by Jason Linton
I love food and I love my health. I also love the creativity of the kitchen. These days, thanks to the inspiration of many skilled raw chefs such as Russell James, Kate Magic and many other lesser-known raw artisans, I find myself enjoying a rich variety of natural, delicious, low-glycemic treats that most people would never guess are actually healthy.
Armed with recipes, techniques, ingredients, equipment and a dollop of spare time, I have created some amateur delights that are a pleasure to indulge in and share. But the best thing is I never get a sugar crash or a heavy-bloated feeling in my belly, or the feeling of thirst that would always put me off the traditional coffeeshop slice. Whether you make raw or cooked desserts with the addition of natural, low glycemic sweeteners, you can literally have your cake and eat it. There are two things to look for when you are searching for alternative sweeteners.
1. Low Glycemc Index
Pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100, so everything else is relative to this. It measures how quickly a food item raises your blood sugar levels, and therefore the amount of strain you are putting on your pancreas by eating it.
2. Nutritional qualities
Sugar is basically an empty food. It has lots of calories and virtually no nutritional value. Not only that, but it actually leeches nutrients from the body in order to stabilise the effects of its own consumption. A healthy sweetener is the opposite: it feeds the body with nutrients.
Sustainably produced from the nectar of Indonesian coconut flowers, coconut sugar is by far my favourite sweetener. The nectar is collected by farmers using bamboo tubes and then brought back to the village kitchens where their wives evaporate it and turn it into syrup, paste or sugar. All the love and laughter in those kitchens goes into the sugar, making it even sweeter.
Since coconut sugar cannot be produced in large factories – the sugars ferment too quickly – production is always small and local. The trees can produce 75% more sugar per acre than sugar cane, and uses far less of the soil’s nutrients and water. The farmers themselves are also able to obtain a stable income throughout the whole year for their families. Mahatma Gandhi knew all about the benefits of coconut sugar. He included it in his daily diet and acknowledged it as “a way to solve the world’s poverty”. In his spirit, the Food and Agriculture Organisation have also recognised coconut sugar as the most sustainable sweetener in the world.
The sugar itself is soft, dark and rich like muscovado or demerara, but it is dryer, so easier to work with. It is low glycemic and absolutely bursting with nutrients: potassium, iron, and zinc, loads of B vitamins, and even vitamin C. It’s not raw but it’s so healthy that many raw chefs are including it in their recipes, and it’s now being used commercially in raw chocolate by several popular companies.
Mesquite, lucuma and yacon
With its rich, smokey, caramel flavour, the South American mesquite pod – a relative of carob – is another one of nature’s low-glycemic gifts. Packed with protein and minerals, the powder is perfect for lifting the bitterness of chocolate or complementing the tartness of apple.
Commonly paired with mesquite is the lucuma: a super fruit with hints of vanilla and custard flavour. It’s great for making cookies and ice-cream, while giving your body lots of slow-burning carbohydrates and minerals to keep it going strong.
The yacon tuber is like a cross between a potato and a crunchy apple. It has a very low-glycemic index because the sugars it contains cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream, and it has a prebiotic effect, which means that it helps to provide a good environment for healthy digestive bacteria in the gut.
So with these to choose from, there’s plenty of reasons to stay sweet and healthy this spring.
For some sugar-free sweet recipes go to www.iswari.net