Posts Tagged ‘sugar’

Week-End Link Love… [July 18 2013]

I was going through my draft posts and came across a link love that I never put up. Thought I would share now, because though these articles may be a year old, they are still interesting and relevant. Since we are at the end of the week it’s kind of still “week end” link love.


The Case Against Kids. About a year ago (when I compiled these links) was around the time when I fully changed my mind about having kids (to YES, definitely). If you’d asked me a few years before, I was very much anti-kid (at least for me). Now – I hope to have one or two soon. Still a good read.

Why do zoo apes get heart disease? It could be diet, lifestyle, or stress. Interesting read.

Is Sugar Toxic? Probably, yes! Did you know the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar per year? This is an interview between Sanjay Gupta (a doctor who is a public health advocate) and Robert Lustig (an anti-sugar doctor who is famous with the paleo/primal/low-carb crowd).

Ova Ova. A really innovative (woman-founded) start-up that helps you (women) track your ovulation and fertility naturally (temperature, etc) via something called the Fertility Awareness Method. FAM can be used to get pregnant or to not get pregnant, ha.

Learning to Walk: How America Can Start Walking Again. Re: the lack of walking / public transportation here in the states.

Recipe: Paleo Singapore Street Noodles. Looks delish!

Homemade Deodorant. A simple recipe: baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot, coconut oil, Tea Tree Oil (optional). I currently use Soapwalla’s deodorant (which recently raised in price from $12 to $14! and I thought it was expensive before). Love Soapwalla, but it’s very pricey. I may try this next time I run out (very soon).


That’s all I have! Have you read anything good online lately?

Weekend Link Love – 07.03.2011

This week’s link love is short and sweet. Happy birthday, America!

Food, Recipes, Fitness

  • Kath’s Pumpkin and Cinnamon Beanies look ah-mazing! I haven’t baked with beans in a while and it is something I must try again. I made these black bean brownies back in March of 2008.
  • Must make Erin’s Almond Flour Zucchini Muffins. (This one you have to use just the whites because you beat them!)
  • Mark’s Grok Walk Workout looks awesome. Definitely fits into my current exercise routine.
  • Week 5 of Biz’s 101 Days of Summer Challenge is over. Check out the comments on her post to see how we all did.

Salad Girl Updates

  • Today… I rewrote this post on Reducing Sugar. It was originally just “10 healthy tips” for cooking and baking, but upon reading it I discovered that I used to demonize butter and fats and think that we should all be eating carby, fat-free diets. So I rewrote it. Do check it out if you get a chance.
  • A year ago today… I made homemade ketchup. And I was eating egg whites.
  • 2 years ago today… I made healthy fried rice. And then 2 days later I got engaged.

What are you doing this weekend? Do you like whole eggs, just the whites, or just the yolks?

Complex Versus Simple Carbohydrates

I got this question at work the other day (we’re a fairly healthy-minded bunch):

What are complex carbs vs simple carbs?

This question seems complex, but the answer is quite simple. Simple carbs and complex carbs end up in the same place of the nutrition facts label, but they are most certainly different.

Are all carbs bad?

Clearly not all carbohydrates are bad. We need carbs to live – glucose (what carbs break down to in your body) is what your body uses for energy. That’s why when you eat a candy bar you get hyper for a little while – your body just got a big dose of easy-to-use energy because the carbs were partially processed before they got to your stomach. Simple carbs and complex carbs both turn into sugar in the body; the process just happens faster for simple carbs.

McDonald's Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

I’m pretty sensitive to sugar (too many sweet treats = too many pimples). In addition to my skin sensitivity to sugar, I also seem to have either a mental or physical reaction to eating it – once I start it’s hard to stop! If I have a McD’s cone as a snack I also want one for dessert that night, for a snack the next day, and forever more. So I try to avoid sugar to avoid sugar cravings and bad acne. When it comes down to complex versus simple carbohydrates, complex is what I choose, especially complex carbs from veggies.

Which carbs are bad for us?

Most scientists agree that the faster carbs (simple, or white carbs; meaning they convert to sugar quickly) are the worst type of carbohydrate. This is mainly because they spike blood sugar, which has a number of negative long-term effects including a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. These carbs include (and thus I try* to avoid…):

  • Processed carbs like white bread, white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (also regular corn syrup)*
  • Processed carbs like candy, cookies, most baked goods*
  • Fake sweeteners (not technically carbs because they have no calories – but they give me a stomachache, a headache, and it’s probably not good to eat frankenfood chemicals)
I love muffins!

I love muffins!

*I still eat these things, but in moderation when I want them. Artisan bread with smooth creamy butter? On occasion, yes please!

Which carbs are good in moderation?

There is definitely a middle ground when it comes to complex versus simple carbs, and that middle ground is whole grain-y things (for me). They’re not the easiest foods to digest (see IBS), but they certainly are delicious. These guys include:

  • Unprocessed grains like rice (white or brown).* (I grew up hating rice but now I LOVE it. I usually have it several times a week. It’s especially good with ghee, aka clarified butter.)
  • Oatmeal (steel cut, regular – preferably not instant).
  • Winter squash (these are my favorite foods, but it’s easy to get a stomachache if you eat too much of them; squash also has lots of beta-carotene – but beware the orange glow).

I love having rice with veggies, like in bi-bim-bap (pictured above – veggies, egg, beef over rice). In fact, I just like mixing foods together in general. Mix-it-up bowls are possibly the greatest invention ever.

Which carbs are good for us?

Most vegetable carbohydrates are good for our bodies. Some of my favorite carbs are…

  • Root veggies like carrots, parsnips, winter squash (kabocha, acorn, spaghetti, butternut, etc…)
  • Non-root veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, peppers, yadda yadda yadda… Veggies are a diet staple.
  • Fruits (but not too much). Fruit makes me break out as well in large (more than 1 a day) quantities. Some lower-sugar fruits that I really like are: papaya, blueberries, berries in general, cranberry juice (without sugar) and spritzer, lime/lemon juice and spritzer, melons (cantaloupe, honeydew).


Do you eat a lot of carbs? Do you avoid any? Which are your favorites?

When it comes down to complex carbs vs simple carbs, it’s probably better to choose the complex ones. But remember to include healthy fats (including saturated fat – it’s good for the brain) and protein. Out of the simple carbs, sugar is probably the worst. At least that is what works for me!

Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce Recipe

I made unsweetened applesauce the other day. This recipe turned out to be simple and quick – and very healthy. It’s low calorie, and has just 3 ingredients. Applesauce is great as a snack, a baby/toddler food, or even dessert.

A few days ago I bought a bunch of apples, because I love apples. Unfortunately they turned out to be a little bit mealy. I like apples crisp, don’t you? Fuji and Honeycrisp are probably my favorites. Galas are good too. These were supposed to be Fuji but I think they were past their prime. In any case, I needed a way to use them up.

So I made homemade unsweetened applesauce. It turned out to be super-sweet even though it has no added sweetener – just the way I like it!

Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce Recipe


  • 5-6 apples, chopped in fourths
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Add chopped apples and water to a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and let the apples boil for about 10 minutes.
  2. Some apples may start to lose their skin. You can remove it if you like, and eat it for added fiber.

    Mmmm…. Fiber.

  3. Add the cinnamon and vanilla extract and mix it around.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, leave the top off the pan, and simmer/low-boil for another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Let the apples cool. If you don’t want the skin, you can peel it off once the apples are cool enough. I suggest leaving it on because I didn’t notice any odd flavor or texture from it.
  6. Puree the apple pieces + leftover water (there shouldn’t be that much) + skins (optional) in a food processor. They should blend easily and turn right into the perfect applesauce consistency.
  7. Eat the homemade unsweetened applesauce!


I use applesauce for cooking all the time. Here are some of my favorite recipes that use applesauce.

Do you like unsweetened applesauce? Have you ever made an unsweetened applesauce recipe from scratch?

Healthy Monday Tip #1: Skip the Sugar (and the Splenda)

Thanks to your suggestions a while ago, I started listening to NPR podcasts on walks/subway rides/free time. One of my favorites is “Your Health” – a podcast on a variety of health-related topics. The other week I listened to one featuring the founder of The Monday Campaigns – Healthy Monday and Meatless Monday. I reached out to them asking what I could do to help promote the campaign, and I decided to start featuring a healthy tip every Monday going forward. Maybe I’ll try doing Meatless Mondays as well.

Healthy Monday is a public health initiative founded in 2005 in association with Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Syracuse University. HM’s goal is to end chronic preventable disease in the U.S. by offering people and organizations a weekly prompt to start and sustain healthy behaviors, intentions, actions and initiatives. For most Americans, the week begins on Monday. Studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet.

Healthy Monday Tip #1: Skip the sugar!

Yes, sugary food can taste good, but too much sugar leads to…

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Breakouts (skin) (click here for my skincare tips)
  • Weight gain and diabetes
  • Sugar addiction
  • Heart disease
  • Lots of other bad things

On this Healthy Monday, think about skipping the sugar in favor of something better – stevia maybe (I recommend NuNaturals), or perhaps nothing at all. Splenda-aspartame-nutrasweet-etc are just as bad (or worse) than sugar in my opinion, so try skipping them too (I am off of Splenda for over a month now!). Not everything that we eat has to be sickeningly sweet, right? Take this healthy scone for example…


Or my favorite macrobiotic meal.

Both completely sugar-free. Splenda-free, too. They are delicious and healthy (Monday).

If you are ever interested in submitting something for a Healthy Monday post, please email me!

Are you a sugar addict?

P.S. I FINALLY updated my yoga page. Have been meaning to do this for ages and ages now. Check it out.

How to Reduce Sugar Intake: 7 Healthy Tips

Edited on 7/3/2011: Much more up to date with my current nutritional knowledge now!


The main gripe I have with other people’s cooking (and eating out in general) is the massive (unnecessary) addition of sugar to every dish. I have no problem with healthy fats (possibly the most important part of my diet) and I love my protein (in moderation), but excess sugar is something I just cannot stand (mentally or physically). One of my goals for this blog is to offer healthy alternatives to the standard American sugar-laden diet. We don’t have to resort to unhealthy choices just to make dishes more appealing.  Healthy fats, fresh ingredients, and creative spice combinations will give any dish the spark it needs. Sugar is not necessary. Some of my favorite low- and no-sugar recipes are at the bottom of this list.

How to Reduce Sugar Intake: 10 Healthy Tips

  1. Use fruit instead. I like adding mashed bananas or applesauce in place of a processed sweetener like sugar or honey.
  2. Use a sugar substitute. There are plenty of natural zero-calorie sweeteners out on the market now. My favorite is NuNaturals stevia. They have a whole line of sugar-free (and zero calorie) sweeteners for baking, adding to coffee, in packets, etc…
  3. Reduce flour in baking. While flour is not sugar, it’s a highly processed grain. Instead, use half flour and half oatmeal. For every 1 cup of flour that you replace, use 1 heaping cup of oatmeal. You cut calories, increase fiber, and reduce the processed carbohydrates. You can also experiment with low-carb flours like almond or peanut flour. I don’t think it matters much if you choose to use white over whole wheat as long as you keep your intake low. I personally prefer the taste of whole wheat bread simply because I think it has more flavor!
  4. Add spices. When you cut out sugar, you can add spices and herbs to give the dish more flavor. Curry, cumin, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, oregano, basil, and ginger are just a few that I’m fond of.
  5. Experiment with potatoes and squash. Instead of grains, try white or sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or – my favorite – kabocha. Squash are especially delicious as French fries. Mashed squash (any type – butternut, acorn, carnival, etc…) is also delicious. Top it with a spot of butter for added flavor. If you’re watching all carbs, a good substitute for mashed potatoes is mashed cauliflower. Try it with ground cumin.
  6. Reduce pasta eating. Like flour, pasta is not exactly sugar – but it is a highly processed carb. I have two great substitutions here – the first is spaghetti squash. I make an amazing version of Eating Well’s Spaghetti Squash stir-fry, substituting seitan for the pork. The second is a Japanese product called Shirataki Noodles. Made from some kind of yams, these noodles have zero calories and zero carbs
  7. Eat rice, but in moderation. If you usually use rice as the base of a meal, try substituting lettuce or vegetables instead. Make lettuce wraps with stir-fried tofu – you’d be surprised at how much more you enjoy the flavor of the tofu on its own. I like both white and brown rice and I usually make them with some butter or bacon fat for some extra flavor and healthy lipids.

Some Delicious Low and No-Sugar Recipes

These tips on how to reduce sugar intake are simple, I think. I only listed a few recipes, but just about everything I make is low or no sugar. Check out my stir-friesratatouilleleek soupspring rolls, and some Delica salads for more light ideas. And here is my recipes page.

Low Sugar Black Bean Brownies

When I saw this recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, I knew I had to try it. Many Asian desserts use the red adzuki bean and I always like them a lot. I recently bought a loaf of red bean bread, which is similar to cinnamon swirl – except the swirls were a smooth and creamy red bean paste. It was delicious. I wanted to try this recipe with the adzuki beans, but alas, I was short on time and couldn’t find canned adzuki beans. I did buy a bag of dried adzukis for another time, but decided to settle for black beans, at least for now.

I also decided to try three permutations of the recipe. I love butter, but some people watch calories. I subbed out the butter in 2 variations and tried them with applesauce and then with mashed banana. I made three half batches and tested them on my coworkers, friends, and roommates. I think the banana won out in the end, but the applesauce was a close second and (surprisingly) butter was a definite last.

Another change I made had to do with the sweetening method used.  I always cut down the sugar when I bake so this time I severely reduced the amount of agave nectar called for. If you like your desserts very sweet, up the amount of agave nectar to up to a 1/2 cup for the recipe listed below. You can also substitute honey for agave nectar at a ratio of 1:1. If you don’t know where to find agave nectar, try Trader Joe’s or any local health food store.

I made three half batches, so I’m going to list the recipe for a half-batch below.

  1. In the first version, I used creamy unsalted butter.
  2. In the second I used unsweetened applesauce.
  3. In the third I used mashed banana.

This is how (my version of) the recipe goes.

Adapted from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano.

Black Bean Brownies


  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter OR 1/2 cup applesauce OR 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup soft cooked black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup instant coffee
  • dash of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar


  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9×9-inch pan with wax or parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray (optional – but makes for much easier removal, as I found out. I did not use the spray, and mine stuck to the paper.)
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter/applesauce/banana in the microwave (about 1 minute). Stir to melt completely. Place the beans, 1/4 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a few spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into a food processor. Mix on high until creamy, about 1.5-2 minutes.  The beans should be smooth.*  Set aside.
  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the rest of the walnuts, the remaining chocolate mix, the instant coffee, and the salt. Mix and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and creamy (I did this by hand and didn’t get them as creamy as I would have liked; the brownies turned out fine anyway). Add the agave nectar and set aside.
  5. Add the bean mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring well. Then add in most of the egg mix, saving a few tablespoons to drizzle on top.
  6. Pour the batter into your baking pan. Beat the remaining egg mixture a big more, then drizzle overtop of the batter. Using a toothpick, mix around the batter and egg drizzle to create a marbled effect.
  7. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until brownies have set. You can use a clean toothpick to determine whether they are done. Let cool, then cut into squares. It’s best if you refrigerate them before cutting as they are quite soft.

These are the ones with applesauce (I mixed the beans a little bit longer than I did with the buttery batch, so they look very smooth):

And these are the banana ones (they were slightly thicker because I used a different shaped pan):

The butter ones are pictured at the beginning of this post – as you can see, they are a little more chunky than either the applesauce or banana ones! As I kept on making batches, I learned the proper times for mixing the beans and the appropriate amount of egg mixture to reserve for drizzling. It all comes down to personal preference, so bake as you like!

*Note: In Asian desserts, sometimes the red beans are whole. If you want more of the bean flavor in these brownies, don’t blend them too long in the food processor. When I make these with red beans I’m only going to mix for about 30 seconds to keep some of the beans from being completely mashed.