From seasons and weather, to technology, change is everywhere and it is inevitable. How we adapt to this change determines our success, happiness and health. As we become more aware of the role of food and our energy levels, immune function, and general health, many of us are making better choices. Some of us do this to prevent illness, while some of us are thrust into it by chronic and acute diseases. Either way, change isn’t always easy and we all need some help along the journey.
One of the main challenges people find when making dietary changes is being told to avoid certain foods and not knowing what to replace them with. In this article I am going to focus on replacing white sugar with healthy raw sweeteners. Not only do natural sweeteners replace highly refined and processed sugar that is detrimental to our health, they are actually good for us.
Dates are a sweet chewy fruit with a rich flavour and texture. They can be purchased fresh or dried. They are very high in fibre, low in fat, and cholesterol free. Dates can be blended with water to make a paste, ground and dehydrated to make date sugar, chopped to add sweetness and texture, or used as a binder for pie crusts. When using fresh dates make sure to remove the pit, and for dried dates soak in water before using.
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, most commonly found in Mexico. It is available in varieties ranging from light to dark, the lighter being more neutral and the dark being more flavourful. Agave has a relatively low glycemic index and contains saponins, which are anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
Raw honey is not only delicious it also contains many vitamins and minerals, and is high in antioxidants. It is helpful for sore throats and digestive upset. A wide variety of raw honey can be found in health food stores, from buckwheat and clover to alfalfa and fireweed.
Although maple syrup is not raw, it is full of flavour and health benefits and makes a nice addition to raw desserts. Maple syrup is a great source of calcium, iron and zinc as well as many other vitamins and minerals. It comes in light, medium, amber and dark, and the richer the colour the more flavour and nutrients it contains.
Dried fruits such as apples, pineapples, raisins, prunes, cranberries and apricots make excellent sweeteners and binders. These can easily be made at home with a variety of fresh fruit and a dehydrator. The nutrient profile will vary depending on the fruit used, but you can feel good about adding them to your desserts, or just eating them as a snack.
Yacon syrup, which is probably unfamiliar to most North Americans, is a rich, thick syrup much like honey or maple syrup. It is high in FOS (Fructo-Oligosaccharides (nutritional supplement), therefore it is good for promoting healthy bacteria and regulating the digestive system. Yacon syrup can be ordered online.
As I said before, change isn’t always easy. Some of these items may seem foreign to you but I promise, the more you experiment, the more familiar you will become and eventually you will be creating recipes of your own. If you don’t know where to start, pick up a raw foods cookbook or look for recipes online. Better yet, try making the carrot apple cake recipe I’ve included here. Who knew healthy could taste so good!
Lindsay McInnes is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and owner of Rawk On Café. She love opening peoples minds to raw foods and creating desserts that you can feel good about eating.