I don’t add sauce to it unless it’s a special occasion and I’m allowing myself a rare indulgence but restrict portion size. Again, balance is key!
I love chocolate and truffles are the ultimate indulgences for me. A recipe to make them healthy seems almost sacrilegious, but it’s not when it is just as rich, creamy, delicious, enhances the chocolate flavor and, more importantly, is good for you. Try this fantastic recipe by Jamie Oliver. You won’t be disappointed.
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