September Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners

Hey all! Been busy and haven’t had a chance to post lately. Hope you all are doing well. Hope you had an awesome summer.

Inspirational quote for the month

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.


Deconstructing Cravings

The body is an amazing source of intelligence. It is always there for you, pumping blood, never skipping a heartbeat, digesting whatever food you put in it and maintaining homeostasis. Is this reliable, intelligent bio-computer making a mistake by craving ice cream or a hamburger or chocolate? Are cravings due to lack of will-power or discipline? I’d like to suggest that cravings are not a problem. They are critical pieces of information that tell you what your body needs.

The important thing is to understand why you crave what you crave. Maybe your diet is too restrictive or void of essential nutrients. Maybe you are living a lifestyle that is too boring or stressful. Your body tries to correct the imbalance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs.

No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.

The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness. Try these tips to respond to your body:

  • Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.
  • Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit and sweet or root vegetables.
  • What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving?
  • When you eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect. Then you will become more aware and free to decide if you really want it next time. 

Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners

Who doesn’t love sweets? These sweets release serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Since refined sweeteners have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things.

Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less. You can find them in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids.

Raw Honey

Everyone seems to love honey, one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Agave Nectar

Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus. It does not stimulate insulin secretion as other sugars do, so it does not create a “sugar rush.” It has a delightfully light and mild flavor.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best.

Recipe of the Month: Maple Fruit Compote with Honey-Ginger Toasted Nuts

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4


2-3 apples

2-3 peaches or pears

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup raisins

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup walnuts or nuts of your choice

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

2 tablespoons honey


1.   Wash, core and chop fruit into slices or chunks.                                           

2.   Place in a large saucepan with 1/3 cup of water. Add the maple syrup and raisins.  

3.   Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

4.   Add lemon juice and cinnamon. Cook for another 10 minutes, until soft.

5.   While fruit is cooking, place chopped nuts in a skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

6.   Drizzle honey over the nuts and add ginger, but keep stirring since the honey can easily burn.

7.   Top warm fruit with toasted nuts and enjoy!

Love and Light,


Forward to a Friend

It’s such a pleasure to help those closest to us become happier and healthier. Please forward this post to your friends, family members or colleagues who might be interested and inspired by it.

Beat Your Sugar Cravings Part 3: Top 10 Natural Sweeteners

In Part 1 of my 5 part series on beating your sugar cravings, we discussed eight causes of cravings, part 2 was about artificial sweeteners. Today, we will discuss the top 10 natural sweeteners.

In general, we consume approximately 400 calories a day from added sugars! And while the consumption of refined sugar has been rising, so have artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, ACE K and saccharin have been debated for years in regard to their unhealthy side effects. And refined sugars aren’t much healthy either.

table sugar

Over the last three years or so, corn growers and affiliated organizations have pushed high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup as a natural sweetener. This is not true because the majority of HFCS is produced from genetically modified corn.

Note: Corporations are changing high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup to other names:  maize syrup, glucose syrup, glucose/fructose syrup, tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup, fruit fructose, and crystalline fructose to fool the public. Be sure to read labels.

Another note: Fructose is a simple sugar that is rapidly metabolized by the liver causing a “sugar high.” This quick-acting sugar is believed to lead to increased storage of fat in the liver, resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, digestive upset, and atherosclerosis. And, agave nectar is a questionable sweetener.

So, natural sweeteners are the best way to go. They are healthy and tasty alternatives to refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, substituting healthy sweeteners such as blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and honey; can increase antioxidant intake.


Top 10 Natural Sweeteners

  1. Raw Honey

Raw honey is a superfood and one of my favorite natural sweeteners. It’s packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Together, these essential nutrients help to neutralize free radicals while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.

One tablespoon of raw honey has 64 calories and has less impact on glycemic load than a single banana. It’s important to note that these are the benefits of raw honey. Once honey has been pasteurized, it loses the many of the health benefits that raw honey brings to the table.

Look for local raw honey at farmer markets and directly from local beekeepers. The darker the honey, the richer the flavor and the greater the health benefits.



  1. Stevia

Stevia is native to South America and has been used for hundreds of years in that region to support healthy blood sugar levels and prompt weight loss.

Stevioside, an element in the leaves that makes it more than 200 times as sweet as sugar. Stevia is available in liquid drops, packets, dissolveable tablets, and baking blends. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and none of the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners, making it an ideal natural sweetener.

Stevia is related to the sunflower, and some people experience a slight metallic aftertaste. If that has been your experience with stevia in the past, try a brand that is higher in the steviosides. Many find it to be sweeter, without a residual aftertaste.

  1. Dates

Dates are loaded with potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin B6. From the date palm tree, they are easily digested and help to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

dates medjool

  1. Coconut Sugar

Most people have heard about the benefits of coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flour and fresh coconut. Now, more people are using coconut sugar as their natural sweetener of choice because of its low glycemic load and rich mineral content. Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm and then heated. Through evaporation, we get coconut sugar.

Coconut sugar is packed with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients.  It was mentioned above that coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than sugar.  This may be due to its inulin content. Inulin is a type of fiber that has been shown to slow glucose absorption.

Coconut sugar is very similar to regular table sugar and should be used sparingly. And it is high in calories.


  1. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is native to North America and comes in two different grades Grade A – lighter syrup and Grade B – darker syrup. Maple syrup processing requires four steps: Drilling the hole in the tree, hanging a bucket to catch the sap, boiling the sap to evaporate out the water, and then filtering of any sediment. This processing system can be time consuming.

Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese, and it contains calcium, iron, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Because it is rich with antioxidants, this all-natural sweetener helps to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. Suggestion: Select darker, Grade B maple syrups, since they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

Much like coconut sugar and honey, maple syrup is a slightly better option than regular sugar, but it should still be consumed in moderation.

  1. Blackstrap Molasses

Organic blackstrap molasses is highly nutritious, rich in copper, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6.  Blackstrap molasses is higher in antioxidants than both honey and maple syrup.

There are several types of molasses, depending on which level of processing it has gone through. All molasses is obtained from raw cane sugar, made by boiling it until it’s a rich sweet syrup. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling, concentrating its nutrients and providing for its deep rich flavor.

  1. Balsamic Glaze

Balsamic vinegar is rich in antioxidants that destroy free radicals, rich in the enzyme pepsin that helps to promote healthy digestion, and it tastes great. Balsamic glaze can used to flavor salmon or other fish.

  1. Banana Puree

Bananas are rich in fiber and potassium, and a good source of vitamins B6 and C. They are also naturally sweet with a subtle flavor, making them a perfect natural sweetener.

Overripe bananas contain lots of natural sugar making it a natural healthy alternative. Once bananas are peeled, they need to be used right away as they oxidize once they are exposed to air.

  1. Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup starts with brown rice that is fermented with enzymes to break down the starch. The liquid is then heated until the syrup consistency is achieved. The end result is a thick, amber-colored, sweet syrup which is a perfect healthy alternative for recipes that call for corn syrup and other unhealthy sweeteners.

Note: The fermentation process helps to break down the sugars into ones that are easily digestible. The fermenting process is key here. Some brown rice syrups are fermented with barley enzymes, meaning they contain gluten.

  1. Real Fruit Jam

When we say real fruit jam we want to use real fruit. Berries, stone fruit, apples, pears and grapes are great replacements for sugar in recipes. If you are in a hurry and need something readily available, it is okay to use commercially available fruit jam; just be sure there is no added sugar or pectin. It is better to make your own sugar-free jam with organic fresh or frozen fruit. It’s easy and economical.


Living healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up sweets entirely; it just means you need to replace unhealthy refined sugars and artificial sweeteners with these natural sweeteners. Some of these natural sweeteners need to be used in moderation. Explore and find what natural sweetener you like best.

If you are pre-diabetic or diabetic, consult with your physician before using any of these natural sweeteners.


8 FAKE Names For High Fructose Corn Syrup