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The Best Natural Sweeteners for Diabetics

natural sweetenersWhether you’re diabetic or not, sugar and even some other natural sweeteners are something you should be wary of. Don’t think that just because the package says sugar-free, that it’s good for you. Instead, let that be a red flag. This will give you the opportunity to turn that package around and give the ingredients label a good look. Key words you are looking to avoid are:

  • ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, ACESULFAME K or ACE-K
  • ASPARTAME
  • SACCHARIN
  • SUCRALOSE

All the above are ingredients that must be avoided, not just by diabetics, but for all of us. In the grocery stores you will see them labeled as Equal, Sweet-Low, Splenda and NutraSweet. These artificial sweeteners are used in snack foods, dairy foods, processed fruits, jams and jellies, sugar-free drinks, soda and other carbonated beverages, baked goods, condiments, chewing gum, supplements, and even in infant and children’s medicine. Why are they so bad? Well, long-term exposure to these chemicals has been found to promote memory loss, hypoglycemia, multiple sclerosis (MS), dementia, nausea, migraines, sleep problems, vision impairment, depression and anxiety, Parkinson’s disease and brain tumors.

Best Natural Sweeteners For Diabetics

Xylitol

This natural sweetener is an all-natural sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. Xylitol is absorbed slowly and only partially utilized by the body, which means fewer calories. It can be substituted for most common sweeteners without compromising taste or texture. Xylitol has a few benefits too, it helps create a barrier between germs and your gums and has been shown to be beneficial for dental health. It’s why you’ll find a lot of chewing gums using this natural sweetener. Also, in addition of xylitol to saline nasal sprays, has been shown to make them more effective at improving and maintaining upper respiratory health. Xylitol helps prevent the causes of sinus issues and upper respiratory discomfort by stimulating the body’s natural cleansing process to clear away contaminants and irritants in the nasal passages (*Xylitol is highly dangerous for dogs so make sure to keep any xylitol products out of their reach. Even small amounts from candies can be toxic. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.)

Erythritol

Discovered in 1848 and produced from Natural Sugar Cane Juice, which is naturally fermented and crystallized to create natural Erythritol. Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in our bodies, as well as in many fruits, vegetables and even certain fermented foods. It has 95 percent less calories than sugar, although the FDA does label it as having little calories and a glycemic index of zero, Erythriotol makes an ideal sweetener for people with diabetes. So while it sweetens, it does without adding calories or spiking blood sugar the way other sweeteners do. And because it doesn’t ferment in your gut, you can use it without worrying about other unpleasant digestive issues that are often associated with other sugar alcohols.

Stevia

Is my top choice for diabetics for adding a little sweetness to their life. Stevia is a naturally occurring extract from the sweet leaf of a plant that belongs to the sunflower family. It has been used since early times as a sweet source (the leaves are 30- times sweeter than sugar). It grows in South America, and the leaves are similar in shape to the mint family. The great thing about Stevia is that it has virtually no calories, no sugar, and has no affect on blood sugar. Because Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, it takes very little to make things sweet.

Further reading:

Are you a diabetic or watching your sweeteners? Which natural sweeteners do you like best?

Natural Body Care Tips: Keep Your Skin Hydrated All Winter

natural body careOne of the biggest complaints during winter season is having dry, chapped, itchy, and or sensitive skin. The reason is because in winter, there is cold, dry air and very little humidity. If we are not properly hydrated we lose moisture in our skin which leaves our skin feeling and looking less desirable. Before you decide to relocate to a warmer, more humid climate, take these steps to seal in the moisture and repair your winter skin.

Natural Body Care Tips for Keeping Your Skin Hydrated

Hydrate

The first and most important natural body care tip for hydrated skin is water.  Water is the most common nutritional deficiency in America. We just don’t drink enough water here. Did you know water cannot be stored, it’s being continually distributed and regulated throughout our body. This nakes daily water intake essential for a healthy body and healthy skin.  The rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day (Ex: A person weighing 160 pounds should drink 80 ounces of water each day). If you are one of those people who have a hard time drinking water visit my fruits and herb flavored water recipes and combinations post for tasty, easy ways to drink water.

Rethink Processed Foods

The second natural body care tip for hydrated skin may surprise you – its not about what you’re putting in or on you’re body, its what NOT to!  Foods with refined (overly processed) sugars dehydrate your skin, making it dry and less clear. Combined with the winter elements, loading up on these foods (which are usually high in trans fats, MSG, etc.) will leave you feeling blue this winter season. Though I would love to tell you to cut processed foods out completely (we all get cravings now and then), try to limit your processed foods in your home and replace them with more nutritious, whole food options.

Winter Showering

You might not like this natural body care tip but it does help a great deal.  Even though there is nothing better than taking a long, hot, relaxing bath on a cold winter day, it doesn’t do any favors for our skin. Long hot baths and showers have a drying effect on our skin. To help limit that you can add some bath salts or even sea salt to your bath water and taking shorter and cooler showers. Also applying moisturizer to the skin (coconut oil is my top choice) within 3 minutes of stepping out of the shower or bath will help keep skin hydrated. Avoid using soaps and deodorants with fragrance, or alcohol because they can strip your skin of its natural oils.

Vitamins for Skin

In order for your skin to look great, it has to be healthy. Vitamin B helps to restore collagen (a protein that keeps it firm) in the skin, which is especially important as you age. So load up on Vitamin B rich foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds and protein (bone broth is excellent source of collagen) to keep your skin looking healthy and hydrated! Vitamin E (most abundant nutrient found in the skin) also helps with the formation of collagen, and therefore can reduce wrinkles, scaring and increase hydration. Fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and spinach are excellent sources of vitamin E.

Fruit

Fruit, especially water-dense tropical fruit, is a great way to hydrate and protect your skin. Most fruit contains high levels of vitamins A and C, powerful antioxidant that replenishes nutrients in skin, promote collagen production, and help keep your skin supple and firm. Oranges, raspberries, cantaloupe, mangoes, pineapple, strawberries blueberries, watermelon, and grapefruits all contain skin-boosters, and are a tasty treat too.

Natural & Organic Moisturizers

When your skin needs a little extra in those cold, dry months and you reach for a body lotion, make sure you’re using ones with all natural and organic ingredients.  Some conventional lotions contain ingredients that actually dry out your skin.  Some of the better brands to look for are EO’s Everyone Lotion, Andalou Naturals, and Nourish.

I hope these natural body care tips help you to keep your skin hydrated and healthy all winter long. What are your favorite tips and tricks to keep your skin hydrated?

How to Keep Your Family from Getting Sick This Cold & Flu Season

flu seasonIt’s that time of year again, the wonderful holiday season which unfortunately means the dreaded cold and flu season. It’s the time of year when the weather is starting to cool and we are spending more of our time indoors and because of the back-to-back holidays it’s also the time of year when sweets like Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and caramel pumpkin lattes etc. are in full force. Most people don’t know that all those sweets (sugar) really take a toll on our immune systems which makes fighting illness more and more difficult.

With the following tips for boosting your immune system not only will it help protect you and your family against the cold and flu season, you can take control of your health and trim your time spent feeling under the weather during the holidays.

Immune Boosting Tips For Cold & Flu Season:

Eating Healthy

Sounds like a given right? Truth is many of us don’t know what it means to eat healthy. When it comes to boosting our immune system the best thing you can do is ditch the processed foods. Processed foods are packed with all kinds of sugars which impair our immunity. When building your immune system whole foods (foods with 1 ingredient) are going to be your best bet.

Sleep

When it comes to your immunity system, sleep is extremely important. When we are sleeping our immune system really kicks into gear and helps us recover more quickly from illness and much more. Need help on getting a good night’s rest? Visit my sleep solutions post for some tips.

Exercise

While colder weather may trigger an urge to curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea, moving your body and exercise will actually boost its immune function. In a 2006 study, researchers at the University of Washington enrolled 115 women in either a weekly 45-minute stretching session or 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. After 12 months, the exercisers had developed significantly fewer colds than the stretchers did. Don’t let the word exercise intimidate you. A brisk walk with the family for 20-30 minutes will do your body good!

Supplements

I love supplements. Good quality, properly sourced supplements can be very beneficial to our health and to help boost our immune system. Ideally we strive to get all the nutrients we need through an optimal diet, but sometimes we just can’t get all of one nutrient with the food we eat, and need to make up the difference in supplement form. The best supplements that I like to take during flu season are:

  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil – Contains Vitamins A and D, which are both necessary for many aspects of health, Immunity being a big one. While we can get Vitamin D from sunlight, Vitamin A can be harder to consume or absorb and fermented cod liver oil is an excellent source.
  • Probiotics - 70-80% of our immunity resides in our gut which makes probiotics very important for a healthy immune system. Probiotics help populate our gut with all that good bacteria (flora) which will help fighting sickness. Probiotics are especially important to take if you have ever been on antibiotics because while antibiotics can be useful in some cases they also destroy not only the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria as well.
  • ZincIs great for the immune system and can prevent a cold or flu virus from reproducing and can even help relieve respiratory symptoms. Adults should consume 50-75 mg a day when sick in capsule or lozenge. Those who avoid meat could be at risk for deficiency the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 15mg/day.

More Immune Boosting Tips

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is known to boost the immune system. It has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. I make elderberry syrup all year round but I especially like to make sure I have it one hand from September – April.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Is wonderful at helping the body to alkalize. When our body is alkalized it helps kill bacteria and virus. Yes, it tastes awful, but if you add 1 tablespoon to an 8oz glass of water and add a little raw honey, it’s actually pretty tasty!

More resources for cold/flu season:

How do you plan on keeping your family healthy during this cold and flu season? 

Organic Slow Cooker Recipes for Fall

For me fall is a super busy time of year. In my family we have four birthdays just weeks apart and it always seems to make our lives a little hectic. Keeping things simple, quick, and stress free as possible is a MUST! The last thing I want to hear is, “What’s for dinner, Mom?” and not have a clue. I hate that feeling. One way I avoid that dreaded question is to use my trusty crockpot and a handy list of slow cooker recipes! I love that I can throw some ingredients in the pot in the morning and when my husband and kids get home in the evening a nice slow cooked meal is waiting for them. It’s like magic…  I have a few favorite go-to meals that I make regularly with my crock pot, which are: whole chicken, chicken soup, chicken broth, and chili.  I just made chili tonight so I’ll share my super quick recipe with you!

All Meat Slow Cooker Chili

I love this recipe because you can make it your own (I’ve listed the basic version of the recipe so feel free to customize!). This recipe is good when we are getting to the low end of our groceries. I always seem to have these ingredients on hand so it makes for a quick, easy, stress-free dinner fix.

all-meat-slow-cooker-recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 -2 pounds grass fed, organic ground beef. (You can also use, ground turkey or chicken make sure it’s well sourced)
  • 1- 28 oz can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 large organic onion diced
  • 1 clove organic garlic chopped finely
  • 1/4 c Taco Seasoning (I make my own using this recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Throw all the ingredients in the crock pot. (yep just that simple)

all-meat-slow-cooker-recipes-step-1

Set on low (2-3 hours) or High (5-6 hours) depending on how much time you have.   Today I started out on low for 3 hours and turned on high for 2 hours and it worked perfect for me. I also used frozen meat too, but because it was frozen I made sure I broke up the meat every hour or so, because I didn’t want to end up with huge chunks of ground meat…although I’m sure my husband would love that. Then like magic it’s DONE!!  See I told you it was like magic.  Just the kind of magic a mom likes.

all-meat-slow-cooker-recipes-final

I like to serve my chili on top of cabbage noodles (thinly sliced cabbage sautéed in olive oil until tender) and here are some of my family’s favorite chili toppings:

all-meat-slow-cooker-recipes-with-tortilla chips

My daughter likes to eat her chili with tortilla chips like a dip.

The sky is the limit really!

Don’t forget to serve some greens with your chili. I always have a massaged kale salad or a nice garden salad to company our chili!

My chili recipe was pretty basic today, but remember you can customize it and make it your own. Sometimes I like to dice a bunch of carrots, red and green peppers, and throw them in. If you like a thinner chili, you can add more diced tomatoes or even a small can of tomato sauce. Use your imagination and throw in any other spices or herbs you like!  The following is a bunch more slow cooker recipes, some might not list organic ingredients but just remember to choose organic ingredients whenever possible.

Slow Cooker Recipes:

What are you favorite slow cooker recipes for the fall season?

Tips for Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Thinking about having a baby? Expecting a baby? Just had a baby? Eating healthy in all of those stages is critically important. Whatever stage you fall into, you have come to the right place. Today I’m giving you some easy to follow tips that you can implement at any stage of your pregnancy.

eating healthy

By File photo, Canwest News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

14 Eating Healthy Tips During Pregnancy

1. Eat for Two?

Nope, don’t fall into that trap. Yes of course you need to bump up your food intake a little but you definitely don’t need to be eating two of every meal.

2. Stay Hydrated

Water is the best choice during pregnancy. Did you know that water accounts for 75% of your baby’s water weight at birth? Lack of water can lead to dehydration, dehydration equals stress and when mom’s body is in stress so is baby. So stay hydrated. Aim for 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water minimum, if you can drink more, go for it. For example a mother who weighs 150lbs would need to drink 75oz of water. Another good bonus is that staying hydrated also helps alleviate morning sickness.

3. Nitrates & Listeria

Packaged lunch meats are high in a preservative called sodium nitrate. Some specialists are of the opinion that sodium nitrates can lead to difficult complications during pregnancy. This is because the body turns nitrates into potential carcinogens. Another issue with cold cuts is that they may contain lots of the Listeria bacteria. Listeria can grow in refrigerated temperatures. This bacterium causes an ailment called Listeriosis which can cause problems during pregnancy such as miscarriage, premature delivery, infections or even death of the new born baby.

4. Good Fats

Don’t be scared of eating good fats. Fats are absolutely necessary for absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K which are vital for baby’s brain and organ development.  Coconut oil, butter, eggs, olive oil, quality red meats, and nuts are good choices for eating healthy fats.

5. Bad Fats

The human body does not have the capability to digest refined oils and trans-fats.  Consuming trans-fats can alter the composition of your breast milk and lowers the overall fat content.

Stay away from oils like: margarine, shortening, vegetable oils including canola oil, all hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, and soybean oil.

6. Say Goodbye to Processed Foods

Unfortunately we are already passing toxins to our baby through the air we breathe and even chemicals we put on our skin (lotions, creams, shampoo etc.) the last thing we need to do is overload our system with unnecessary chemicals from the food we eat, which also offer little to no nutrition.

7. Fiber is your Friend

Eating healthy with a high fiber-diet includes eating properly prepared whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Fiber is important to keep the intestines moving to ensure good bowel function and elimination.  This also helps to avoid constipation, a common problem during pregnancy.

8. No Sugar

Avoid or greatly limit sugar intake in your diet and stick to natural sugars like maple syrup or raw honey in little quantity.  Bacteria, viruses, parasites all thrive off sugar.  Avoid aspartame1, sucralose2 and other artificial sugars, which are all chemical based.

9. Grab and Go

Always have healthy food snacks that are ready to go. When you get home from shopping, wash your produce right away and chop it up, store it in the fridge for easy access when you need a quick grab and go snack!  I liked to chop up carrots, celery, and my sweet husband would always cut me up a whole watermelon and keep it in the fridge when I wanted something for my “sweet tooth”.

10. Big Fish

Accumulate mercury in their bodies, which is transferred to you and your baby. Mercury causes damage to a baby’s nervous system. Stay away from swordfish, marlin, and shark. Limit tuna consumption too.  When choosing fish at the market always look for wild caught fish.

11. Organic

Eat as much organic or locally as you can.  If you can’t buy all of your produce organic, use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) ‘Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen‘ as a reference for which fruits and veggies you definitely should buy organic.

12. No Booze for You

Alcohol is not a bright idea while pregnant. It is linked to various health issues you want to avoid such as premature delivery, low birth weight, birth defects, and mental retardation. A little sip here and there is probably fine, but again, why take a risk?

13. Shop the Perimeter

The best tip when you go shopping is to shop the perimeter of the store, this is usually where all the good stuff is; your meats, poultry, seafood, produce, dairy. It’s when you get into the middle of the store and get lost in all those aisles with packaged and processed foods. This is where you really need to pay attention to the labels, read the ingredients.  Look for items that have less than 5 ingredients (more is NOT better).  Ingredients to avoid are:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Dyes, food colorings (red #40, yellow #5, red # 3 etc.)
  • Hydrogenated / partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharin)
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • BHA & BHT
  • Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (cured meats)
  • Potassium bromate  (found in commercial breads)

14. Double the Protein

When we are pregnant we need nearly twice as much protein. The average intake of protein is around 45grams; 75-80 grams is needed daily during pregnancy.  3oz of chicken breast is around 20-30grams of protein, so don’t worry it’s not that hard to get your protein in.  Here are some other great sources of protein.

  • Grass feed beef, lamb, bison
  • Pastured chicken/turkey
  • Pastured eggs
  • Nuts, seeds,  and legumes
  • Organic Dairy (milk, full fat yogurt, cheese)

If these tips seem overwhelming. Don’t worry you don’t have to add them all at once, but if you do, right on! Start by adding one or two tips, then build on that. Just by reading this you made a good first step to creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your baby!

 

1 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/16/aspartame-diet-soda.aspx

2 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/18/sucralose-side-effects.aspx

11 Tips For Non-GMO Shopping On A Budget

Do you want to learn the best ways to go Non-GMO shopping, even on a budget?  Even though the vast majority of processed foods found in supermarkets today contain GMO’s, it really isn’t that difficult to maintain a Non-GMO diet when you know what to look for.  Eating whole, unprocessed, organic food is an easy way to do it; here are some more tips for Non-GMO shopping, especially for those of us on a strict food budget.non-gmo shopping

11 Tips For Non-GMO Shopping:

  1. Look for products that are USDA Certified Organic.  Organic is the gold standard.  By choosing organic foods not only will you be sure that those foods are non-gmo, they will also be free of pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals.

  2. Look for products that are Non-GMO Project Verified.  While you won’t know for sure if there are pesticide residue in the food, you’ll at least know that foods with the Non-GMO Project Verified logo on them are GMO free.

  3. If you see corn, soy, or canola oil on an ingredient label and that product is not organic or labelled non-gmo, assume it is GMO and avoid it.

  4. Learn the list of ingredients that are derived from corn and soy.  Click HERE for a great guide to these ingredients.

  5. Buy whole food ingredients, instead processed foods.

  6. Learn to cook from scratch.  For families on a tight food budget, cooking at home can save quite a bit of money.  Remember to make double batches and freeze meals for those busy nights.

  7. Buy your groceries at health food stores, natural markets or online at stores that disclose the GMO status of products.  Ordering online at shopOrganic assures you that you will not be buying any GMO products.

  8. Find your local farmer’s markets and talk to the farmers about how they grow their foods.  Buying local food in season is the best way to get the most value and nutrition from your food while supporting your local growers.

  9. Stock up when foods are on sale – food storage can be a great way to make your dollars go further.

  10. Learn how to use every part of your fruits and vegetables.  Freezing bits and pieces of veggies to make a vegetable broth is a good way to make sure that nothing goes to waste.  Compost any truly unusable bits of your fruits and veggies to use in your garden.  And speaking of gardens:

  11. Start a garden – it can be small and simply include a few vegetables that you eat regularly.  Make sure to start with organic seeds; carrots and radishes grow quickly and easily, or try lettuce or other greens, or herbs in a pot.

Do you have other tips on Non-GMO shopping?  Share them in the comments section below!

Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

October is my favorite month out of the year, but I can’t lie, these past few years when Halloween rolls around, I get a little anxious about all the candy, and I have a hard time deciding what to hand out to trick-or-treaters, or what kind of organic snacks to bring to Halloween parties.organic snacks I don’t want to be known as that friend or neighbor that hands out the “weird” stuff to trick-or-treaters like dried fruit or apples. But I also cringe at the thought of knowingly giving kids candy that’s loaded with GMO’s, sugar and artificial ingredients. In the past I would usually cave and end up buying the fun-size bags of popular candy brands – but not these last few years!  Thanks to these organic and natural brands, Halloween just got a little healthier. Trick or treat!

7 Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

Throwing a party this Halloween? No problem. Head over to Pinterest to visit our Healthy Halloween board to get some great ideas from organic snacks recipes to decorations and much more! Below I’ve posted a few healthier, organic snacks that both kids and adults will love and you can feel better about serving.  And for trick or treat candy that you can feel good about, click HERE.

18 Rabbits

Makes these great organic granola junior bars for kids, which come in some pretty fun flavors like Chocolate Banana, Cranberry Apricot, Mango Strawberry, and Chocolate Cherry. For us adults they have big kid bars with yummy flavors such as, Date Pecan Coconut, Fig Cranberry Hazelnut, and Cherry Chocolate Almond.

Glenny’s Marshmallow Treats

Who doesn’t love a yummy marshmallow treat?! Now you can even feel better that these are organic and also this is a wonderful treat for people who are gluten free.

Popcorn

Can’t have a party without popcorn. Choose from microwavable, pre-popped or pop your own varieties. If you pop your own, try coconut oil for a little extra flavor.

Clif  Kids

They have the choice of organic Z-Bars which are baked whole energy grain bars, which are low-fat, made with whole oats and contains 12 essential vitamins and minerals kids need every day. You can also try the organic Twisted Fruit, it is real fruit twisted into a fun rope shape that’s easy to slip into a backpack, lunchbox or take anywhere kids are on the move.

Jackson’s Honest

These are by far my favorite potato chip. They are kettle fried with coconut oil. Can’t get any better than that. These will for sure be a hit at any party!

Surf Sweets

Made with organic fruit juice and sweeteners and free of corn syrup and GMOs, these organic gummy candies are bursting with flavor.

Pur Gum

GMO and aspartame-free. It’s vegetarian-approved. It’s naturally colored, flavored, and sweetened and tastes super fresh! Great parting treat to give to guests when they leave a party.  They’re also great for giving out to trick or treaters if you get the blister packs and cut individual pieces of gum to give out.

What’s your favorite organic snacks for Halloween? What do you pass out to trick-or-treaters?

Sweet Tooth? Learn More about Organic Sugar & Other Sweeteners

Have you ever gone to the store and became overwhelmed with all the different types of organic sugar and sweeteners now on the shelves? Seems like every day a new type of sugar comes out.  Which one should I choose? Which ones are the best? Will this taste good in my baking?organic sugar  I know those are some questions that I have asked myself also. Today I’m going to take you through some of the more well-known sweeteners, as well as introduce you to some that you might not have heard of before. But before I do that, I have to stress that the most important thing for you to do when it comes to sugar, is to stay away from refined and processed sugars, which have been highly processed and offer no nutritional value to our health. That being said, don’t fret if you get a sweet tooth, I’m going to name a whole bunch of healthy alternatives.

Organic Sugar &  Other Sweeteners:

Raw Honey

Honey flavors can vary widely based on the type of flower and season. Cooking and baking with honey adds acidity and moisture to the baked product. Raw, unprocessed honey is a true Paleo sweetener that is twice as sweet as table sugar. It is also regarded as a sacred superfood, and a remedy for many health ailments.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a popular breakfast sweetener, but it is also a well-known sugar substitute among those who strive to use less refined sugar. This is because maple syrup has many properties that are beneficial for the body, making it a sweetener with a healthy boost. Maple syrup has antioxidants that support the body’s immune system and heart health as well as several beneficial vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup is a great sugar substitute in any recipe. The conversion of maple syrup versus cane sugar in recipes can vary depending on the recipe, but typically one cup of white sugar can be replaced with 2/3 to ¾ cup of maple syrup.

Coconut Sugar/Palm Sugar 

Coconut sugar is produced from the sap of the coconut palm tree. Coconut Sugar has a caramel taste which will impart into the baked treat. The coconut sugar granules are fairly large, so a quick pulse in a food processor will help it absorb better during mixing stages. Coconut sugar generally replaces white sugar at a 1:1 ratio (1 cup of coconut sugar = 1 cup of white sugar).

Stevia

Stevia is a naturally sweet herb that can be processed into a powder or a tincture to use as an all-natural, zero calories, no carb sweetener. It is best used to flavor, tea, sparkling water, coffee, smoothies, and yogurts.

Molasses

Molasses has a rich, full-bodied robust flavor and adds natural color and opulent caramel molasses tones to recipes. It is especially good in gingerbread, molasses cookies, bran muffins, quick breads, chili, BBQ sauces, and in marinades. It is a good source of vitamins, minerals and trace elements naturally present in the sugar cane plant, and is a good source of iron, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Yacon Syrup

Made from a tuber from South America, this syrup is a great replacement to those who are severely sensitive to molasses.  It is dark, thick, cinnamon-like in scent, and only half the sweetness of molasses. It is also quite costly. Reduce wet ingredients by 2 tbsp if you use it. As a molasses substitute, it’s terrific. As an everyday sweetener, it’s a bit on the costly side. If you wish to use it more often, try combining it with another one of the sweeteners here to get more mileage out of it. ¾ cup yacon = 1 cup sugar.

Organic Date Sugar

Date sugar is made from dried and ground dates. It exhibits a sweet almost molasses flavor that can be used in place of brown sugar. Date sugar can also replace white sugar nearly at a 1:1 ratio, however others prefer using 2/3 cup of date sugar to 1 cup of white sugar.

Sucanat

Made from dehydrated fresh cane juice. The process leaves more nutritional components in the product and it contains calcium, potassium, and a small amount of iron. It has a taste similar to sugar and molasses. It comes in both syrup and granulated form and can be used in recipes calling for sugar of all kinds.

Xylitol

Is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar, it contains 2.4 calories per gram, or about two-thirds of the caloric value of sugar. Xylitol appears to have some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay. It may also improve bone density, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels making it a good choice for diabetics. However, as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive side effects at high doses. If you have a dog in your home, then you might want to keep xylitol out of the house because it is highly toxic to dogs.

I hope this helps narrow down your search at the grocery store when buying organic sugars and sweeteners. What have you found to be your favorite?

Don’t know where to buy these organic sugars and sweeteners? No worries, visit our Sweeteners and Syrups page.

7 Health Benefits of Eating Organic Cinnamon

There is no better way to kick off the fall season then by talking about one of fall’s most loved spices… organic cinnamon!  Mmm I can smell those pumpkin pies baking already! Cinnamon is one of those spices that most of us have in our kitchen cupboards, but many of us may not be aware of the many health benefits it there are in organic cinnamon.

organic cinnamonWhy organic? Well because it ensures you it has not been irradiated, which means being exposed to ionized radiation for a period of time (which may lead to decreased amounts of vitamin C and carotenoids). Irradiated foods contain more free radicals (free radicals make our bodies more prone to chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes). And, irradiation plants emit ozone into the environment. Pretty good reasons to buy organic cinnamon I’d say!

Some Benefits of Organic Cinnamon:

  1. May help treat Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing the amount of insulin production in the body. Research shows that cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, lowering blood sugar after eating.
  2. It’s a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Has been shown to stop medication resistant yeast infections and also has been effective against three strains of Candida albicans fungus. Not only that, cinnamon is by far the best remedy for stomach bugs and food poisoning like E.Coli, which sickens more than 100,000 people each year.
  3. Cinnamon may actually prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells1. Cancer cells abnormally take up glucose, ignoring regular metabolic signals. Cinnamon may play a role in reestablishing the proper signals and keeping sugar levels under control so cancer cells cannot grow as quickly or spread as far.
  4. So much more than a spice, cinnamon is rich in manganese, iron, calcium, and fiber too. By adding it to any recipe, you are increasing your minerals and it is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world, which reduce the formation of “free radicals” that cause cancer and also increase aging.
  5. Cinnamon has been found to be an effective natural remedy for eliminate headache and migraine relief.
  6. In traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestion upset like: gas, nausea and diarrhea and helps relieve symptoms of IBS. It is also believed to improve the body’s ability to digest fruit, milk and other dairy products.
  7. Just smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon gum is enough to boost brain activity, according to another study. In fact, test scores were higher, and memory, visual recognition, and motor speed were greatly enhanced in individuals who took a whiff of cinnamon, compared with individuals who smelled jasmine, peppermint, or no fragrance at all. If you put an oil diffuser in your car and add cinnamon oil, studies2 have shown to improve alertness behind the wheel.

Organic Cinnamon – Uses and Tips:

  • Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink to clean, especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural.
  • Cinnamon is a well known warming agent making it great for massage. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  • Half a teaspoon in a cup of tea with lemon juice and honey when colds or flu strike.
  • In tincture recipes to increase absorption of the herbs and for flavor.
  • A dash or two of cinnamon added to soups such as lentil or black bean may add an exotic flavor, plus provide the warming goodness may bring relief to those feeling under the weather.
  • Cinnamon oil in a diffuser.
  • Add one to two teaspoons of ground cinnamon to your coffee before brewing. It gives the coffee a nice cinnamon flavor and is an easy way to incorporate cinnamon into your diet.
  • Sprinkle or add into your favorite baked goods like, muffins, spice cakes and pies.
  • Add to your oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast.
  • Use in homemade elderberry syrup to protect against the flu.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000754
2. http://www.wju.edu/about/adm_news_story.asp?iNewsID=1882&strBack=/about/adm_news_archive.asp

What are your favorite ways to use organic cinnamon?

General Mills Buys Annie’s Homegrown; shopOrganic Offers Alternatives

If you haven’t heard the buzz yet, General Mills has purchased Annie’s Homegrown/Annie’s Naturals.  While they promise that their ingredients won’t change and their commitment to using non-gmo ingredients is as strong as ever, they have allied themselves on the pro GMO side by default.annie's

General Mills may be looking to take advantage of the increase in sales of organic products, but savvy organic consumers are turning away from Annie’s, now that they have been purchased.

With a commitment to not carry any brands whose parent company donates to oppose GMO labeling, shopOrganic will no longer be selling Annie’s Homegrown or Annie’s Naturals products.  We are moving out the remainder of the inventory that we already purchased pre-aquisition and that will be it for our relationship with Annie’s.  We believe in putting our money where our mouth is and we believe that consumers have the power to shape our economy.  Let’s shape it toward organic producers who still believe in the spirit of organic.

I know that many families rely on Annie’s products to feed their kids foods that are familiar, that are fun and that they like to eat.  We’d like to suggest some alternatives for you to choose from.

If you like Annie’s Mac and Cheese:

If you like Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies & Pretzels:

If you like Annie’s Fruit Snacks:

If you like Annie’s Salad Dressing:

If you like Annie’s Gluten Free Cookies:

If you like Annie’s BBQ or Worcestershire Sauce:

If you like Annie’s Granola Bars:

If you like Annie’s Ketchup & Mustard:

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