Keep the fun - taste the sweet
Sugar is everywhere! It may be the scariest goblin of Halloween. We are aware that little individually wrapped candy bits can add up and give us an unhealthy dose of sugar. But it should frighten you to find out there is hidden sugar in almost every processed food we consume.
NOTE: ANY FOOD YOU DIDN'T MAKE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN FROM NATURAL INGREDIENTS IS PROBABLY SOMETHING PROCESSED.
If we are smart and use it to enhance our food, sweet is a fun flavor. But before we start substituting sweeteners for sugar, let's look at some of our choices and what they can offer and what you may want to avoid. It is easy to think that if something is natural, it must be good, but that isn't always enough of a distinction.
We can take the guilt out of sweetness and learn about our choices for non-sugar options with the comparisons below.
To help you adjust your usage of the sweetener options, here is a conversion chart.
It is important to understand glycemic index, abbreviated as GI. Keep in mind, the lower the GI, the less of an impact it has on insulin (a good thing).
Stevia and Monk Fruit (luo han guo)
Both stevia and monk fruit are naturally occurring plants containing several compounds that are sweet. One example is rebaudeoside found in stevia. It is 300X sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit is 150-400X sweeter than sugar.
Stevia and monk fruit share similar properties of exceptional sweetness. They are consumed by the microflora of the gut, so they do not stimulate insulin production and have no effect on blood sugar.
Honey is arguably the oldest sweetener and is highly prized by primitive cultures and modern ones. It is naturally occurring but pasteurization and filtering removes most of the nutritional value from vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Although people respond metabolically to honey in different ways, it is considered safe in small amounts.
Organic Coconut Sugar
OK as a substitute for sugar, but there is no metabolic advantage.
Agave nectar and agave syrup are the same product. It originates from the agave plant (of tequila fame) but is highly refined.
GI of sugar is about 63
GI of honey is 58
GI of maple syrup is 54
GI of agave 10-27
Relatively low glycemic index. No other advantages.
The term 'alcohol' here indicates a chemical category. It is not the kind of alcohol that causes intoxication.
They all have the same basic impact on your health and metabolism so I've put them together here.
Some of the most common sugar alcohols are:
- Swerve: Erythritol + oligosaccharides (simple sugar and starch)
- Pyure: Erythritol + stevia
- Natvia: Erythritol + stevia
- Zsweet: Erythritol + stevia
- Lakanto: Erythritol + monk fruit
- Norbu: Erythritol + monk fruit
A lot of physiological complications make these compounds more trouble than they are worth!
It may surprise folks that I would say anything in defense of sugar, but it is worth taking a look. Most sugar currently is produced from beets and corn. I can only recommend Non-GMO cane sugar. Here is a real-life story about the difference:
If you think "sugar is sugar", let me tell you about the experience of some people in my community who routinely put out sugar syrup feeders for the hummingbirds. When they shopped together at a big box store and bought some inexpensive sugar, they found the hummingbirds quit coming to the feeders. Since it happened to several people at once they looked at what could have gone wrong. Wondering if it was the sugar, they returned to the more expensive non-GMO cane sugar to make their hummingbird "nectar".
The birds returned! Smart little hummers.
If consumed in small amounts and if the diet is supported by adequate protein and healthy fats, most people have systems that can absorb some cane sugar without metabolic challenge.
As promised, this is a recipe I use for popovers. They are dramatic and can really impress your guests, but they are so simple to make you don’t need visitors to justify the effort. I love them with a glob of butter, but you can fill them with anything you like (psst: it doesn’t even have to be sweet. For instance, they pair well with roast beef au jus).
If you make these the way I describe, they will come out of the oven very tall with that signature cavity in the middle. Many recipes say you don’t need a popover pan, but if you have one, use it. Having the right pan means the popovers will not collapse.
Trying to use a ready mixed flour substitute will work ok but you’ll love them even more if you stock your pantry with rice flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, and a box of corn starch. This mixture yields a crispy outside crust. Once you make them, I think you will want to make them frequently.
POPOVERS – GLUTEN FREE
1-1/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup potato starch
2/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, room temp
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 12-cup popover pan or muffin pan.
3. While the milk and butter heat, mix the potato starch, rice flour, corn starch, xanthan gum, and salt together in a mixer bowl. When the butter has completely melted in the milk and it just begins to boil, add it hot to the flour mixture and blend. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes. As it cools, the dry ingredients will absorb some of the moisture. This produces a smooth batter without the graininess typical of rice flour.
4. While waiting, preheat the popover pan in the oven.
5. When the batter is cool, gradually mix in eggs one at a time.
6. Bring the hot popover pan out of the oven and fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 450 degrees-F for 20 minutes. AT THE END OF 20 MINUTES, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR! TURN THE OVEN OFF AND LET THE POPOVERS SIT IN THE HOT OVEN FOR AN ADDITIONAL 10 MINUTES. The popovers will become crispy on the outside. Yum.
I hope you are able to use some of this information. If you have comments, please put them in the box below. Also, I want to keep the posts relevant so if you have any suggestions for another post, please put it in the comment box, too. And thanks for reading and joining me on this journey.