We all know refined sugar is unhealthy for us. Consumption of white sugar with its empty calories is linked to quick energy highs that are followed by low energy and burn out. Refined sugar not only fails to nourish us, it leeches valuable minerals away from our bodies.
So what should we use when we fancy something sweet?
Our body is designed to use sugars from natural whole foods, such as fruits and whole grains. These have a good balance of minerals and sugars. The sugar feeds our brain, while the minerals help keep our bodies healthy.
My favorite sweeteners are sweet ripe fruits. As well as fruit sugar they also contain vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants to nourish our bodies, and their fiber helps regulate blood sugar.
Dates are very sweet, and naturally rich in minerals. They are a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, beta-carotene, and Vitamin B3.
For more nutritional information visit the USDA National Nutrient Database and enter "dates" into the keyword box..
Soaked dates are lovely in smoothies, thickening and sweetening them beautifully. Soaking the dates softens them for easy blending.
If you can get hold of soft sun dried dates then they should only need to be soaked for 5-10 minutes to make them really soft.
To soften hard sun dried dates for blending simply place them in a glass jar or bowl and cover with water. Then leave them to soften at room temperature for 1-6 hours. The warmer the temperature the faster they will soften. If your in a hurry then using warm water will help speed things up. Once soft they can be stored in the fridge until needed. I like to add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to the water to help keep them fresh, and I store them in the fridge for 2-3 days like this.
I like to use very ripe bananas to sweeten my smoothies. The bananas are sweet and ripe when they turn bright yellow and have black speckles on their skins. When the weather is cold bananas take longer to ripen, and it's a good idea to plan ahead and buy some to ripen in a warm place at home.
Bananas are rich in potassium, and low in sodium. The average banana contains 440mg potassium and a mere 1mg sodium. They also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin. Bananas help reduce hypertension, and detox the body.
Interesting Fact: African Zulus used to rub banana peels on their skins as a cure for many skin conditions.
Other sun dried fruits such as apricots and figs make lovely sweeteners. They also need soaked in water to soften them before blending.
If you have a dehydrator, or live somewhere sunny, then - time allowing - you can preserve local fruit for use in the winter months.
Not suitable for babies under 12 months. Raw unfiltered honey contains both carbohydrates and enzymes. It is rich in amylase, an enzyme that helps our bodies digest carbohydrates. It also contains vitamin C, the B-complex vitamins, and vitamins D and E.
Most of the nutrition in honey comes from the small amounts of bee pollen that is found in unfiltered honey. Bee pollen is an excellent source of nutrients, protein, and enzymes, and is a complete food in itself.
Raw honey is a handy sweetener to keep in the cupboard for those times when you need an instant runny sweetener.
Mesquite meal comes from the pods of the mesquite tree. It has a lovely sweet flavour that reminds me of caramel. Use to thicken and sweeten smoothies for a delectable caramel taste. Fairy low G.I. it is said to help reduce the appetite.
Lovely dark blackstrap molasses is not a raw product, but is a wonderfully rich source of minerals and trace elements. It is a by-product of the refined sugar industry, and is the concentrated syrup that remains after the white crystals have been removed.
One tablespoon of molasses contains more calcium that a cup of milk, and more iron that 9 eggs. As well as calcium and iron molasses contains potassium, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of the B-complex vitamins, and has an alkalizing effect of the body.
Try to get unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses. Its rich taste is lovely in smoothies with ginger and spices.
If you're interested in food as medicine then I recommend you treat yourself to the book Power Juices, Super Drinks: Quick, Delicious Recipes to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Steve Meyerowitz. This is my all time favorite Juicing and Smoothie reference book. It's jam-packed with useful information, clearly indexed, easy to read, and includes recipes for over a 100 different ailments; everything from headaches and weight loss to cancer. Look things up by ingredient or by ailment and discover recipes that are based on recent scientific research to help your body heal.
Alternatively if you live in the U.K. you can find Power Juices, Super Drinks: Quick, Delicious Recipes to Prevent & Reverse Disease on Amazon.co.uk