The Sugar Problem: What’s the Sweet Solution?

I have a sweet tooth. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. I know I have something of an addiction. If I go more than a couple days without some kind of sweet treat, I get unbearable cravings. In fact, a recent article entitled, “Fatty Foods Addictive as Cocaine in Growing Body of Science” detailed how processed and sugary drinks and foods really are addictive, so when we deny ourselves these foods, we go through withdrawal symptoms. Eating sugary foods everyday actually changes how your brain responds, desensitizing you to their effects so you have to eat more to have the same response and so you don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms.

I know I have this problem, and since I’ve adopted a mostly vegan diet, I’ve been trying to figure out how sweets figure into it. Sugar, even white sugar, is vegan because it has no animal products in it. But I’ve been trying to tend toward the more natural and plant-based foods and reducing my sugar intake to the recommended 20 grams a day was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. White sugar is out. White sugar is highly refined, devoid of nutrients (seriously, it has no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes, only empty calories) and is harmful to our body and our teeth. This article goes into more detail about the harmful effects of sugar, especially white sugar.

Here’s an excerpt from the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition” by Julieanna Hever about sugar:

“Sugar and its derivatives elevate triglycerides, blood glucose, and adrenaline. Sugar promotes cancer growth, poor cholesterol profiles, diabetes, metabolic syndrom, obesity or excess eright, gastrointestinal diseases, premature aging, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, tooth and gum decay, gout, and acne. And if that weren’t enough, it’s physically addicting! One of the best things you can do for your health (after giving up dairy and animal products, which, as an herbivore, is already crossed off the list) is to eliminate sugar.”

What are some “vegan” sugar options? Raw sugar, agave nectar, and stevia are frequently used by my favorite recipes gurus–Happy Herbivore Lindsay Nixon and Chocolate Covered Katie. Raw sugar, however, presents many of the same problems as white sugar. Agave nectar, says Hever, can contain up to 90 percent fructose (high fructose corn syrup is only 55 percent fructose), so although it spikes the blood sugar less than table sugar, the fructose is metabolized in the liver and may lead to elevated triglycerides, heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, and weight gain.

What are the “whole foods” sweetener options? Hever recommends dates, fruits, and blackstrap molasses. When I started this journey, I thought it was really extreme that someone would use dates to sweeten baked goods; now I’m voluntarily experimenting on my favorites and having great success. Dates are delicious by themselves and incorporated into sweet treats.

Some of my favorite treats use dates–check them out:
Chocolate Chip Vegan Blondie Bars
Spice Bread
Guiltless Mini Snickers Bars
Black Bean Brownies
Everything Muffins
Sarah’s Good for You Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Whole Foods Chocolate Zucchini Muffins 
Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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