Let’s break down sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate—one our body uses for energy and fuel. Sugar is absorbed through the bloodstream and becomes glucose. Natural sugars occur naturally in fruits and some vegetables (known as fructose), as well as in dairy products (known as lactose). The body metabolizes fructose and lactose sugars differently from how it metabolizes refined sugars, which are added to processed and packaged foods. Refined sugars are broken down much quicker, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to rise abruptly. And because it’s digested fast, we may not feel full after eating, which encourages overconsumption. However, fructose and lactose are digested much slower, because they also contain fiber, which helps keep us full and balance our blood sugar.
So does the type of sugar we consume matter? It does if we want to fill our body with quality and nutritious foods. Natural forms of sugar from fruits, vegetables, and dairy are packed with minerals and vitamins. Making these choices is a win-win.
Here are some delicious ways to enjoy Mother Nature’s sweetness:
Spring-Inspired Fruit Salad
Fruits contain essential nutrients such as folate, vitamin C, and potassium. Whole fruits also have more water content and are fibrous, helping to balance blood sugar levels and keep us satiated.
In a bowl, slice and chop up fruits in season. In the spring, this includes apricots, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries, and pears. Gently toss with fresh lemon juice and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Berrylicious Dark Chocolate Bark
Dark chocolate is one of my favorite superfoods. Dark chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, stabilize healthy cholesterol levels, and reduce heart disease risk. It’s no wonder eating dark chocolate makes us feel relaxed and brings joy to our hearts.
Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet and set it aside. Either in a microwave or on the stovetop, gently heat a bar of dark chocolate until completely melted. Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper and sprinkle on goji berries, freeze-dried blueberries, and raspberries. Set in the fridge for about an hour, or until firm. Break off a piece and enjoy.
Carrot Ginger Turmeric Smoothie
Carrots have a little sweetness to them, making them a great replacement for sugar in recipes such as hot sauce and baked goods. Carrots are a great source of vitamin A, fiber, vitamin K, and potassium and have a high profile of antioxidants. This recipe also calls for bananas—don’t be afraid of them. Bananas help to improve digestion and support heart health.
In a blender, add a navel or Cara Cara orange, a medium chopped carrot, half a banana, the juice of half a lemon, a 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, 3 tablespoons hemp, flax, or chia seeds, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup of water.
Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates
It has been shown that goat’s milk is generally easier to digest because its profile is very similar to human breast milk. Milk from goats is beneficial for gut health and immune development and can protect against gastrointestinal infections. Dates have been a staple in Middle Eastern cultures for centuries—they’re packed with B vitamins, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese.
Split dates in half and remove the seed. Stuff the inside with goat cheese, sprinkle pistachios crumbles, and drizzle with olive oil.