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Sweetening Foods the Whole Foods, Plant-Based Way: Yes, You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

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I first tackled the issue of sugar six months ago in my post, “The Sugar Problem: What’s the Sweet Solution?”  One of my New Year’s resolutions was to reduce added sugar intake (not the kind in fruits) to the recommended 20 grams a day.  This week, my interest in reducing refined sugar intake has been focused on my children, as a result of reading Sally Kuzemchak’s article, “Sugar Shocker,” in Parents magazine.  Research shows that yogurt and cereal specifically marketed toward toddlers often contains at least 20 percent of calories from sugar.  Although it’s fine for kids to have some added sugars, the recommendation is still 20 grams a day, or about 5 teaspoons.  Unfortunately, the latest government surveys show that toddlers and preschoolers consume about 16 teaspoons (64 grams)–more than triple the recommended amount!  I’ve started monitoring the few processed foods my kids do eat, and soy yogurt was the worst.  We’ve switched to plain soy yogurt and are using fruit puree and cinnamon to add the flavor, which has cut the refined sugars in half.

The magazine article does a good job explaining the risks to one’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels (to say nothing about having crazy-hyper kids), as well as explaining that the vast majority of sweeteners are unhealthy; sugar is sugar, whether you call it raw sugar or agave nectar.  Where the article fails, though, is explaining that there are two healthy options out there for sweetening your food!  (insert raucous applause)

This video from Nutritionfacts.org breaks down the antioxidant content of all the sweeteners out there.

Amazingly, raw, organic agave nectar is the same as white table sugar.  Honey is better than maple syrup.  But leaps and bounds ahead of all other sweeteners are the sweeteners that are actually good for you:  dates (or date sugar, which is dehydrated dates ground into tiny pieces) and blackstrap molasses (blackstrap, not regular, unsulphured).

Another excellent video about dates is this one, which explains that despite being 80% sugar, the consumption of dates has zero negative health effects, and in fact, dates can be considered an “ideal” food.  Incidentally, the smaller, sweeter Hallawi dates are healthier than Medjool dates.

I’m committed to continuing to decrease our family’s added sugar intake, so I’m glad that we all love dates and that Hallawi dates are cheaper than Medjool dates around here!

For recipes that use dates, check out this post.

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