I was cleaning out my inbox the other day (waaaaay over-due!) and found this email I wrote to one of my dear blog readers (who also happens to be my auntie!) who had asked me a question regarding a post I had written. I planned someday to copy the info into a post for you all, and only just now got around to it. This is just to show you that I usually respond better to personal emails than comments (though I am trying to get better at that – have you noticed?) and if you really wanna hear back from me, email is the way to go.
Auntie’s question was in regards to my homemade chocolate chip recipe…
“I was reading your blog and found your recipe for chocolate chips. Is this to reduce the sugar content? Did you make your chocolate chip cookies and if so, how did the chips hold up?Have you ever used xylitol as a sugar substitute? If so, do you use the same amount as the recipe calls for in sugar, or do yo use less when using the xylitol?”
Chocolate chips – I haven’t used these in cookies yet. I have used them in the chocolate cream cheese cupcakes, and the result was yummy but definitely messy – they don’t really hold their shape. I have found they are ideal for adding to homemade ice cream ’cause even when they’re frozen solid, they are much softer than regular chocolate chips, an much more like the yummy ‘chips’ in mint chocolate chip ice cream – they just melt in your mouth! I’m thinking a way to get a nice chocolate fix in a cookie form would be adding cocoa powder to a naturally sweetened dough, and maybe adding raisins for a little sweet punctuation.
Xylitol – I used xylitol (sparingly because of the expense) for a few years until I read this article (it speaks of xylitol at the very bottom of the page). It opened my eyes to the dubious nature of xylitol’s health claims, and explained the reality that, although xylitol may be a convenient sugar substitute for diabetics it is NOT a natural product. Just looking at Xylitol’s bleach white crystals is enough to show you that it is very far from the natural substance (wood pulp) it is procured from…
“Originally made from birch bark, and hence associated with the very natural, nutritious and traditional birch syrup (similar to maple syrup), xylitol is anything but a natural product. The typical manufacturing process goes like this:
- Obtain some source material containing xylan. One commonly used source is corn cobs imported from China. Hardwood and the waste from cotton ginning are other sources.
- The xylan needs to be broken down, either through a chemical process called acid hydrolyzing or through microbial fermentation. (Genetically engineered bacteria have been proposed for this step.) The results of this process are xylose and acetic acid.
- The concentrated acetic acid, described as “very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. . . Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive),” must be removed.
- Next the hydrolyzing acid and organic residues must be removed, which is done by heating the mixture and evaporating it.
- The resulting syrup is now free of acetic acid, hydrolyzing acid, and other residues.
- The syrup is crystallized by stirring ethanol into it.
- The crystalline xylitol is now separated in a centrifuge. The ethanol is separated from the sorbitol remaining in solution.
- Voilà! You have xylitol.”
That article was enough to convince me to look elsewhere for natural sugar substitutes!
Sugar – making my own chocolate chips or other sweets does not necessarily cut down on sugar content – rather, it allows me to choose a healthier form of sugar. Instead of bleached, highly processed white sugar or that awful-for-you high fructose corn syrup found in everything now, you can substitute natural sweeteners…
“There are many healthy alternatives to both refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, including maple syrup, dehydrated sugar cane juice (sold as Sucanat and Rapadura), date sugar, raw unfiltered honey and molasses.”
(from the article “Sugar-Free Blues: Everything you ever wanted to know about artificial sweeteners.”)
I have used honey and maple syrup for years in my granola, breads, muffins, and salad dressings. Cookies or other recipes requiring a dry form of sweetener were a challenge, until I found a source for Sucanut. This is the least processed from of sugar cane, containing all the minerals and nutrients that get processed out of white sugar. It is light brown, granular, and has a flavor similar to brown sugar. I have not yet used it in cookies (I don’t make a lot of sweets when I’m pregnant ’cause I have gestational diabetes – I can’t eat a lot of sweet stuff, no matter how natural!), but I am sure it would work fine. I have used it successfully in pies, quick breads, sauces, ice cream, and to sweeten my homemade yogurt.
It can be hard to cut down on sugar intake, because when you read labels you find that it’s everywhere! And not many people have the time to cook everything from scratch! If you are trying to cut out sugar, I would recommend two things –
1.Find a source (health food store, co-op, or ask a friend who is a health nut like me!) for sucanut – it’s preforms very much like sugar and can be substituted successfully in most recipes.
2. Make sure you’re using the right fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil – NOT margarine, vegetable oil, or crisco!) (here’s my favorite source for coconut oil!)
It is hard to cut something out of your diet without replacing it with something else. Adding in good fats will really help with cravings, and you can get along better with your goal of cutting down on sugar.
A book I have found to be very helpful in giving clear, common sense direction for eating a balanced, nourishing diet is “Eat Fat, Lose Fat”. Honestly, I think the title, though catchy, does not do the book justice. It is so much more than a weight loss program. It explains the importance of a wide variety of whole foods in the diet, and the recipes are yummy and satisfying. It actually made me wish I had some extra weight just so I could try losing it with their principles! (silly, I know!) But there are diet recommendations for people who don’t want to lose weight, but just want to eat more nutritiously. Ever since I read it last summer and started to focus on having the right kind of fats in my diet, I have had much fewer cravings and find it a lot easier to eat the way I need to for my health.
I hope this helps – Sorry if you got more than you ask for! I can get a little passionate (read: carried away!) on this subject. It’s just that it’s made such a difference in my life in the past few years – I rarely get sick and don’t have to spend time sick or worrying about health concerns for me or my kids. Claire is 15 months now and has only this month had her first runny nose. Wow. A nourishing diet gives your body what it needs to build a strong immune system and to function the way God designed it to.
If have a question or ever want to email me personally, please feel welcome to do so! My address is trintjerenae (at) gmail (dot) com.
Random Fact – “Trintje” is my mother’s middle name, and the dutch form of my first name, Trina. It’s pronounced “Tryn’-tchu” If you can roll your “r” a bit, and try to clear your throat about where the “j” is and you’ll have it just about right.