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Top 5 Natural & Low Glycemic Sweeteners

Sugar is seemingly everywhere these days. From snacks and entrees to drinks and desserts – the excess sugar that companies are sneaking into food can wreak havoc on your overall long-term health and wellness. It’s most insidious incarnation is presented to consumers as high fructose corn syrup, which is used FAR too often in packaged convenience foods. This high glycemic sweetener raises your blood sugar level quickly and has been linked to the onset of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It can also damage your immune system and speed up the aging process. In short: this is some nasty stuff, y’all. Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, white sugar and aspartame  like the plague and simply opt instead for natural, low glycemic options instead. Now available at mainstream grocery store chains – here are my top 5 natural and low glycemic sweeteners:

1. Stevia
Stevia has been used as a sweetener for centuries but only recently has become popular in the United States due to its zero calorie and low glycemic index (GI) appeal. It contains nearly one hundred identified phytonutrients which can help prevent disease and keep your body working the way it should. Stevia can have 300 times the sweetness of sugar so experiment a little when you first start using it. It can be found in leaf, liquid or powder form, just make sure you avoid overly processed brands that contain artificial sweeteners as an additive. The most common uses for stevia are sweetening drinks such as tea, lemonade or coffee and in baking (though make sure you research on how to use it as a sugar replacement as it’s not an equal substitution).

Jason Wrobel Living Stevia

2. Xylitol
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables and can also be extracted from birch trees. It is a common sugar replacement for diabetics due to the fact it does not affect insulin levels and has an incredibly low GI. Scientist also discovered xylitol has dental benefits and may aid in rebuilding tooth enamel which is why it is often found as a sweetener in gum. It can be found in crystal form and is used as a sweetener in candies and drinks.

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3. Lakanto
Lakanto is a zero calorie and zero GI alternative sweetener that can be used as an equal replacement to sugar in recipes. Made from fermented erythritol (sugar alcohol found in grapes, pears & mushrooms) and the sweet extract of the luo han guo fruit. Excellent for diabetics, people with candida or anyone looking for a healthier option to sugar.

Jason Wrobel Living Lakanto

4. Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Palm Sugar is one of the best alternative sweeteners out there with a low GI and high nutritional value. It is high in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and is a natural source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. The slow energy release of this sugar eliminates the normal highs and lows you experience with cane sugar. It can be found in granules or nectar form and can be used as an equal replacement in baking. Some brands mix it with cane sugar so look for pure coconut palm sugar products.

Jason Wrobel Living Coconut Sugar

5. Jerusalem Artichoke Inulin
Jerusalem Artichoke Inulin is a soluble fiber with a sweet taste that is used as a sugar replacement for people with candida or diabetes. It can be used to replace other sweeteners in recipes or as a supplement to aid in lowering glucose and lipid levels. Grb it in powder form from online health retailers.

Jason Wrobel Inulin

I hope this helps get you away from artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup and closer to a healthier, happier you!

The Blender Girl Cookbook Cover

My fav cookbook of 2014 debuts today!

With new vegan cookbooks and raw food prep manuals being released seemingly every week, it’s honestly hard for me to get really excited about a new one. Everyone once in a while, I’ll get seriously geeked on a new title that combines fantastically easy recipes and mouthwatering photography. And this new book – The Blender Girl – from Tess Masters is a certifiable hit. My favorite of 2014, in fact.

Not only are her recipes easy enough for a monkey to execute (yes, monkeys can be taught to operate a blender safely) – but the photos – OH LORD THE PHOTOS – bring the whole package home. She presents all the information – from the kitchen resources to the ingredients and preparation steps – in a simple, down-to-earth way that everyone can understand and implement. I love the simple, sexy layout and the perfect flow of the presentation. She’s packed it with 100 gluten free, vegan, and raw food recipes all made quickly in a blender. There are smoothies, juices, cocktails, appetizers, snacks, main meals, desserts and condiments. Seriously, if this book was scratch n’ sniff, there would be holes bored through the pages already.

To share my effusive love for The Blender Girl with you, I’ve included one of her top recipes from the new cookbook below. It’s a recipe for Creamy Crunchy Spuds – and this perfect potato dish can be enjoyed year-round (not just at Thanksgiving!) The uber smooth mouth feel and classic savory flavor will have you doing the happy dance like Pharrell in the kitchen!

To purchase your copy of The Blender Girl cookbook, click here to order it now:

http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/view/tbg_book

Oh – and to celebrate the launch of her beautiful book, Tess is giving away NEW Vitamix blenders. Click here to enter for your chance to win big like a blending baller:

http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/giveaway/vitamix_5200_compact_container

I’ll expect a love note from your tastebuds soon.

 

RECIPE EXCERPT FROM THE BLENDER GIRL COOKBOOK

Photo credit: Anson Smart

creamy and crunchy spuds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creamy and Crunchy Spuds

serves 8; the dressing makes 1 ¾ cups (410g)

Potatoes

2 3/4 pounds (1.2kg) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes

1 tablespoon natural salt, plus more to taste

1 bunch green onions (white and green parts), finely chopped

1/2 cup (75g) diced red onion

1 cup (140g) diced red bell pepper

1 cup (132g) diced celery (about 4 large ribs)

1 cup (150g) julienned broccoli stalks or commercial broccoli slaw, or 1 cup (145g) peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Dressing

1 1/3 cups (310g) your preferred brand of mayonnaise

2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, plus more to taste

2 1/2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon natural salt, plus more to taste

To cook the potatoes, place them in a large pot and add cold water to cover. Add the salt and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the potatoes for about 8 minutes, just until fork-tender. (You don’t want to overcook your potatoes, or you will end up with a mash rather than a chunky salad.) Drain the potatoes, rinse them with cold water, and drain them again thoroughly. Allow them to cool completely.

To make the dressing, put the mayonnaise, mustards, vinegar, and salt into your blender.

Blend on high for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy. Tweak flavors to taste (you may like more mustard, vinegar, or salt).

To assemble the salad, transfer the cooled potatoes to a large bowl. Add the green onions, red onion, red bell pepper, celery, broccoli, and parsley. Pour on the dressing and fold in gently, keeping the potatoes as intact as possible. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature. The salad will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Sweet Earth Natural Foods vegan teriyaki burger

Vegan Products That Meat Eaters LOVE!

We’ve all heard it before, omnivores saying “I would starve if I went vegan!” It’s a common misconception that all vegans eat is “rabbit food.” We actually eat a huge variety of extremely tasty and exciting foods that even those skeptical meat eaters would love.

Here are my Top 10 delicious vegan products that are great, hearty, and satisfying high-protein substitutes to use in already existing recipes. You won’t miss the meat or dairy – I promise!

1. Seitan – this is made from wheat gluten and is a fantastic substitute for beef or pork in recipes like sandwiches, cheesesteaks, casseroles, stir frys and more. More protein per pound than beef and free of saturated fat, seitan is a healthy meat alternative. Try a BBQ seitan sandwich or Asian fried rice with seitan and pineapple, the possibilities are endless!  My favorite brand is Sweet Earth Natural Foods, they have the best seitan I have ever tasted by far. http://www.sweetearthfoods.com/

Jason Wrobel Sweet Earth Naturals

2. Tempeh – awesome as a substitute for bacon, chicken salads, tuna salads or even chili meat. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, so it’s a probiotic food that’s great for digestion and super high in protein. Because tempeh uses the entire bean it is also a great source of fiber. My choice for tempeh is definitely the  Tofurkey brand. It comes in a variety of flavors that can accommodate a plethora of recipes.
http://www.tofurky.com/tempehproducts/traditional_tempeh.html

Jason Wrobel Tempeh

3. Chickpeas – super easy way to add protein and fiber (just 2 cups contain your entire daily requirement!) to your diet. Great in salads, dressings, soups or dips like hummus. Slightly firmer than most legumes with a mild, nutty flavor chickpeas offer a satisfying mouth feel and they help you to feel fuller faster.

Jason Wrobel Chickpea

4. Veggie Burgers – no longer resembling lawn clippings, veggie burgers have come a long way baby! In the last few years they’ve developed a fantastic taste, meaty texture and great nutritional profile. My two favorite brands are Sweet Earth Natural Foods Teriyaki Burgers and Hilary’s Eat Well Root Veggie Burger. http://www.sweetearthfoods.com/
http://www.hilaryseatwell.com/

Jason Wrobel Veggie Burger

5. Black Beans – another great and simple way to add extra protein and satisfying density to rice, quinoa, Mexican dishes, etc. Black beans are nutritional powerhouses and can aid in blood sugar regulation, lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing risk of cancer.

Jason Wrobel Black Beans

6. Mock Chicken – another product that has come a long way, fake chicken is a great way to transition from eating regular chicken. Same amazing flavor and protein, without the cholesterol, fat and concerns about salmonella. You can substitute these in any recipe that calls for chicken and you really won’t know the difference! The best brands out there by far are Beyond Meat and Gardein. http://beyondmeat.com/
http://gardein.com/

Jason Wrobel Mock Chicken

7. Vegan Cheeses – the Holy Grail of vegan products has finally been perfected! These vegan cheeses taste great and actually melt now! They can help you kick your addiction to the dreaded casomorphins in cheese. In cow milk, the protein casein is thought to break into casomorphins when it is digested, resulting in opiate effects. Don’t be an addict – just eat vegan cheese. Favorite brands are Daiya and Go Veggie! http://us.daiyafoods.com/ http://www.goveggiefoods.com/

Jason Wrobel Vegan Cheese

8. Protein Shakes – on the go protein shakes have not had many healthy options, until now. Vegan, superfood protein shakes are now available thanks to Kate Farms with a whopping 21 superfoods in each shake (like acai, kale, mangosteen and turmeric to name a few)! These shakes are soy free, dairy free, gluten free and non GMO. Easy, delicious, convenient option when you’re on the run and don’t have a blender handy. http://www.katefarms.com/

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9. Vegan Seafood – I never thought the day would come when vegan seafood would hit the market. Well, that day has come. It’s also soy-free and gluten-free! Best choices in terms of flavor and texture are from Sophie’s Kitchen. My faves are the vegan shrimp (awesome with cocktail sauce) and the vegan crab cakes. Light, flavorful and awesome mouth feel! http://sophieskitchen.net/

Jason Wrobel Vegan Crab Cake

10. Ground Vegan Beef – this is my favorite product from the Natural Products Expo East 2013. It’s called Neat – and it’s the first soy-free, gluten-free ground beef product that I’ve seen on the market. It’s made from a blend of walnuts and spices. The taste will make you do a double take… and a double taste. Super easy to mix and make with your favorite recipes. http://www.eatneat.com/

Jason Wrobel Neat Meat

As you can see vegan products are exploding right now and they just keep getting better and better. All of my top 10 are a great start for someone hesitant to give up their meat and dairy because they definitely aren’t “rabbit food”!

What are some of your favorite vegan products that would make an omnivore second guess their dietary choices?