When sugar cravings are just too much…
There is nothing I can say to reap the rewards of sugar….. it is bad for you. It stimulates blood sugar imbalances and weight gain. Wost of all it encourages acidity at cellular level which invites poor health and disease. We all suffer with sugar cravings for many different reasons – a poor diet high in refined sugars, low blood sugar, comfort and emotional, stress, fatigue, intestinal parasites and habit to name but a few. The answer is to find a balance. Recognise how often you are craving sugar, and make a conscious decision to change your diet. Choose natural sugars and lovingly prepare the food, salivating as you prepare your chosen treat. Use mindful eating to savour each and every mouthful.
Today I am exploring some of the “healthier” alternatives to sugar helping you to begin to change your relationship with sugar. Being in tune with the moon, seasonal energies and womb wisdom I believe that sugar cravings can be linked with natural seasons and internal womb cycles. Let me explain this further; if your menses are heavy because you suffer with endometriosis or uterine fibroids then you will probably crave sugar during your womb bleed. If menses are absent or irregular such as pre or post menopause then “sweet treats ” are most appropriate during the full and new moon. It is during these lunar cycles that we celebrate the beginning and ending of cycles, helping us to “be present”, recognise our personal seasons and connect with nature. In tune with goddess and moon energy my approach to well being connects with women’s wellbing, seasonal therapies, nutritional therapy and eating the seasons .The summer provides natural sweetness in berries and fruits and a natural abundance of sugar. If you are a gardener or allotment grower you may consider Biodynamics (consciously working the seasons for vitality and wellbeing). I am very interested in this and become mindfully aware how seasonal nutrition supports female health.
So, what natural sugar alternatives can you consider when your sugar cravings take over?
It is known to reduce insulin resistance and shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 29%, which can reduce the instance of Type 2 diabetes. In addition it helps to lower cholesterol levels and has been used as an aid to support PCOS, heavy menstruation and female hormonal balance disorders such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids. It has fantastic anti inflammatory, anti viral, anti fungal and anti carcinogenic properties. Recent research also believes it supports Parkinson’s and Altzheimers – something I am seeing more and more in my clinic.
A recent pilot study found that cinnamon reduced insulin resistance in women with PCOS
Cinnamon truly is a superfood, working directly on the muscle cells to force them to remove sugar from the bloodstream, where it is converted to energy. Unless you have type 1 diabetes, insulin sensitivity generally decreases as we age encouraging sugar to float around in the blood causing health problems and causing havoc with our hormones. Research has evidenced that cinnamon helps repair receptors so they become more responsive to insulin. With its naturally sweet taste that is devoid of sugar it makes a great addition to teas, yogurts, deserts and snacks. Try adding it to buckwheat pancakes or the chia pudding recipe below.
“Cinnamon can also help mitigate heavy menstrual bleeding associated with common conditions of female health, such as endometriosis, menorrhagia, and uterine fibroids.”
Many of cinnamon’s fantastic properties come from one substance, something called cinnamaldehyde – so if you are sensitive to salicylates then be cautious when using it. To find out if youhave any food sensitivities then I offer nutritional screening using the Asyra Bio-Feedback System or offer functional medicine tests.
Raw cocoa and coacoa nibs
Add one teaspoon of raw cocao powder in a mug of hot water or milk and drink 10-15 minutes before your meal to aid weight loss.
OK – so I believe all women should try to remove processed sugars as much as possible because it offers zero nutritional benefit and increases the risk of hormonal chaos. During pregnancy it is especially important to remove refined sugars not only for your own health and wellbeing but for the future health of your baby. One of the wonders of raw cocoa other than it’s totally delicious slight bitter sweet taste is that it does not contain additives or preservatives. Nutrition wise it contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas in addition to B vitamins, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, calcium and the all important magnesium. On the low side raw cocoa is a source of caffeine so it is best to keep this to a minimum, especially during the 1st three months of pregnancy because high caffeine intake has been associated with increased risk of miscarriage.
The Incas considered it the drink of gods, an association that gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink).
Historically, cocoa seed has been used to support intestinal illness, as an expectorant for lung congestion whilst the seed coat has been used for bladder, liver and kidney ailments and as a general tonic. Many recipes use raw cocoa powder or nibs to offer a low glycaemic sweetness and it is easy to buy.
Fruit and Dates:
Dates are very high in natural sugars (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) and are invariably used to sweeten protein bars, raw desserts, smoothies etc. Because they are natural they are a healthier alternative than a processed biscuit or confectionary when your sugar cravings are just too much. Although dates carry a high content of nutritional value and believed to support eye health, digestive disturbances and sexual potency take care to source them well. If you suffer with fungal infections or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) watch out for moulds and bacteria on their sticky surface. Make sure you wash thoroughly if fresh or soak well if dried before you eat them.
Fruit – An abundance at this time of year.Fruit is full of antioxidants, berries and apples can easily be used to provide a natural sugar hit. Choosing low glycaemic fruits or blending with nuts or seeds fruit can offer a zing of sweetness without the high sugar hit – great when your sugar cravings are rampant. One of my favourites fruits is papaya – it has been used for thousands of years to encourage regular bowel movements, whilst apples provide pectin to support gut health and integrity, antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fibre. Add stewed apples to yoghurt or make a delicious raw apple pie
To explore seasonal produce look at Eat The Seasons
If you are the “quick fix” type of person then Caricol™ can be added to smoothies and juices, porridge or used as an “ice-pop” to offer a moment of sweetness but still encourage bowel regularity and stop the sugar cravings. Keep some in the freezer during the summer months! Caricol can be purchased here using my discount code of Maple at the Natural Dispensary
Benefits: Summer berries are in season offering vitamin C, antioxidants, insoluble fibre, and phytonutrients so support both hormonal and immune health
Can honey support sugar cravings?
The wonder of honey has been known for many thousands of years, it is truly an elixir of life, containing flavonoids, antioxidants, antibacterial, anti fungal and anti viral properties. Honey does contain simple sugars but this is different to refined white sugar. Its natural combination of fructose and glucose can support blood sugar, some honeys don’t jolt your blood sugar. Benefits: Helps to prevent cancer and heart disease, reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-fungal and is known to reduce cough and throat irritation (buckwheat honey seems to be the favourite for this) and also heals wounds and burns – it can be used transdermally. Balances the 5 elements: Honey has been used in ayurvedic medicine in India for at least 4000 years and is considered to affect all three of the body’s primitive material imbalances positively. It is also said to improve eyesight, encourage weight loss, reduce impotence and premature ejaculation, urinary tract disorders, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, and nausea. I recommend you use local honey as much as possible to support local bee keepers and your immune system. There are at least 40 types – each one has distinctive taste and unique properties. Darker honey tends to have higher antioxidant levels whilst clover honey the highest glycaemic index. Choose raw and pure.
What about Peruvian Maca?
Contains: manganese, amino acids, calcium, phosphrous, zinc, magnesium, iron as well as vitamins B1, B2 B12, C and E . Benefits: immune function, hormonal balance and stress management, stimulates intestinal function, helps to sustain energy
Maca is a Peruvian brassica that has been cultivated for more than 2000 years in the Andes. It is traditionally used to support hormonal balance especially during the menopausal years or if you suffer with PCOS. I also recommend it to enhance fertility and boost sex drive. It is an “adaptogen” which may help support and rejuvenate tired adrenal glands helping you cope with stress and providing some much needed energy. Its powdered root contains a wealth of plant base properties, recent research has been shown maca can be used to increase sperm count and prostate health as well as enhancing mood and memory. It tastes rather like horlicks and when blended with raw cocoa is totally delicious offering a sugary taste without the calories! Maca can be bought here using my discount code of Maple for 10% off at The Natural Dispensary. Try blending it in the Chia pudding below or add to warm milk inthe evening or smoothies and juices.
Also known as karrupatti, Palm jaggery is new to me but offers a good but pricey alternative to processed sugar. Palm jaggery is prepared from palm tree extract and is loaded with minerals and vitamins. It is an Indian energy food , rich in minerals, predominantly iron with traces of other mineral salts. The benefits of palm jaggery include its ability to cleanse your body, act as a digestive agent and sweeten your food whilst in India and Asia it is also used to support breastfeeding and pregnancy during the last trimester. Jaggery is predominantly made in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanma. I have not yet researched how or why this is used so won’t discuss the reasoning for it within this article.
Benefits include High fibre, B12 and mineral content. The darker the jaggery is in colour, the richer it is in mineral content It is traditionally used as a respiratory tract cleanser: For centuries on the Indian Subcontinent, jaggery (sugar cane jaggery) has been in use as a lung, throat, and respiratory tract cleanser as well as an additive to the local remedies for coughs and colds. The Conscious Food Company sell it it granulated form – here is the link for it. My code at the Natural Dispensary is Maple for 10% discount
Benefits: Safe sugar alternative for diabetics, eases constipation, may help weight loss, a good source of inulin, supports blood glucose balance
I have just bought some Yacon syrup (pricey about £19) as an alternative to sugar. The Yacon plant looks to me similar to a small sunflower although it is the root that makes the sugary alternative. Yacon is actually called Smallanthus sonchifolius and grows natively in the Andes mountains in South America. This plant has been eaten and used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years in South America. The roots looks similar to a sweet potato & it is one of the few sugar alternatives that is safe for diabetics. It tastes like a cross between dried apple and pineapple and looks like Maple Syrup. It’s active ingredients is Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which feed the friendly bacteria in the intestine and has various beneficial effects on metabolism including reduces constipation and may lower blood sugar levels. It is also high in antioxidants and potassium. I found an interesting article here.
Recipes for sugar cravings:
4 heaped dessertspoons buckwheat flour, 2 eggs, pinch salt, teaspoon cinnamon powder and about a 300-400ml ml glass of milk /water.
Method. Blend all ingredients together in a nutribullet or similar, then place in fridge for a bit because the cooler the mixture the better. Mix again before cooking. I place a small serving of coconut oil into the frying pan to begin, and when melted pour some of the pancake mixture. (you may choose to add more liquid to mixture before cooking, all depends on whether you like thick or thin pancakes). Flip to cook both sides. Add filling before serving. I love a mixture of apples and berries stewed or lemon and yacon or raw cocoa and maca!
Cake: 1 ripe avocado, 75g Palmya Jaggery, 175g buckwheat flour, 25 grams raw cocoao powder, ½ teaspoon baking powder, 200 ml almond milk or alternative, 75g softened butter.
For the frosting and filling: ½ ripe avocado, 40g butter, 100 g good quality dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons palmya jaggery, 50 ml almond milk or similar, handful of sliced strawberries
Method: Preheat oven t o 160 degrees and grease 2 x 15 cm baking tins and line with parchment paper. Use a food processor or whisk to mix the avocado and palmya jaggery together until they are combined. Add the rest of the cake ingredients and beat for 2 minutes. Divide into 2 tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for around 25 minutes. Cool.
Frosting: Melt the chocolate and butter over a bain-marie then put to one side. Mix the avocado and palmya jaggery using the whisk or blender – slowly add the milk. Once they are combined pour in the melted chocolate and continue to whisk. Take one of cake halves and spread half the frosting on top. Cover with strawberries. Place the other half of the cake on top and spread with th rest of the frosting, adding additional strawberries or nuts to decorate
Perfect for a dessert but equally as good when the sugar cravings hit! This is easy to make and can be left in the fridge for 24 hours if you wish to pre-prepare. I used half a frozen banana instead of a sugar alternative
¼ cup chia seeds, 1 cup milk (either dairy or an alternative milk suh as hemp, almond, coconut or similar which are low glycaemic (I used a litle bit more, it all depends on the consistency you like), 1 tablespoon raw cocoa, ¼ to half a teaspoon cinnamon powder, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Soak the chia seeds for at least 20 minutes in the milk. Transfer the chia mixture to a blender, adding all the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Use as little or a much cayenne as you like. Add additional sweetener (yacon, squished dates, honey, cinnamon, palmya jiggery or half a banana) if you feel it needs sweetening. Pour into bowls topp with dessicated coconut, cocoa nibs, maca or a teaspoon of ground nuts/seeds/flaxseed or hemp seeds. Enjoy!
If you suffer with sugar cravings book a Nutritional Therapy and Asyra Health Screening with Justine. Call 07747 133170
BLACKBERRY + LEMON CASHEW NUT SLICES also known as 3 layer cake
This is a totally divine dessert that my lovely friend Josie made for her twins daughter’ birthday party (which I was fortunate enough to be invited too). It tastes gorgeous. Raspberries could be used or blackberries (just coming into season so go foraging if you don’t have a bush in your garden). This hardly contains any nasties and because of the nut proteins I didn’t suffer with a “sugar” slump Serves 10
For the base, 100g raw unsalted almonds, 100g raw unsalted cashew nuts, 90g dried dates, pitted, 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted, Pinch of sea salt,
For the middle layer: 250g raw unsalted cashew nuts, soaked in plenty of water for, 6 hours or overnight; 3 tbsp honey, 50ml lemon juice, 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted, 1 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of sea salt
For the top layer: 150g raw unsalted cashew nuts, soaked in plenty of water for 6 hours or overnight, 2 tbsp honey, Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, 150g blackberries, 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
Method: Line a 10 x 20cm tin or a 1kg loaf tin with cling film. First, make the base. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms a paste that sticks together when you press it between your fingers. Tip the mixture into the lined tin, and press it down, compacting the mixture until it is smooth and level. Place the tin in the freezer for 20 minutes to set.
To make the middle layer, drain the nuts and place them in the bowl of a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blitz until completely smooth. Pour the mixture over the chilled base. Smooth the surface and return the tin to the freezer for 20 minutes to set.
To make the top layer, drain the nuts and place them in the bowl of a food processor with the honey and lemon zest. Blitz until the mixture forms a paste, then add the blackberries and coconut oil and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture over the middle layer in the tin, smooth out and return to the freezer once again for 2 hours to set. Remove the tin from the freezer, lift out the slab and lay it on a board. Cut into slices and serve immediately. The slices can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Taken from Fearne Cotton’s new book, Cook Happy, Cook Healthy
Justine Evans ND is a Hormone Alchemist and Fertility Expert. She is a degree qualified nutritional therapist and considers women’s health not only from a functional medicine perspective but also bio-dynamically considering the impact our health has with lunar and seasonal energy. Justine is the founder of Creation Fertility and can be contacted on 07747 133170
Disclaimer: This article has been written as my personal musings and offers information rather than guidance. It is important to receive qualified support when changing your diet – whether that is medically or from a therapist. Please receive advice to suit you individually before embarking on new dietary regimes.