Are you addicted to sugar? Do you have to have sweetener in your coffee or tea or like something sweet on top of your toast or oatmeal in the morning??? Well, most people do! Believe it or not, Americans consume 20 teaspoons of sugar on a daily basis, which adds up to 142 pounds of sugar per year. Translated, this means the average American consumes an additional 500 or more calories a day due to added sugar consumption!
It should come to no surprise to anyone that diabetes and obesity have become epidemics not only among adults but among our children! Diabetes has become the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Not only are we eating sugar outright but it is hiding in all of our foods from breakfast cereals to salad dressings to “healthy” sports bars and drinks. Not to mention, most sugar is not vegan (for those of you who care about that sort of thing). According to PETA; “Bone char, made from the bones of cows, is at times used to whiten sugar. Some sugar companies use it in filters to decolorize their sugar. Other types of filters involve granular carbon or an ion exchange system rather than bone char.” If you want to see which companies make vegan sugars, and which don’t; check this list.
So, should we forever deprive ourselves of sweet goodness? Hell to the no; agave nectar to the rescue! Agave nectar is a natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave tequilana cactus (the same plant, by the way, that tequila comes from!). Agave has a low glycemic index, which means that it is much less disturbing to the body’s blood sugar levels than white sugar or even some of the more natural sweeteners such as honey a nd maple syrup and does not create that “sugar rush.”
Additionally, agave nectar is 1.4 times sweeter than refined sugar, which means you don’t have to use as much! Agave nectar is “all-natural,” which means that it comes directly from a plant source, but that does not mean that there is not any processing involved! Agave syrup has either been heated or enzymes have been used to extract the syrup from the plant. Look for “raw” agave nectar that uses the natural enzyme method.
Agave nectar comes in two varieties- dark and light. So, which should you buy? It really depends on your tastes. The light syrup is much more mild and this is the one I use for daily use. The darker one is richer and caramel tasting and is wonderful in desserts and baked goods such as muffins and scones. Slather agave on your toast, (I love mine with almond butter and sliced banana), drizzle it on your soy yogurt, berries or cereal in the morning or add it to your smoothies. Here are some of my family’s favorite recipes for treats!
“Double Trouble” Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
- 1 cup unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder
- 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2- ¾ cup agave nectar
- 2 tbsps coconut butter (coconut oil)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea salt
Combine 1 cup of the chocolate powder and 2 cups of the coconut in a mixing bowl then add the coconut butter, agave nectar, vanilla and sea salt and mix well. Scoop balls of the mixture out with your hands and roll into balls. Place shredded coconut on a plate and roll balls in it to cover. These make a delicious and nutritious pick me up in the afternoon or an after-school treat for your children.
Breakfast Bowl of Berries with Cashew Cream
- 1 handful of fresh blueberries
- 1 banana (or 4 figs)
- Shredded coconut (optional)
For cashew cream (you can also substitute vanilla soy or coconut yogurt):
- 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups cashews (pre-soaked for 1-6 hours)
- 1 cup agave nectar
- ¼ cup vanilla bean
Slice the banana either length-wise or horizontally (whichever you prefer) and top with a handful of blueberries and shredded coconut. Place all of the ingredients for the cashew cream into the food processor and run for approximately 2-5 minutes until smooth. Put the cashew mixture on top and enjoy! This is perfect for breakfast or for an afternoon snack.
Regular GirlieGirl Army Blogger Katherine Pennington owns Be in Balance, a holistic health and lifestyle counseling service for families in New York. She is also a raw food chef and teacher and oversees juice fasts for clients. As a mother of two children, Katherine also helps with family meal planning on nutrition. To find out more about her , please visit www.be-n-balance.com.