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Volume 9 Issue 6
Mar/Apr 2004

April is Earth Month, April 22 is Earth Day
Let's Celebrate Our Precious Earth Every Day!

Choosing Natural Sweeteners

The BodyTalk System™
Using Innate Wisdom to Synchronize and Balance the Bodymind for Optimum Health

Medicinal Marijuana (Cannabis)
A Natural Relief for Pain and Suffering

Phoenix Message
A Journey South Inspired by Crop Formations

Editorial

Choosing Natural Sweeteners
by Paulette Millis


Did you know that most of the sugar we consume is in our processed foods? In order to reduce the hazards associated with consuming refined and processed sugars, I suggest, instead, using whole natural foods. I also suggest avoiding products with aspartame, as it is known to have many dangerous side effects, too numerous to mention here! Let’s focus on healthy alternatives in this article and leave the dangers of sugar for the next one.

As my first choice, I like natural sweeteners that are fruit- or grain-based. When using fruit-based sweeteners, like purees and whole fruit pieces, we are getting the advantages of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Fruit juice concentrates do not offer the same benefits but they do offer good taste and are a much healthier choice than sugars. Grain based sweeteners, such as brown rice syrup and barley malt extract, are excellent healthy sweeteners as well. Natural sweets like honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, and date sugar are alternatives to the commonly used white and brown sugars, corn syrup, etc.

Let’s take a look at some of these healthy choices:

  1. Fruit pieces and fruit purees - best choice for baking, snacks, and beverages due to fibre content, vitamins, and minerals. Eliminate the sugar and add chopped dried fruit, mashed banana, prune or date puree, applesauce, etc. Experiment with the liquid and bulk. (See some recipes below.)
  2. Date sugar - made from whole dates and highly nutritious as it provides vitamins, minerals, and fibre. It is truly a whole food. Use whole dates blended with a liquid instead of the expensive and hard to find date sugar. e.g. dates and hot water or juice for muffins, and dates and canned tomatoes for main dishes such as baked beans. Date sugar is fructose with a sweetening power of 100%.
  3. Fruit juice concentrate - substitute this for the liquid in the recipe and leave out the sugar, or use a small amount of a natural sweetener such as honey, or replace the bulk of the sugar with a fruit puree.
  4. Brown rice syrup - made by extracting enzymes from sprouted rice. It is a thick, tan-coloured sweet syrup with a mild butterscotch flavour. Also available as organic. It has a moderate sweetness that does not overpower foods and is said not to cause blood sugar imbalances. It is maltose, a grain sweetener, with 20% sweetening power. It is great on toast, crackers, waffles, sandwiches, fruit, or in candy recipes.
    Some sources say the enzymes may be a problem liquefying the batter in baked goods but I have used brown rice syrup in all muffin and quick bread recipes with excellent results. If you do have a problem, you may try boiling the syrup for five minutes to de-activate the enzymes. This is my favourite sweetener. How about peanut butter and brown rice sandwiches, instead of jam? I no longer crave sugar and cream on my fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Brown rice syrup is now my first choice. For an excellent non-dairy creamer, look for Silk, a soy-based cream, or use the fruit toppings in the recipe section.
  5. Barley malt syrup - a maltose (grain-based) sweetener made from whole barley. It is darker, less sweet, and more potently flavoured than honey. Eden brand barley malt contains 100% organic sprouted barley and is a great choice for table use. It may be too strong for taste in baked goods. Do not buy the blends of malt and corn syrup. Use 1-1/3 cups to replace 1 cup sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for baked goods.
  6. Sorghum molasses - made from the stalks of the cereal grain, sorghum, this was used as the chief sweetener in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It has a sweet taste similar to, but milder than, molasses and has a thick texture like honey. It has a deep amber colour and turns baking a golden yellow.
  7. Honey - raw honey is a combination of fructose and glucose and is a complex carbohydrate compared to sugar, a simple carbohydrate. Honey has a history as a medicinal food for colds, coughs, and digestive difficulties. Although a whole food, it enters the bloodstream rapidly, as sugar does, and can cause the same kind of blood sugar race, causing the same kind of strain on the pancreas. Since honey is a complex carb, this may happen slower than with sugar. In addition to its natural sweet taste, it has small amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Pasteurizing destroys the enzymes so buy unpasteurized honey from a reputable source that doesn’t sugar-feed the bees. Honey is great in baked goods, beverages, and confections. Use 2/3 cup or less honey in place of 1 cup sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for baked goods. I have found that 1/4 cup of honey in place of 1 cup of sugar is often sufficient.
  8. Blackstrap molasses - this thick, dark, sticky syrup is the third extraction from raw sugar during the process of refining and has a sweet distinctive flavour. It is richer than regular molasses in all nutrients including vitamin B, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Buy organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses as the sulphur in other molasses is destructive to the B vitamins. Organic is important as molasses is the residue remaining from the manufacture of sugar and therefore any chemicals used in the growing of the cane will be more concentrated in the molasses. Blackstrap molasses is helpful with an iron deficiency. Great in baking and a wonderful flavour in baked beans. (See recipe below.) Try substituting a bit of molasses in honey for a brown sugar substitute.
  9. Maple syrup - refined from the sap of maple trees, it is sweeter than sugar. Look for real maple syrup and store it in the fridge to prevent fermenting. If it is not labelled, “pure maple syrup,” it is primarily corn syrup with artificial maple syrup flavour, colour, and added preservatives. To cut down on the amount used on pancakes, waffles, etc., place a small amount in a little dish next to your plate and use as a dip rather than a spread. Maple syrup is great in baked goods and beverages, and on cereals, yogurt, pancakes, etc. Use 2/3 cup to replace 1 cup sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for baking.
  10. Stevia - Stevia rebaudana is a sweet herb grown in Paraguay that is 30-400 times sweeter than sugar. It does not break down in heat, like aspartame, and it has no calories. It does not raise blood sugar levels so it is also available to diabetics. Wow! What a great food! Stevia comes in powder or liquid form. For baking, usually 1 tsp powder is equivalent to 1 cup white sugar but it is necessary to replace the bulk, e.g. use apple sauce, almond butter, prune puree, etc. Liquid stevia is marvellous to sweeten hot drinks like coffee or tea, usually 1-2 drops. (See recipe for English Toffee Hot Milk.) A pinch of powdered stevia sweetens a cup of liquid or a whole bowl of hot cereal. Stevia does NOT feed yeast fermentation so is not useful for yeast breads, and baked goods don’t brown as well with stevia. It goes well with citrus, tomatoes, fruits, dairy foods, chocolate, and carob.
  11. Fructose - a monosaccharide occurring in fruits and honey. Commercial fructose comes in liquid or crystalline form. It is not financially expedient to obtain from fruit, therefore crystalline fructose is produced from intensely refined cane and beet sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, which, for example, may contain up to 55% sucrose. Commercial fructose contains no nutrients and the body may experience allergic reactions, aggravated blood sugar problems, and an increase in cholesterol build-up.

RECIPES

ENGLISH TOFFEE TEA

1 cup milk of choice (I use Rice Dream)
1 Celestial Seasonings English Toffee tea bag
2-3 drops liquid stevia

Place milk and tea bag in small saucepan and heat just to boiling. Remove from heat, add 2-3 drops of stevia to taste, squeeze the tea bag well to marry the flavours, remove, and serve.
-contributed by Wendy Smith


FRUIT SAUCE*
This is the best substitute for all of that yucky syrup!

1/2 cup apple juice, or pure water
2 cups berries or fruit of choice e.g. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, or combination
1 tsp arrowroot powder (or more if needed) dissolved in a bit of water or apple juice
dab of honey, maple syrup, or a bit of stevia to sweeten if necessary

Place apple juice and fruit (fresh or frozen) in a saucepan and simmer until fruit is tender. Add sweetener to taste. Add dissolved arrowroot powder and stir to thicken slightly. If a thicker syrup is desired add a bit more arrowroot powder dissolved in cold water or juice and stir to combine. Serve immediately or place in a glass jar and store in fridge or freeze for later use. Great over yogurt, or on top of pancakes, waffles, crepes. Optional ingredients: dash of cinnamon or nutmeg; shredded coconut, apple sauce.


FRUIT and/or DESSERT TOPPINGS

(1.) Orange Cream Sauce
3/4 cup of heavy cream, or use Silk, a non-dairy creamer, or soy milk
2 tbsp thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp melted honey or sweetener of choice

Stir to combine and chill to thicken slightly before serving over fruit or fruit salad.

(2.) In place of cream and sugar:
brown rice syrup
Silk (non-dairy creamer) or cream if allowed on diet.

(3.) Nut Cream Sauce
3/4 cup raw cashews or almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pure water
6-8 dates

Blend until smooth. Place in fridge to thicken. Serve over fruit or desserts.

(4.) Coconut Cream Sauce
Try any of the above recipes substituting coconut milk for the water or the cream.

(5.) Sweet Sauce
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Heat in saucepan until syrupy. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and use over cakes, buns, or as a dessert topping.


APRICOT JAM

Cover dried apricots with pure water and let sit overnight. Blend and serve. Keeps in fridge for a few days.


BAKED APPLES

Wash and core apples. Place in a glass or stainless bake pan. Add a few unsulphured raisins, a dash of cinnamon, and a bit of natural sweetener of choice to centre of apples. Bake one hour in a slow oven, basting with the apple’s own juice from time to time.


POPSICLES*

(1.)
1-1/4 cups of pineapple chunks
1 medium peeled banana
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 cups plain yogurt or silken tofu

Puree pineapple and banana in a food processor, adding maple syrup if necessary to taste. Stir in yogurt or tofu. Spoon into popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

( 2.)
2 medium bananas
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt or silken tofu
natural sweetener if necessary

(3.)
2 large ripe peaches, sliced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt or silken tofu
natural sweetener if necessary

(4.)
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 tbsp honey
1 cup plain yogurt, or silken tofu
Follow directions for (1.)


BASIC FRUIT GELATIN

1 tbsp gelatin (or use agar-agar and follow package directions)
1/2 cup cold fruit juice
1-1/2 cups hot fruit juice
stevia to sweeten
1 tbsp lemon juice, optional
2-3 cups diced fruit, optional

Soften gelatin in cold juice. Add hot juice, stevia, and lemon juice. Stir until dissolved. If using fruit, add to mixture. Mold and chill until firm. Un-mold to serve.


FRUIT YOGURT WHIP

1 tbsp gelatin (or use agar-agar and follow package directions)
1/4 cup cold fruit juice
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen fruit, hot and pureed
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp honey or other sweetener (stevia to taste works fine)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Soften gelatin in cold juice. Add hot puree, sweetener if desired, and lemon juice. Chill until slightly thick. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in the yogurt. Mold. Chill again until firm. Top with fresh fruit if desired. Serves six. (My favorite is made with peaches!)


BARBECUE SAUCE
Tasty and keeps well in the fridge.

12 ozs unsalted tomato sauce
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
dash tabasco or very hot sauce to taste
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat for 20 minutes. Store in glass covered jar in the fridge.


BAKED BEANS*

4-7 cups cooked navy beans (or combination of cooked dry beans)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 cups blended tomatoes
7 chopped dates (blend with tomatoes)
1/3 tsp oregano
3-4 chopped fresh garlic cloves
1/2 tsp chicken like seasoning
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses (or more to taste)
2 tbsp tamari sauce (optional)
3/4 tsp dry mustard

Combine everything but the beans and mix well. Add 4-7 cups of beans, depending on how saucey you like them. Bake at 325º F for 2 to 3 hours until the liquid is absorbed and the onions are tender. Remove 2 cups of beans, mash, and return to pot. Freezes well. Optional: add pieces of veggie wieners, or organic beef or bison sausages.


CAROB SYRUP*

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup honey
6 tbsp carob powder
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
pinch of celtic sea salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine the water with the honey and boil for 5 minutes or until syrupy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve the carob powder, arrowroot powder, and salt in a few tbsp of hot water; add to the syrup and boil for another 5 minutes, or until thickened. Let cool and then add vanilla. Refrigerate in a covered glass jar. Makes 1-1/2 cups. Use with milk, soymilk, Rice Dream, or any combination of milks for a hot chocolate substitute.


*Nutrition, Cooking, and Healing by Paulette Millis, RNC.


References: Canadian National Health Retailer January 2002; Alive Magazine, May 2003; The Complete Book of Natural Foods, Fred Rohe; Veggie Life, Winter 2001-2002.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking, and Healing, is available in health food stores or by calling (306) 244-8890.

 

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