Alternative Sweeteners

Refined sugar is in everything these days. It's amazing how many products contain it without us realizing. It's in sauces, dressings, nuts, tea, coffee, smoothies, granola, cereals, and most other packaged foods. You'd think it would be easy to point out and eliminate these foods from our diet, but the problem is that we don't even know it's there because it's hidden with names such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, glucose, maltodextrin, Sucralose, sorbitol, agave nectar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and many others that I can't even pronounce. These sugars and artificial sweeteners are highly processed and harmful for our health. They don't provide any health benefits and just keep us wanting more and more.

It's natural to have sugar cravings and although sugar can be addicting, completely depriving ourselves from it is not always the best option because it can lead to increased cravings. It's okay to satisfy your sweet tooth every once in a while if doing so with high-quality, unprocessed ingredients. Here is a list of natural sweeteners that actually support our health and can be used as alternatives for refined sugar:
  • Dates/date sugar
  • Dried figs
  • Palm/coconut sugar (doesn't give a blood sugar spike like others do)
  • Raw honey
  • Grade B Maple Syrup
  • Fresh fruit
  • Organic Cane Sugar (Sucanat)
  • Stevia
* Purchase organic products whenever possible

These alternative sweeteners are natural but should still be consumed in moderation as they still do raise blood sugar levels. Other natural ways to reduce sugar cravings include drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir), getting more sleep, yoga, and meditation.

Stay healthy!


Not all Fruit is Created Equal

Fresh fruits are an important part of a whole foods diet. They are a great source of antioxidants, water-soluble vitamins, and fiber. Water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B vitamins are necessary in our daily diet because our body cannot make them and only stores them in very small amounts. Antioxidants help our body get rid of free radicals that are harmful to us and can lead to disease such as cancer. The high fiber content in fruit aids digestion and is great for detox/cleanse and weight loss. Since fruits are one of the best sources of these water-soluble vitamins and nutrients, making sure that we get 2-3 servings of fruit every day will provide us with what we need to function properly.

Serving Size:

1/2 cup or 1 medium piece of fruit (apple, pear, orange, 1/2 banana)

Like any other type of food, each type of fruit has different nutrient percentages. It's good to be mindful of this especially when it comes to sugar (carbohydrates) because consuming too much of it can potentially lead to health concerns. Dried fruits (all kinds) and fresh tropical fruits such as banana, pineapple, and mango, are the highest in sugar. Fruits lowest in sugar include all types of berries and lemons, while all other fruits fall in between. The good thing is that the fruits lowest in sugar contain the most antioxidants.

Some examples of fruit and their sugar content:
1 cup strawberries = 8g sugar
1 cup blueberries = 5g sugar
1 banana = 15-20g sugar
1 cup pineapple = 17g sugar

There are misconceptions with fruit because they are a whole and natural food (if organic) and they do provide lots of health benefits, but they are a source of sugar (carbohydrates) and can add up without us realizing it. So next time you are preparing that smoothie, take a look at how much fruit you throw in the blender and figure out how many servings that is. These sugars are natural, yes, but they are simple carbohydrates which are the same as white sugar and are digested fast to create a blood sugar spike followed by a crash. This is why a piece of fruit alone is not the best snack because it won't hold you over for a long time. Pair your fruit with some protein and good fat to enjoy a delicious snack. Protein and fat take longer to digest and balance blood sugar by slowing down digestion of carbohydrates.

Looking at sugar content is not as important as making sure we get those 2-3 servings of fruit each day, but is a good thing to keep in mind especially when doing a cleanse/detox (detox with vegetables) or watching sugar intake. Organic, local, seasonal, and fresh fruits are always the best option, they provide the most nourishment and health benefits. Remember that moderation is key!


Acorn Squash with Sautéed Kale

Fall is here! I know you're all just as excited about it as I am. Who doesn't love pumpkin and squash? Not only are they delicious, but they also have a great nutritional profile. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamin C, and high in fiber. These vegetables are anti-inflammatory and cancer preventative. 

Below is one of my first recipes of the season with roasted acorn squash. Roasting is an easy way to cook pumpkin or squash to bring out their amazing flavor and either eat as is with some spices or incorporate into a dish. 


1 acorn squash, halved
filtered water
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bunch kale, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, more to taste
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup almonds, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
  2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise, from stem to end. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. 
  3. Place squash halves in a baking dish, face side up. Add about 1/2 inch filtered water to bottom of baking dish and place in oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until squash is soft and a fork can easily be inserted into it. When cooked, peel skin off with knife or hands and dice squash. 
  4. While squash is baking, heat a medium size saucepan over high heat. Add coconut oil and let melt. Add onion and generous pinch of sea salt and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. 
  5. Add garlic and kale and sauté for another few minutes, until kale starts to wilt. Add cinnamon and mix in. Taste and adjust with sea salt and more cinnamon if desired. 
  6. Turn off heat. Add cooked squash and combine well. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with chopped almonds. Serve. 
Servings: 4

Giovanna Garcia, Natural Chef