Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A New Sugar for Your Pantry

I love a decadent bite of sweets... but as you might have noticed, I'm also very conscious of my blood sugar. Is it possible to have both? Yes!

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite sugar substitutes...
Coconut Palm Sugar!

I love it for many reasons:
  • It is a granular sugar and can be subbed in 1-for-1 anywhere you would normally use white or brown sugar, even in baking.
  • It tastes lightly like caramel, slightly nutty... mmm!
  • It's minimally processed (taken as a sap from a coconut palm tree, like maple syrup, then simply dehydrated) so is full of an amazing array of trace vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other macro-nutrients. Eating processed sugar actually pulls the missing minerals right from your bones! Yikes.
  • It's considered to be one the most sustainably produced sugar available, a by-product of coconut fruit production that doesn't even affect the productivity of the trees!
  • It has a low Glycemic Load (meaning a serving of it has a relatively small effect on your blood sugar levels), and so, in moderation, won't rock your blood sugar boat.
What's "Glycemic Load" anyway?
Maybe you've heard the terms Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load before. And they can be very useful terms when you know what they mean. Here's the quick and easy way to remember what they are...
  • Glycemic Index is a 0-100 scale indicating how how quickly a carbohydrate (such a sugar) breaks down in your body and goes into your blood stream. An orange, for example, has a glycemic index of about 45, moderately fast in breaking down its sugars.
  • Glycemic Load is a 0-50 scale that's actually way more useful, because it also takes the quantity of what you're eating into consideration. It lets you know how much of an overall effect a carbohydrate will have on your blood sugar. That orange only has a glycemic load of 5, and so has a relatively low impact on your blood sugar. If you're eating multiple oranges, the impact on your blood sugar, and thus the glycemic load will go up.
  • On of my favorite nutrition reference sites, Self Nutrition Data, gives extensive but comprehensive breakdowns of nutritional data, including Glycemic Load. Check out oranges!

Where to get Coconut Palm Sugar
Whole Foods: sometimes in bulk bins or sold in bags in the baking section. And, you can even buy coconut palm sugar on Amazon... really!

Now, my favorite part... What to do with it!
Like I said, try subbing it into your favorite baking recipes (I've even gotten to the point where I reduce the sugar amounts in things like cookies... just be careful about your dry/liquid ratios when baking!). Here are a few low-glycemic coconut-palm-friendly recipes...

Homemade Nectarine Jam
3 ripe nectarines
1 tablespoon water
optional 1/2 teaspoon agar agar flakes or fruit pectin
  1. Pit and dice 3 ripe nectarines, skin on and put into a small pot with about 1 tablespoon of water. Turn heat to medium-high to get cooking, lid on to steam cook and soften fruit. Stir frequently.
  2. Remove lid and turn heat to low when the fruit bubbling, soft and starting to get jammy. Stir often to prevent sticking!
  3. You may add an optional 1/2 tsp agar agar (a tasteless seaweed thickener) or fruit pectin. Allow liquid to evaporate until you've reached your desired consistency. It will thicken further when it cools. 
  4. For Nectarine Rose Jam, add 1/8 cup dried rose petals (I plucked them from the tea section and removed stems and cores) or 2 teaspoons rose water when you turn the heat down. *Only use fresh petals if you know personally they were grown without pesticides. Most fresh store-bought roses are loaded with chemicals!*

PB Cookie Dough Dip
Adapted from ChocolateCoveredKatie.com. This makes a great party dish (don't tell people the ingredients, they never guess) and is one of my favorite blood-sugar balancing midafternoon snacks!

1 can chickpeas or white beans (1.5 cups, drained & rinsed very well)
3 tbsp oats (ground flax will also work)
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or sweetener of choice)

heaping 1/8-1/4 tsp salt (are your beans salted or not?)
heaping 1/8 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or of choice)
up to 1/4 cup milk of choice, only if needed
1/3 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips (or use part cacao nibs for less overall sugar)

  1. Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a good food processor (not blender), and blend until very smooth, adding milk as needed to achieve a smooth, cookie-dough consistency.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the chocolate chips. Serve simply with spoons (my favorite), dark cocoa cookies, graham crackers, pretzels, or unsweetened banana chips.

Enjoy & Savor! Post your favorite Coconut Palm Sugar recipes and recipe makeovers below...

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