It’s been awhile since we have had a nutrition and/or recipe post…Well today you get both!! Emily, my wife, normally takes care of the nutrition and recipe post around End of Three Fitness, but with a new baby and moving across the country she has had her hands full lately. However, she has written an awesome post on sugar with a quite tasty recipe to finish it off. Enjoy!
Many people are looking to cut their sugar intake to reduce chances of illness and to drop weight or cut body fat. There are many reasons reducing sugar consumption can help in your quest for a healthy lifestyle including physical, mental and emotional benefits.
Looking to lose weight? Reduce sugar consumption. Looking to reduce your chance of developing diabetes or heart disease? Reduce sugar consumption. Looking to gain a mental edge and bring back that sharp mind you had when you were younger? Reduce sugar consumption.
Although sugar will never be considered a health food, and we should all strive to minimize the amount of sugar we consume on a daily basis, this post should help you determine what choice to make when you want to splurge a little, and indulge in something delicious, but still remain true to your healthy lifestyle.
But with all the sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners out there, how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong? We’re going to break down a few of them for you and discuss their pros and cons. We’ll follow it up with a yummy cookie recipe that uses one of our favorite substitutes.
The official End of Three Fitness stance on artificial sweeteners is that they do more harm than good and we don’t recommend using them. We’re sure you’ve heard all the negatives and things to watch out for (i.e. they can contribute to an increase in cancer cells in the body) so we won’t dive in to all that in this post. Just know that we don’t condone their use. This post will focus on all-natural substitutes for refined sugar that we use in our cooking and baking on a daily basis.
We love honey for its floral sweetness, ease of use, and its many health benefits. Local, raw (unpasteurized) honey is best, as its many micronutrients remain intact, and local honey is said to help allergy sufferers by acting as a natural vaccine to desensitize the body to seasonal allergies. Honey can be substituted in many recipes as the sweetener of choice, but may cause some issues when baking, due to exchanging a liquid sweetener for regular, granular sugar. Because baking is sometimes very exact like a science experiment, it can be tricky to substitute honey for sugar in your favorite recipes. We recommend using honey to sweeten baked goods like muffins and bread, and for addition to beverages like hot tea. When looking to buy, make sure you search for the two key words – local and raw – to get all the wonderful health benefits!
Agave nectar is similar to honey in that it is a liquid sweetener. It is slightly more viscous than honey and mixes easily into even iced beverages. It is a bit sweeter than sugar, so use a bit less when substituting. It can be used in the same way honey would be used when added to baked goods, and also makes a good sweetener for ice cream, smoothies, and other cold treats. Agave has many benefits like being low on the glycemic index – helpful for people with diabetes or others looking to control blood sugar levels. Because blood sugar does not rise as sharply with low-glycemic foods, the amount of insulin produced by the body is lower, which helps to diminish the storing of fat cells in response. Although the calorie content is the same, if not slightly higher than sugar, agave can be used as a successful substitute for refined sugar. A con is its slightly bitter aftertaste, which can be a turn-off if used to replace all of the sugar in a recipe. Use with caution, and in combination with another sweetener when possible!
Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar is a fairly new sugar substitute that has become the sweetener of choice in some trendy restaurants and coffee shops. It is taken from the flowers of the coconut palm, and is a dark, granular sweetener that retains many health benefits because it is not refined. In pure, organic coconut sugar, many micronutrients are still intact, which makes this sugar a great substitute for traditional white and brown sugar. Be sure to read labels however, as it is sometimes sold with fillers like regular cane sugar. Like the others, it contains a similar calorie content and is by no means a low-calorie substitute for sugar, but studies have shown it to be low on the glycemic index – again, great for controlling blood sugar. Another benefit of this sugar is that it consists mainly of sucrose – like table sugar, instead of fructose – like high-fructose corn syrup, which does not impact blood sugar levels, but is transported directly to the liver and converted straight to fat in the body. The benefit of coconut palm sugar is that it is treated similarly to table sugar by the body, but is much lower on the glycemic index. A win-win. Also, since it is not processed and refined like table sugar, it retains tons of great-for-you micronutrients. In addition, it tastes great. Much like its cousin, brown sugar, but even darker and richer in complexity. It adds another dimension to your baking, unlike anything else we’ve tasted before.
To see what we mean, try out this awesome recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, Almond Butter Chocolate Chip cookies, made with our current favorite substitute for refined sugar, coconut palm sugar.
Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature
- 1 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups gluten-free oats
- 1 10 oz bag dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup almond butter
- 2 Tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 Tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Cream together the coconut oil, almond butter, and coconut sugar until well blended. Add vanilla extract and ground flax + water mixture. Keep beating until everything is combined.
In another bowl, mix together the oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips. Mix until just combined – be careful not to over-mix!
Roll small balls of dough and place two inches apart on a silpat or parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Slightly flatten dough balls. Bake for 14-16 minutes until puffy. Let cool for 5 minutes on sheet tray before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Enjoy the recipe!!
Jerred & Emily