Loving Your Heart for Valentine's Day

healthy eating sweets Apr 25, 2022

Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate love and romance.   It also the day we allow ourselves to fill up on delicious sweets and indulge our senses.  What if this holiday we did all of this and supported our health and heart at the same time?   What if we educated ourselves and decided to indulge in better quality sweets?

Our bodies naturally crave sweet tasting foods.  They help to open and relax us.  In our tense and fast paced society we tend to crave more and more each year to help us unwind. America is on a sugar binge.  The average American eats between 120 and 143 pounds of sugar each year, 70% of which is consumed in manufactured foods such as breakfast cereals, snacks, specialty foods and soft drinks.  At two cups of sugar per pound, that’s between 1/3 and ½ cups per day.   With 2,500 calories in a pound of sugar that’s a big price to pay for that daily sweet craving. 

Sugar has grown from use as an occasional condiment to the leading food additive.     In fact, in today’s supermarkets, it’s difficult to find a processed food that does not contain sugar.  Sugar is near impossible to avoid, because it's everywhere, and in everything. It's one of the most harmful foods that we can eat. And, on top of all that, it's tasty and addictive.

The effects of sugar are debilitating, from suppressing the immune system, to robbing our precious minerals, and causing an acidic condition in the body. In essence, it wreaks havoc on the body's natural balance, leaving us tired and foggy headed with reduced ability to fight disease.  Did you know there were over 75 listed serious health effects due to continued use of sugar?  Problems raging from weaken eyesight to progressive immune problems leading to cancer.

Eating sugar on a daily basis keeps us on the blood sugar roller coaster, creates a constant state of imbalance and mood swings, and leads to chronic health problems. The next time you start the day with a sugar coated donut, pay particular attention to your emotions over the next few hours. The first sign of the “sugar blues” is usually anxiety or irritability, typically followed by low energy or depression. This common condition affects a large majority of people, and can lead to problems like diabetes, depression, or hypoglycemia.

A start to kicking the sugar habit is to start reading labels.  Especially noting the most prominent ingredient by weight.  Anything ending in “ose” is a sugar.  Also look for the number of times different sugars appear in the ingredient list.  Often a product will contain sugars under three or four different names.   Watch for creative, hidden names like: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, etc.   Others are easier to understand but are sometimes very concentrated:  fructose, It’s still sugar...even if it's organic!   

Many Sugars are just variations of processed cane sugar or very concentrated and very processed:  Confectioners or powdered sugar is made by pulverizing white sugar until it becomes a powder.  Anti-caking agents may be added. Brown Sugar is produced when the molasses is separated out of the pulp and added back to white sugar to achieve the desired brown sugar. Or burnt white sugar, called Carmel coloring, is added instead.  Molasses, the light, dark or blackstrap varieties are what’s left over after sugar has been refined from sugar cane.  Light molasses, the sweetest type, is the product of first boiling, Dark is the product of the second boiling.  Blackstrap is the bitter end which contains some B vitamins and iron.  Organic brands are preferred since sulfur dioxide is used to lighten the color.  Do not let all these variations fool you!


Refined White sugar “the sweetest poison of them all” can be found in large amounts now in our common every day meals and snacks.  The other day I was looking for a bag of popcorn and could not find any without added cane sugars!   New products on the grocery shelves  are hiding large amounts of sugar in all different forms to satisfy the tastes of their consumers.  It may surprise you to find out that those favorite brands of power bars you thought were so healthy in your grocery store were choc full of harmful sweeteners. 

What is a person to do?  Especially during such fun holidays as Valentines Day? When choosing sweeteners, why not choose the healthiest?    There is a world of difference between using lots of white sugar, which has no nutritional value, and using a moderate amount of honey, molasses or maple syrup, which has some nutritional value. However, even regular consumption of these higher quality sweeteners can cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels.


What to use instead

Brown Rice Syrup and Barley Malt are the highest quality sweeteners available. They can be purchased at your favorite health food market  or on line.   They are made by cooking rice and barley down to a thick, rich syrup.   They  can be substituted in any traditional recipe calling for sugar.   They provide a slow, prolonged source of energy in the body and relaxing calming effect on the mood. Hypoallergenic, they are better tolerated by diabetics because their complex carbohydrate content enables the syrup to be metabolized more slowly and simulates less insulin production. Use them to sweeten sauces, soups, and bean dishes.   Hide them in your office desk draw to use in your favorite hot beverage.  Add them to dips and spreads the same way you would with jams.  And enjoy your Valentine’s Day the healthy way!

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