Category Archives: sugar free

Beyond Sugar Free

Today is October 1st, 2010. It a brand new month and a brand new day. This day has never been seen or experienced before, and it is a day that I make a challenge to myself. I have been sugar free for over a year now, avoiding all sweeteners that raise blood sugar and insulin levels. But today I’m going beyond this, and moving to a new health challenge in which I hope to benefit from.

Going sugar free was probably the best thing I could’ve done for my health. It has provided me with clairty of thought, clearer skin and increased energy. But what if I could experience a higher level of health, one that brings forth the absense of sweeteners all together?

We have grown too dependent on sweet taste, even those who are cooks who use the healthiest ingredients possible. Stevia and xylitol are amazing sweeteners, that won’t increase blood sugar, but I’m afraid I have become too dependent on their additions into my tea, desserts and various other recipes.

I have been researching sweet taste for quite awhile now, and have found some discussing that sweet taste, no matter where it comes from, stimulates insulin levels. This may explain why diet drinks can actually promote weight gain. Even some studies have shown that Stevia helps the pancreas secrete insulin, which can be good when you have high blood sugar, but what if your blood sugar hasn’t risen at all? Is it safe to have elveated insulin, circulating around in your body?

When your blood sugar rises, insulin becomes the effector in the homeostatic mechanism which regulates blood sugar control. It is secreted from your pancreas, and helps take in the glucose monomers (which were broken down from carbohydrates) into your cells which use it for energy. However, if you blood sugar hasn’t risen, yet insulin has, excess insulin can store fat.

Also, high insulin levels can be inflammatory, and many have already concluded that raising your insulin levels contributes to diabetes tremendously, due to the fact that your cells become less sensitive to insulin over time. Because insulin is fat storage hormone, it can be difficult to lose weight if it is secreted excessively. Because it doesn’t have any glucose to take into the cells, it more than likely is stored as fat. This may be the reason why diet soft drinks do not aid in weight loss, and actually contribute to weight gain.

Our ancestors had a way for storing fat whenever they came across berries or sugary carbohydrates, because their bodies knew that famine would be experienced soon. Since fat is a long term energy source, storing it after coming across fruit or other carbohydrates was necessary for survival later on.

After eating the berries or the fruit, which was very rare to do, blood sugar elevated. Insulin then helped take the broken down carbohydrates (glucose-simple sugar) into adipose (fat) cells for later energy use. Thus, many believe that our bodies have evolved from the experiences of our ancestors, to a point where any sweet taste we experience helps secrete insulin. Our bodies may believe that famine will ensure again, and our insulin rises in order to protect our selves and help us survive.

For the rest of the year, I am devoting my entire diet around living sweet free. It is defcinitely a challenge for me, because I love baking, “unbaking” (raw desserts) and making sweet treats for my family. I can still do this, and I will still post recipes every now and then for something sweet and sugar free, but I will not eat it, at least not for a while now.

For three months I shall devote myself to this regimin, and then report back to see if anything has change. I will not eat fruits, either (you can receive the same nutrients from vegetable sources that you get from fruit), or stevia, xylitol, etc. I really do want to see if anything happens or changes in my body, and in my life.

I have tried an experiment on this blog before, my No Grain Experiment. It helped me realize that certain carbohydrates are good, and give me energy. Those from buckwheat and quinoa, for example, help fuel my energy levels throughout the day. I know I shall learn something from this experiemtn, as well.

Are you challenging yourself everyday? Let me know in the comments section. I think that its really important to test yourself and see what you can do, if only so you can know for yourself. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, but you must know who you are and what you are capable of (which is anything!).

For now, this is The healthy Advocate.

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Winter Recipe Roundup – Healthy, Gluten Free, Sugar Free and Sooo Good

Click on the picture above to see descriptions

On the last day of winter this year, I decided to squeeze in as much last minute holiday treats as I could. I love wintertime, and I wanted to get the most out of it this year, for some reason. However, when spring came, it was fantastic, because as you can see above in the middle picture (click to enlarge), the first full day of spring was filled with 3 inches of snow–in Texas!
I go to school in Houston but visit Dallas (my home) as often as I can. For spring break I went, and the last day I was there I was running and playing in the snow like a little kid again. How I wish I took more pictures! I made two snow angels, a snow man and several hundred snowballs to throw at the window to get my preteen sister and her friends to wake up (they didn’t come out by the way–apparently they’re too cool for that).
Anyway, back to the recipes. I made quite a bit, unintentionally, and shared them with my mom–brothers and sisters are more into the processed food, promoting its taste and “quality” while never attempting to try real food. Oh well; there is only so much you can do to try to promote health and wellness in others. However, I am “The Healthy Advocate”, so I shall try more, without being too overbearing.
OK, I have strayed again, and I will stay on topic. Enter Coconut Flour Gingerbread Cookies! Sugar free, dairy free and gluten free, I might add (did I also mention they were grain free?). I have never had any luck making a recipe completely vegan when it comes to coconut flour. It seems as though the eggs are an integral part of the recipe in order to bind everything together properly. If anyone has any tips on this, please let me know.
My cookies came out thin, mainly because that was the way I wanted them. You can make them thicker by adding more batter to the cookie cutter (see recipe). Also, they are very soft, not crispy like other gingerbread cookies. I think next time I will try almond flour next winter for a crispier cookie.
The only trouble I had with the recipe was the coconut oil frosting/glaze. Sometimes a chef can’t be patient–you must be when it comes to this recipe! You must first allow the cookies to completely cool before frosting, otherwise the coconut oil will soak into the warm cookie, and won’t make that beautiful hard coating that you see in the picture below.
One more note: The nutrition information below is calculated based on the number of cookies I made. You may need to adjust the numbers when you actually make yours. The entire recipe comes out at 9 grams of digestible carbs! Which means if you ate one cookie, you would only get 0.6 grams of digestible carbohydrates, which is pretty cool (only if you are able to make 16 cookies, like I did). It also contains a whopping 1.5 grams of high quality protein, due to the eggs and coconut flour. What a nutritious and guilt free treat!
This recipe was adapted from SimplyCoconut.com. They have fantastic coconut flour recipes. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but I’m getting there.
Coconut Flour Gingerbread Cookies


Makes about 16 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.
Ingredients

1/4 + 1/8 cup Coconut Flour (6 TBSP total)
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/4 Cup Xylitol + 2 TBSP Xylitol (or favorite sugar free sweetener)
1/4 tsp. Pure Stevia Powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup dairy free milk–Coconut milk might be best
3 TBSP butter, ghee or coconut oil, melted
3 eggs OR 6 egg whites
Directions

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
Combine the milk, melted butter or oil and the eggs in a separate bowl. Mix until blended.
Pour in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
On a greased glass baking dish, place your desired cookie cutter. Pour a couple of tablespoons worth of batter in the cookie cutter and press batter into the shape. Slowly unmold the cookie so all that is left is the batter in the desired shape. Repeat with same or different cookie cutters.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Coconut Oil Frosting/Glaze

1/4 Cup – 1/2 Cup melted coconut oil
Stevia, to taste
Directions

Pour sweetened coconut oil on top of cooled cookies one TBSP at a time and spread. Cool cookies again so the glaze will harden.
Nutrition Information

Per Cookie w/o Glaze & Made w/ Whole Eggs

Calories: 68.15
Fat: 4 g
Digestible Carb: 0.6 g
Fiber: 0.95 g
Protein: 1.5 g

Per Cookie w/o Glaze & Made w/ Egg Whites

Calories: 60.65
Fat: 2.9 g
Digestible Carb: 0.6 g
Fiber: 0.95 g
Protein: 1.5 g
Sugar: 0.19 g (naturally occurring and bound w/ fiber in the coconut flour)


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Now for the nut-butter cups. These “Reese’s” inspired chocolate covered peanut butter cup is one of my favorite, because I combine different and healthier nuts other than peanut. Peanuts can contain a toxin around them the majority of the time, and are high in inflammatory oils and fats (omega-6’s). I use a blend of organic peanut butter, walnut butter and almond butter (homemade, of course–recipe coming soon).
Homemade Reese’s can take some time, but it is SO worth it, especially when you consider the health of your body. Rather than giving your body all the sugar and inflammatory fats that are found in regular candies, you know you are giving your body the anti-aging, anti-inflammatory fats from walnuts, the anti-oxidants from pure chocolate, and the metabolism boosting qualities of coconut oil. Also, you won’t be bombarding your body with sugar.
This is my first shot at these healthy versions of nut butter cups and balls. I will be trying them again at Easter, and will revisit them again for you guys. You will need paper cupake/muffin liners, cutting the paper “walls” of the liner so that they only stand about 1/2 inches tall.
Homemade “Reese’s” Nut Butter Cups


Makes 14-16 Chocolate Covered Nut Butter Cups

Ingredients

4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, bar
-OR- 12 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder mixed with 4 TBSP melted coconut oil

1 tsp. honey, or more depending on how sweet you want your chocolate to be

1/2 cup of your favorite nut butter (I used peanut, almond, sunflower and walnut)
-Sweeten with powdered xylitol, erythritol, honey or stevia, if desired

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Using a small paintbrush or a spoon and your fingertips (like me), spread a teaspoon and a half into a paper muffin cup. Spread around to coat the entire cup (may need more than 1 1/2 tsp.). Continue to do this until about 10-12 muffin cups are all coated. Place in freezer to firm.
Meanwhile, stir the nut butter with your sweetener, if using. Take the hardened chocolate cups out of freezer and put nut butter in each cup, making sure you fill the entire cup–but not too much; you don’t want to fill it up to the top.
Place the muffin cups in the freezer again. Melt chocolate while you wait about 5 minutes, if you need to, and then take out the muffin cups once again. Spread remaining melted chocolate over the nut butter inside the chocolate shells, and spread over to completely cover. Once done, place in freezer again
Wait until it is solid enough to unmold, and then store in freezer or refrigerator. It can melt fast at room temperature if you are using the coconut oil and cocoa powder mixture, so keep in the refrigerator.
With any remaining chocolate and nut butter, make chocolate covered nut butter balls, or make more chocolate covered nut butter cups. Or, use your imagination, be creative, and tell me what you do!


Nutrition Information
Per Chocolate Covered Nut Cup

Calories: 86.25
Fat: 7 g
Protein: 4.5 g
Digestible Carb: 2.7 g
Fiber: 1.75 g
Sugar: 0.8 g (natural–with 1 tsp. honey)


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Well there is the winter recipe round up. No savory dishes this season, but the upcoming ones you will see more healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas.
This has been The Healthy Advocate.