Healthy Halloween Sugars
Trick or treat? That is the question of the season! Although, is it really a question? Who actually chooses a trick over a sweet and tasty treat? This Halloween we’ve decided we want both the trick and the treat! Let’s take a look at why it’s time to trick out those normal treats and turn them into some pretty delicious and protein packed plant-based snacks. The real trick to it all is understanding sugar and what makes each deliciously sweet option the right choice for your health and your cravings!
When asked to define sugar, most would say it’s a white, granular, powder similar in look to salt and opposite in flavor. It’s sweet and used to change the flavors of bland, sour, or spicy foods. All of this may be true; however, here are some more facts about good ‘ol refined sugar that you should probably know about.
Increased risk of type II diabetes
Increased risk of obesity
Increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
Increased risk of inflammation
Increased risk of dementia
Increased risk of certain types of cancer
Increased risk of liver disease
Has been known to trigger depression
Accelerates cellular aging
Can cause acne and skin aging
It is more addictive than cocaine and other opioids
It can cause behavioral problems
We could actually go on, but do we need to?
If all of these side effects were listed on labels, most of us would go running! That’s why we feel it’s time to trick out our treats and find safe, delicious, and nutritious alternatives to refined sugar. When choosing a treat, we like healthy high protein snacks that satisfy our sweet tooth and give us peace of mind. So let’s look at some sugar options that do just that!
Raw Cane Sugar
Raw cane sugar is the closest to refined white sugar as it essentially comes from the same source. However, the processing technique when taking it from sugar cane to table condiment is the real culprit here. It strips the sugar cane of both flavor and additional minerals. It’s important to note that both refined sugar and raw sugar cane are calorically equal and should be limited as much as possible. Sugar cane itself is actually quite healthy and medicinal. It is full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and some fiber. The more it is refined, the less benefits it retains.
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is nearly pure glucose which means your body knows how to use it! It is fructose free and is produced through a simple process of fermentation and then reduction. If you are sensitive to sugar spikes, this one may not be for you as it ranks 98 out of 100 on the glycemic index. However, it is a natural, plant-based, often organic sugar option. Always remember that moderation is key!
Inulin syrup is one of our personal favorites as it is low on the glycemic index, filled with sugar regulating fiber, and it’s a natural prebiotic. It has one third less calories than sugar and is not metabolized in the gut. It works to clean out the colon, and it has been linked to lower triglycerides. Inulin on its own is lightly sweet and subtle!
Coconut sugar actually contains a small amount of inulin fiber and this helps decrease the insulin spike in your body. It’s also all-natural, plant-based, and relatively healthy as far as sugars go. Coconut sugar also contains healthy fats that have been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease prevention. That’s a huge plus! It also contains less sucrose than the standard processed sugar.
Maple syrup is a personal favorite because of its incredibly diverse and rich nutritional profile! It contains manganese, zinc, calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. It’s also full of antioxidants like cinnamic acid, gallic acid, benzoic acid, anti-inflammatory polyphenol, and flavonols like epicatechin, catechin, quercetin, and rutin. It also has a lower glycemic index score of around 54 compared to sugar at 100!
Molasses is another all-natural, plant derived sugar that is a true winner due to the numerous vitamins and minerals it provides. And you really can’t compete with its rich, earthy flavor. It is a great source for copper, iron, and selenium, along with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. While it also comes from sugar cane, it actually has the lowest sugar concentration of all the sugar cane products with a glycemic index score of 55.
Fruits like dried blueberries
Another easy, delicious way to sweeten things up is using dried or fresh fruits. Think about upgrading your grandma’s fruit cake recipe or changing up the pineapple upside down cake. Fruits have been used to sweeten desserts and treats since the beginning of baking. Hot apple pies, sweet berry reductions, jams, and marmalades are all examples of how nature’s finest can make for some amazing treats.
Apple juice or sauce
For the truly sugar conscious, another great option in baking is substituting with apple juice or applesauce. Using applesauce in breads and cakes can make them even more moist and gooey, and using apple juice in creamy desserts like puddings, mousses, and pies can sweeten things up without all the extra processed sugar. The other perk to cooking with applesauce is that it can be equally substituted, so one cup of sugar can be replaced with one cup of applesauce. Just remember to reduce other liquids in the recipe to accommodate for the liquid from the apples. It’s also important to buy all-natural applesauce without added sugar!
While all sugars should be consumed in moderation, there is no reason to not enjoy the sweeter things in life. Sugar can be found in nature, and like all foods, if we consume them in their most natural forms, they tend to be healthier for us. There are so many more options you can play with like honey, agave syrup, erythritol, stevia, and dates! We’re sure there are even more than this, but it’s a great place to start in tricking out your treats and enjoying snacks that satisfy the strongest sweet tooth and are healthy too!