Before I understood how negatively refined cane sugar and corn syrup impacts our bodies, sugar was my delicious, fat-free friend. At the time I really struggled with my weight, but hadn’t made the connection between all the sugar I was eating and the pounds I couldn’t drop.
Soon I began to study nutrition and found out that refined cane sugar (and corn syrup) was actually an anti-nutrient. The opposite of nutrition.
These sweeteners go through an extensive refining process that destroys all of the enzymes, fiber, vitamins and minerals. What you’re left with are empty, naked calories.
The problem is that your body needs the enzymes, fiber, vitamins and minerals that were taken out in the refining process in order to metabolize sugar and use it as energy. So it poaches those nutrients from your own body.
This means that while you are enjoying that piece of candy, sugar is draining vital nutrients from your body. And in the meantime your body is being thrust into fat storage mode.
That was pretty devastating to learn, since I loved my sweets so much!
Thankfully I soon learned about wholesome sweeteners, that aren’t put through an extensive refining process so that they maintain their enzymes, fiber, vitamins and minerals. These wholesome sweets also have less of an effect on your blood sugar, which means that it takes a lot more of it to go into fat storage mode than with refined sugar.
Wholesome sweeteners I’ve come to love…
- Coconut Palm Sugar: Coconut Palm Sugar is subtly sweet almost like brown sugar with a slight hint of caramel. It’s my favorite sweetener to use in baking, since the consistency is so similar to traditional sugar. This sugar is produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It has a high mineral content and is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.
- Dates: I love to use this edible, sweet fruit in my baking, instead of refined sugar. It has ample fiber, potassium, and even protein. To use in baking simply remove the pit (definitely need to remove the pit!!) chop it or blend in a food processor, and add to your batter. It not only adds sweetness but also produces baked goods that are delightfully moist.
- Banana: Banana is another sweet fruit that is wonderful to use in baking. It does give some banana flavor, so it may not work in all recipes. Just like dates, banana also increases the moistness factor of your baking.
- Raw Honey: Raw Honey is the most original sweet liquid that honeybees produce from the concentrated nectar of flowers. Collected straight from the extractor; it is totally unheated, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey. Raw honey is rich in antioxidants and does not pull nutrients from your body like refined cane sugar does. Use it in baking with a 1:1 ratio to refined sugar.
- Pure Maple Syrup: Maple Syrup is another wholesome way to sweeten your baking. It has antioxidants that support the body’s immune system along with several beneficial vitamins and minerals. Maple Syrup can be used in the place of sugar for just about any recipe. Just be sure that you aren’t purchasing syrup that’s been processed and sweetened with cane sugar or corn syrup — it needs to be pure maple syrup that’s been tapped from maple trees.
Note: While these wholesome sweeteners are awesome for lending sweet, nutrient-dense flavor, they still do contain rather high calories. This means that we need to be smart about how much and how often we enjoy them.
Try your hand at using wholesome sweeteners instead of refined sugar and corn syrup in your holiday baking. It’s really easy to switch them out, and your treats still come out as tasty as you’re used to. In fact, I don’t keep ANY refined sugar or corn syrup in my kitchen, and haven’t for over 4 years. Anytime I want to make something sweet I simply sub in one (or a combination) of the wholesome sweeteners above.
So now that the holidays are here (it’s official, Christmas music is now on the radio) I thought we could all use a Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Loaf that’s made with only wholesome sweeteners! This loaf was designed to be quite sweet, so reduce the amount of dates or banana if you’d like. Or enjoy it as is, in all its sweet glory.
I’m always looking for ways to add some chocolate to my holiday menu 🙂 If you aren’t a fan of chocolate paired with pumpkin then feel free to leave out the chocolate (just don’t tell me because I may cry). Enjoy!
- 1½ cups blanched almond flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 banana, mashed
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
- ½ cup dark chocolate pieces
- 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a loaf pan with coconut oil. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with greased parchment paper.
- In a medium bow combine the almond flour, baking soda, sea salt and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until well combined.
- In another medium bowl combine the eggs, vanilla extract, banana, 1 Tablespoon of the coconut oil, pumpkin and dates. Mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix well.
- Divide the batter in half by transferring half of the batter into an empty bowl.
- Place a skillet on the stove over medium heat and fill with a cup of water. Place a small saucepan directly in the skillet and fill with the remaining Tablespoon of coconut oil and the dark chocolate pieces. Stir often until the chocolate and coconut oil have melted. Pour into one of the bowls of batter along with the cocoa powder. Mix until fully combined.
- To create the swirl pattern, first spread half of the pumpkin batter over the bottom of the loaf pan. Top with half of the chocolate batter, smoothing it out. Repeat once more. Take a knife and swirl it through the entire loaf in an S pattern, from one end to the other. Smooth over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 60 minutes. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before applying the glaze.
- Combine the glaze ingredients and whisk well. Place in the fridge for 5-10 minutes, for the coconut oil to thicken, then remove and whisk again. Once the glaze is creamy, it’s ready to be applied to the chilled loaf. If the glaze is still runny, then chill and whisk again until it becomes creamy. Spread the glaze over the loaf and top with more orange zest. Slice and enjoy!