Archive for June, 2009

Agave Nectar: Nature’s Miracle Sweetener

Are you as addicted to sugar as I am? Do you have to have sweetener in your coffee or like something sweet on top of your toast or oatmeal in the morning??? Well, most people do!

Believe it or not, Americans consume 20 teaspoons of sugar on a daily basis, which adds up to 142 pounds of sugar per year. Translated, this means the average American consumes an additional 500 or more calories a day due to added sugar consumption!

It should come to no surprise to anyone that diabetes and obesity have become epidemics not only among adults but among our children! Diabetes has become the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Not only are we eating sugar outright but it is hiding in all of our foods from breakfast cereals to salad dressings to “healthy” sports bars and drinks.

So, should we forever deprive ourselves? No, it is agave nectar to the rescue!

Agave nectar is a natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave tequilana cactus (the same plant, by the way, that tequila comes from!). Agave has a low glycemic index, which means that it is much less disturbing to the body’s blood sugar levels than white sugar or even some of the more natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup and does not create that “sugar rush”. Additionally, agave nectar is 1.4 times sweeter than refined sugar, which means you don’t have to use as much!

Agave nectar is “all-natural,” which means that it comes directly from a plant source, but that does not mean that there is not any processing involved! Agav e syrup has either been heated or enzymes have been used to extract the syrup from the plant. Look for “raw” agave nectar that uses the natural enzyme method.

Agave nectar comes in two varieties- dark and light. So, which should you buy? It really depends on your tastes. The light syrup is much more mild and this is the one I use for daily use. The darker one is richer and carmel-like tasting and is wonderful in desserts and baked goods such as muffins and scones.

Slather agave on your toast, (I love mine with almond butter and sliced banana), drizzle it on your yogurt, berries or cereal in the morning or add it to your smoothies. Here are some of my family’s favorite recipes for treats!

“Double Trouble” Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
1 cup unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½-¾ cup agave nectar
2 tbsps coconut butter (coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Combine 1 cup of the chocolate powder and 2 cups of the coconut in a mixing bowl then add the coconut butter, agave nectar, vanilla and sea salt and mix well. Scoop balls of the mixture out with your hands and roll into balls. Place shredded coconut on a plate and roll balls in it to cover. These make a delicious and nutritious pick me up in the afternoon or an after-school treat for your child ren.

Breakfast Bowl of Berries with Cashew Cream
1 handful of fresh blueberries
1 banana (or 4 figs)
Shredded coconut (optional)

For cashew cream (you can also substitute vanilla yogurt):
½ cups water
2 cups cashews (pre-soaked for 1-6 hours)
1 cup agave nectar
¼ cup vanilla bean

Slice the banana either length-wise or horizontally (whichever you prefer) and top with a handful of blueberries and shredded coconut.

Place all of the ingredients for the cashew cream into the food processor and run for approximately 2-5 minutes until smooth. Put the cashew mixture on top and enjoy! This is perfect for breakfast or for an afternoon snack.

The Importance of Enzymes for Digestion and Overall Health and Vitality

We are all born with a big supply of natural enzymes in our bodies. Enzymes are small proteins that act as catalysts to break down the food in our system and get our digestion process going. Fruits and vegetables are bursting with enzymes, however, these enzymes are destroyed when the food is heated over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

When cooked food is eaten, the enzymes currently in the body go to help digest the food, and this process takes energy and robs our body of vitality. Who hasn’t eaten too much at Thanksgiving then fallen into a stupor? Well, your body is literally exhausted from all the work it is doing! Our enzyme reserves are like a bank. The more unhealthy cooked foods that we consume the more enzymes we use. The good news is that we have the ability to create more natural enzymes! So, how do we make sure our body has the enzymes it needs and is operating at maximum capacity?

The solution is simple.

1) Add more fruits and leafy green vegetables to your diets.

2) Try to juice at least once a day. Please read my Juice Fast article for more information.

3) Eat more raw fruits and vegetables. This should be easy in the summer when we have an ample, fresh, tempting supply! To learn more about the benefits of eating raw foods, go to my Raw Food: Trendy or Timely? .

4) Take food enzyme supplements before your cooked meals – especially if that meal is going to be a large one combining carbohydrates and proteins- a subject for another day! Enzyme supplements can be purchased at your local health store or through an excellent source Rawfoods that sells a brand called Beauty Enzymes.

5) Minimize or eliminate acidic foods such as white breads, processed or fried foods, coffee, and alcohol. Enough said. We all know this one!

In a nutshell, when we are digesting food at optimal levels=2 0we will not only look and feel great, but our bodies will be operating at maximum capacity. And, when we are operating at maximum capacity, we will be able to burn calories at a faster rate. Adding enzymes and taking steps to conserve the ones you have will make a big difference in weight loss and health!