kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Sugars are a type of simple carbohydrate that occur naturally in some foods and drinks. They are also an additive in certain foods and drinks. Consuming too much sugar can lead to health problems, such as the risk of weight gain, diabetes, tooth cavities, and more.

Many fruits and vegetables naturally contain sugars and it is important to keep these in your diet as they also contain other nutrients with health benefits. It is when manufactures add sugar to foods such as cereals and baked goods, chips, condiments and some drinks that you can exceed your daily sugar intake easily. It is these added sugars, or free sugars, that cause health problems.

The American Heart Association recommends men limit added sugar to 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons, per day. Women should limit added sugar to 24 grams, or 6 teaspoons, each day. You will be amazed at how quickly you reach this recommendation. A half a cup of blueberries has 15 grams of sugar. A large carrot has approximately 4 grams of sugar.

Unlike foods and drinks that naturally contain sugar, those with added sugar provide no nutritional value. They are also a poor energy source. The body digests added sugar very quickly. This causes spikes in insulin and a roller coaster of energy throughout the day. The body digests fruits and vegetables that contain sugar more slowly. The fiber in these foods slows the rate of digestion and makes fruits and vegetables a lasting source of fuel.

Excess dietary sugar leads to weight gain. The body digests sugar very quickly and it doesn’t offset hunger for long. In fact, sugar can affect the biological pathways that regulate hunger. Studies have indicated that the function of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger, is disrupted by sugar consumption. Scientist discovered that a diet high in fat and sugar could lead to leptin resistance. Leptin resistance occurs when the body no longer responds to leptin correctly. The study authors found that removing sugar from the diet reversed leptin resistance.

A meta-analysis of data from 310,819 people found that those with a high consumption of sugary drinks had a 26 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes than those with a low consumption. The study defined “high consumption” as between one and two sugary drinks per day.

It should be noted that artificial sweeteners DO NOT help limit calorie intake. A study by scientists in the US suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners could make people put on weight because experiments on laboratory rats showed that those eating food sweetened with artificial sweeteners ate more calories than their counterparts whose food was sweetened with normal sugar.

Researchers had participants drink Sucralose. Their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose. Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher. So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response.

The good news is that you can avoid highly processed table sugar and artificial sweeteners and still have tasty desserts!

COCONUT SUGAR

Coconut sugar is a natural sugar made from sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with Palm Sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree. Coconut sugar retains nutrients – most importantly the minerals iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids. Coconut sugar also contains polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits. Coconut sugar has fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.

MONK FRUIT/ LUO HAN GUO

Monk fruit contains compounds that, when extracted, are natural sweeteners. Monk fruit is 300–400 times sweeter than cane sugar but with no calories and no effect on blood sugar. Monk fruit is not sweet due to natural sugars like most fruits. It contains powerful antioxidants called mogrosides, which are metabolized differently by the body than natural sugars. That’s why, despite their very sweet taste, these fruits contain no calories and have no effect on blood sugar. Ancient Chinese usage of this fruit included drinking tea made from the boiled fruit to cool the body from external and internal sources and ailments from fever to heat stroke. It was also used to soothe a sore throat. This method worked because of monk fruit’s anti-inflammatory abilities.

Scores of studies have proven the anti-carcinogenic effects of the natural sweeteners contained in monk fruit. From studies displaying its abilities in inhibiting skin and breast tumor growth, to providing proteins that have potent anticancer abilities, monk fruit can fight against cancer. There is irony in the fact that other sweeteners are proven to increase the risk of cancer, while monk fruit sweetener has the power to reduce it.

MOLASSES BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES SORGHUM

Rich in minerals and vitamins, molasses has more calcium, ounce for ounce, than milk, more iron than eggs, and more potassium than any other food. Molasses also has high amounts of B vitamins, pantothenic acid, iron, inositol, and vitamin E. It contains iron, calcium, and potassium. Before the invention of daily vitamins, many doctors prescribed sorghum as a daily supplement for those low in these nutrients.

BARLEY MALT + BROWN RICE SYRUPS

Barley malt and brown rice syrups contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Both are a moderate source of other trace minerals. Blood sugar activity is a slow because they are complex carbohydrates and release their sugar content slowly so it  does not upset insulin levels. These syrups are half as sweet as white sugar and look very similar to molasses.

HONEY

Honey is a natural sweetener that contains more minerals than refined sugar. It also offers small amounts of magnesium and potassium, and trace amounts of copper, manganese, zinc, and some B vitamins, as well as several antioxidant compounds. Honey contains all the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes necessary for proper metabolism and digestion of glucose and other sugars. Honey is readily absorbed for quick energy, it is an aid for upset stomach, an antiseptic, and has antibacterial properties traditionally used to heal infections of the respiratory and digestive tract, especially raw Manuka honey, which has been known to reduce ulcer pain. Honeycomb pollen may reduce pollen allergies.
The darker honeys, such as buckwheat and Tupelo, have greater antioxidant activity.

MAPLE SYRUP

Maple syrup provides potassium and calcium and it raises blood sugar levels less than refined white sugar. Grade C is dark brown and highest in mineral content than the more delicately flavored, amber-colored. Maple syrup is thought to have antibacterial, antidiabetic, anti-cancer properties.

STEVIA

Stevia is totally non-caloric. Research shows that stevia can actually regulate blood sugar. In South America, stevia is sold as an aid to people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. Frequent stevia users claim it inhibits tooth decay, aids mental alertness, counteracts fatigue and improves digestion. Unlike other sweeteners, stevia is effective for weight loss and control because it contains no calories, yet significantly increases glucose tolerance. New research indicates that stevia may block fat absorption, and people whose weight loss problems stem from sugar cravings benefit most from stevia, reporting that they experience reduced desire for sugary foods.

*Unfortunately, while stevia leaf (in fresh or dried form), is a natural herbal sweetener, many modern forms of stevia based sweeteners are powdered and processed. In fact, popular powdered stevia sweeteners go through dozens of steps during processing from bleaching to chemical alteration.

*There is evidence that steviol glycosides have contraceptive effects in both males and females. In particular, one specific steviol glycoside, called stevioside, has been shown to have potent contraceptive properties in female rats, implying that stevia may have an impact on estrogen, progesterone or both.

*Researcher Sarah Ballantyne also presents some concerns about the potential hormone-mimicking and altering effects of stevia. Small amounts and occasional consumption of stevia likely has little to no impact on general health. This research cautions that it should not be consumed on a regular basis especially by those with altered hormone balance and dysfunctional immune systems.

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Remember that coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup, have slightly more health benefits than processed sugar but are still high in naturally occurring types of sugar such as fructose. If you are watching your sugar intake, pay attention: these alternative might be healthier but they still are sugar!

Molasses

Sugar cane is mashed to create juice, and then boiled once to create cane syrup. A second boiling creates molasses. After this syrup has been boiled a third time, a dark viscous liquid emerges known to Americans as blackstrap molasses. It has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product.

Molasses offers a number of vitamins and minerals, such as B-vitamins (niacin or vitamin B-3, vitamin B-6, thiamine, and riboflavin) and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus and sodium. Because blackstrap molasses contains both calcium and magnesium, it can help you guard against osteoporosis. About 5 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses contains 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and 38 percent of magnesium.

People with anemia, a condition where your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, often feel tired and weak. One type of anemia is caused by a lack of iron in the diet. Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron. About 5 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses contains 95 percent of your daily allowance of iron. It helps in the absorption of iron, the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It is also rich in the mineral copper, which aids in reducing free radicals from the body. A deficiency of copper and iron can result in anemia, thyroid problems, cardiac arrhythmia, and osteoporosis.

Studies reveal that blackstrap molasses helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels. It has a moderate glycemic index and aids in slowing the metabolism of glucose and carbohydrates, which subsequently means less insulin production. This helps in preventing the accumulation of excess fats or lipids in the bloodstream. Molasses has the essential trace element chromium, which is valuable in relation to insulin action and maintenance of glucose tolerance in the body. Molasses contains the highest amount of chromium (0.266 mg/kg) as compared to refined white sugar and brown sugar. A deficiency of chromium may result in weak glucose tolerance, according to studies, which can lead to diabetes.

Molasses contains the essential mineral potassium, which is required for the proper functioning of cells. It helps in maintaining the acid-base balance of the body and prevents heat exhaustion. Potassium also plays an important role in nerve and muscle contraction and helps to maintain cardiac health. Adequate intake of potassium-rich foods like molasses may help in reducing blood pressure.

Historically, molasses was produced in the Caribbean, where the cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet was the highest. From there, it was imported to the United States during the early twentieth century. Today, it is produced on a large scale in Thailand, India, Taiwan, Brazil, the Philippines, and the United States.

Molasses comes in three varieties – light, dark, and blackstrap – all of which come from different foods processed into sugar. The nutritional content and quality of it depend on the method involved in its refining process, the ripeness of the plant from which it is extracted, and the quantity of sugar that is extracted.

The most common forms of molasses are made from either sugar cane or sugar beet juice which is boiled down to a syrup. Sugar crystals are extracted from the syrup, and the remaining dark liquid is molasses. Molasses can also be made from sorghum, pomegranate, carob, and dates.

Sulphured molasses is molasses that has been treated with sulphur dioxide as a preservative. However, since the sulphuring process can leave the molasses with a strong pronounced chemical flavor and is less sweet, most commercial molasses is unsulphured.

Light Molasses:

  • Other names: Barbados, first, mild, sweet
  • How it’s made: Light molasses is made from the first boiling of the cane or beet juice.
  • How it tastes: It is the lightest in color, sweetest, and mildest in flavor.
  • How to use it: This is the most commonly sold molasses, mostly used in baking. Light molasses helps to make cookies softer and bread crustier, and it can also be used in marinades and sauces

Dark Molasses:

  • Other names: full, robust, second
  • How it’s made: Dark molasses comes from the second boiling of the cane or beet juice.
  • How it tastes: Thicker, less sweet, darker, and stronger in flavor than light molasses.
  • How to use it: It can generally be used in place of light molasses and is what gives gingerbread cookies their distinct color and flavor.

Blackstrap Molasses:

  • How it’s made: Blackstrap is made from the third and final boiling of the molasses. It is considered the healthiest of all molasses since it retains the most vitamins and minerals.
  • How it tastes: It is the thickest and darkest in color, and also the least sweet with a pronounced bitter flavor.
  • How to use it: Since it is bitter, only use blackstrap molasses if a recipe specifically calls for it. Do not substitute it in recipes that call for light or dark molasses. Blackstrap molasses is great in savory dishes liked baked beans and pulled pork.
  • While blackstrap molasses is derived from sugar and adds as many carbohydrates as other sugars, it may be digested more slowly, which may help stabilize blood sugar.

How to Buy

Buy the molasses the recipe calls for. Each molasses has a different flavor profile.

How to Store

Kept in a lidded jar at room temperature. A bottle of molasses can last for years.

How to Cook

Molasses is what gives gingerbread cookies their distinctive rich flavor. Molasses is popular for its use in baked goods like pies, fruit cakes, and  baked beans.

Molasses is also used in the manufacturing of rum, which is one of the reasons that rum is so popular in the areas where sugarcane cultivation and molasses production is in abundance.

Molasses provides the rich, dark texture and flavor to brown sugar.

Molasses can be mixed with tea or coffee and can be also glazed on vegetables.

Other Uses:

  • As a natural health remedy, it can be diluted with water for a hair treatment or spread topically on the skin. Molasses extract is good for hair and it promotes healthy hair growth. It softens and conditions the hair, adds rich texture, and prevents it from prematurely graying.
  • It has been effectively used for animal feeds. It is a source of carbon and is effectively used in horticulture to feed the microbes and boost the microbial activity of the soil. Beet molasses is also used to make fertilizer.

* Some people might develop allergic reactions due to sensitivity towards the sulfite present in sulfured molasses. Unsulfured molasses is free of sulfur dioxide and safe to use in such cases. However, it is always advisable to obtain medical consent before considering it as a therapeutic remedy for various medical conditions.

Best Ever Vegan Baked Beans

Alissa at Connoisseurus Veg

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey, optional
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. vegan Worchestershire sauce (regular will work)
  • 2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke, optional
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans navy beans or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Coat the bottom of a skillet (use a medium, oven-safe skillet if you’ve got one) with oil and place over medium-low heat. Add onion and toss a few times to coat. Allow to cook, flipping occasionally, until onion is very soft and caramelized, 30-40 minutes. Raise heat to medium and add garlic. Cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add whiskey and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Stir tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, paprika and liquid smoke together in a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup, taste test and add up to 1/4 cup more. If you used a non oven-safe skillet to caramelize the onions, transfer them to an oven-safe dish (an 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish works). Otherwise, leave them in the oven-safe skillet. Add beans and maple syrup mixture. Stir a few times to mix everything up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and bake 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes. Serve.

These beans are sweet, smokey, and packed with savory flavor – without bacon! I was very excited about these baked beans.

They take a while. Even though I went with canned beans, between the onion caramelizing and bean baking, the time adds up. It’s mostly hands off though, and it’s so worth it.

 

Resources

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324854.php
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4069066/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323446.php
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317462.php
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261179.php
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/96849.php
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245588.php
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes/whatisinsulin.php
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-blackstrap-molasses#1
https://www.organicfacts.net/blackstrap-molasses.html
http://ebm.sagepub.com/content/36/2/167.short
https://www.organicfacts.net/pomegranate-molasses.html
https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Molasses_nutritional_value.html
https://huhs.harvard.edu/assets/File/OurServices/Service_Nutrition_Iron.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466942/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26410392
https://www.organicfacts.net/home-remedies/type-1-diabetes-symptoms-treatment.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15208835
https://www.organicfacts.net/home-remedies/10-best-foods-for-healthy-hair.html
https://www.thekitchn.com/a-guide-to-molasses-ingredient-intelligence-210864
https://wellnessmama.com/1482/stevia-safe-or-healthy/
https://www.livestrong.com/article/363283-recommended-daily-allowance-of-sugar/
https://www.thepaleomom.com/trouble-with-stevia/

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