Ahhh, the sweetness of summer… The warm sun waking us up to frolic outside in the early morning warmth, the expansiveness we find in our hearts as we enjoy the outdoors, the community and fun in the sun.
There are many ways to sweeten things up in both our lives and in our foods. Sweet is the flavor of the heart and reminds us of the sweetness of life.
During the summer the sweeter fruits ripen, and the sweetness of summer is all around. Here are some tips to keep your sweetening in balance while still expanding into the flavor of summer.
5 Health Tips to Sweetening Things Up:
1. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Due to the many health risks associated with too much sugar, many folks have tried to take short cuts using artificial sweeteners in place of the natural sweet. The media has enforced this gives the taste buds and the body the message that we are enjoying the sweet flavor without the cost. Unfortunately this is a short cut NOT worth taking. Many artificial sweeteners create addictive patterns, cravings, and serious withdrawal symptoms.
Avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. While the mechanisms of harm may differ, they’re ALL harmful in one way or another. This includes aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and any other artificial sweeteners.
- Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal) contains high amounts of phenylalanine and aspartic acid. While these amino acids are found naturally in the body when they are combined out of there natural ratio they can cause many side effects such as headaches, mental confusion, dizziness and seizures. As these amino acids break down in this out of balance combination, they can literally break down into a form of formaldehyde which is toxic to the body.
- Splenda is the artificial sweetener other wise known as sucralose. This sweetener has received a ton of press in the past few years, leading us down the road to discovering not only is this sweetener made up of a high percentage of chlorine, but now recent studies show that sucralose may raise bloods sugar insulin levels, kill of good bacteria in the GI tract, and in long term exposure damage DNA permanently.
2. Get Back to Basics
Eat a whole food diet to reset your taste buds. The body thrives when we eat our foods close to nature, whole, simple, clean and alive. These ancient principles of eating are great guidelines to how to grocery shop, cook and feed our bodies nourishing foods. The palate can transform back to its original and intended tasting organ as we purify our diets.
When we are competing with really strong enhanced flavors found in mainstream processed foods, such as super salty foods or overly sweet sodas, we become so over stimulated by our taste buds that something like an apple or a carrot looses it appeal.
Coming back to the basics with whole food eating will recalibrate your taste buds and a lot of those strong flavors (especially sugar) will vanish from your cravings.
3. Use Natural Sweeteners
Sweetening your food is something many of us seek in our day-to-day meals, healthy deserts and snacks. With the whole food eating in mind, you will notice that your palate adjusts and what used to taste pleasantly sweet (like a soda) may now be too sweet to drink.
Finding natural sweeteners to use in your baking, sauces and creations in the kitchen is a great option to enhance your flavors while still keeping your flavors in balance. Here are some of my favorites.
- Raw honey is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is a pure source of sweet and even though it is fairly high on the glycemic index scale, a little goes a very long way. The health benefits of local raw honey include naturally suppressing the common cough, aiding in a good nights sleep (by facilitating typtophan), and boosting immunity to name a few.
- Coconut sugar, made from the sap of the coconut palm, doesn't put stress on your blood sugar levels the same way that white sugar does. Because coconut sugar is unrefined, it retains all of its natural minerals and vitamins so it has a higher nutrient density. Coconut sugar is easy to cook with and can be substituted 1:1 in recipes.
- Maple syrup, made by boiling sap from the maple tree, contains compounds that could help manage Type 2 diabetes, as well as acting as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. Maple is full of many anti-oxidants, full of a wide range of vitamins and minerals especially zinc and manganese. Many health experts are now calling pure maple syrup a champion food.
- Xylitol is pure, natural with essentially no blood sugar response. Xylitol also comes with some benefits such as fighting tooth decay. Xylitol is safe, and a beneficial sweetener.
4. Eat a Low Glycemic Diet.
If you an stick to a low glycemic diet you will not only see benefits in almost every area of your health, energy, sleep and metabolism, but you will also see your sugar cravings diminish before your eyes.
The glycemic index of a particular food rates the food on how quickly it turns to sugar in your blood stream. Processed carbohydrates and refined sugars are always going to rate very high on the spectrum where as proteins, fats, whole grains and some fruits will be low or moderate.
There are some added tricks to lowering the glycemic index of your meal.
- First, you can add more protein – have some nuts with our dried fruit.
- Second, you can add high quality fat – put a little olive oil on that piece of bread.
- Third, you can add fiber or choose a high fiber version of the food – cook brown rice instead of white.
Eating a low glycemic diet is one of the quickest way to see your health and vitality turn around. It is fairly simple and incredibly effective
5. Sweeten Up Your Life
The sweet flavor has often been linked to love, pleasure, comfort and many other soothing qualities we all yearn for in our humanness. Often, when we are not getting enough of these in our lives, we crave more sugar and overly self- soothe with the sweetness in food.
Try enhancing your life with the sweetness you can find in your daily down time, in the way that you exercise, the practices you do that activate your senses in a positive way, and especially the way you love yourself. This is where the true sweetness is found.