Sugar Free Sweets – A Better Way to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Oh, heavenly sugar. Cultivated from the sugar cane, sugar beets, and other natural plant sources, how could it be bad for you? Well, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Sadly, aside from its pleasant taste, sugar has few redeeming qualities. It has no nutrients or fiber, is loaded with empty calories, and in excess, raises the blood sugar which can eventually lead to insulin resistance. This, along with the obesity it may contribute to, is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes which is now reaching epidemic proportions. All this seems to be good reason to limit sugar consumption or to choose sugar free sweets instead.

Most people already receive large amounts of sugar in the form of refined carbohydrates (starches), milk, fruits, and other foods. These foods at least have some nutritional value. But advanced technology in food processing and low cost has made it convenient and profitable for food manufacturers to use refined sugar liberally in packaged foods. These products entice buyers with their sweeter taste. Even foods we generally don’t think of as sweet, such as pasta sauces and bread, may be loaded with added sugar in one form or another. All this in addition to the vast quantities knowingly ingested in desserts, candy, and other sweet snacks. The body simply isn’t designed to process such large amounts of sugar, and excess consumption has led to a myriad of health problems. Obesity and diabetes aren’t the only negative effects of consuming too much sugar. Sugar may also contribute to reactive hypoglycemia, tooth decay, headaches including migraines, and indigestion. The negative health impacts of sugar are serious enough for many to try to ban the sale and availability of sugar-sweetened soft drinks in U.S. schools. The average 12 oz. sugar-sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 empty calories. It’s estimated that 56% to 85% of all children consume at least one 12 oz. soft drink per day in U.S. schools, and it’s believed that each 12 oz. sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed daily increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.

The best option would be to start your kids off right in the first place by instilling healthy eating habits and limiting their sugar intake. But for those who’ve already acquired the taste for sugar, including the adults in the family, giving up all sweet desserts and snacks can be extremely difficult. Limiting sugar consumption to an occasional sweet treat probably isn’t too harmful, as long as it doesn’t lead to excess. But if you or a family member has already developed related health problems, even that may not be an option.

Fortunately, you may not have to give up all sweet foods. There have been great improvements in sugar substitutes in recent years. While there is still some controversy over the safety of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, medical studies continue to test and scrutinize them. There are also many natural sugar substitutes available and in use in sugar free sweets on the market now, such as Stevia and sugar alcohols like sorbitol, though some may have some side effects of their own. With moderation, though, these sugar substitutes and products made with them, can allow you to enjoy some sweet treats again. In quality, taste, and selection, the options today can be very tempting, with delicious sugar free desserts, cookies, chocolates and other sweet delights to be had. Just be sure to read the labels to see that they meet your particular health requirements or concerns.

Yams and Sweet Potatoes – Are They the Same Thing?

Yams and sweet potatoes are often confused, but actually they do not have a great deal in common. There are obvious differences in appearances, and the yam can grow to a whopping 100 pounds or 45 kilos whereas the sweet potato is smaller. The yam has a rough scaly skin with some nodules on it but the sweet potato has a smooth much thinner skin. This being so you can tell by looking, usually which is which.

In Britain yams are more prevalent as they grow in the Caribbean and are imported from there into both the UK and the US. Britain has had a West Indian community since the 1950s, so they have been used there for more than half a century.

The yam originates in West Africa, while the sweet potato comes originally from Peru and Ecuador in the South American continent, and is now grown in Asia. In Pakistan we have lots of sweet potatoes but I haven’t seen a yam, here yet. The sweet potato is not related to the yam which is a member of the lily family or Dioscorea family, while the sweet potato is Ipomoea batatas, and a member of the Convolvulaceae family which means it is related to Morning Glory and field bindweed. Scientists believe this has been around since prehistoric times, but the yam has only been with us since 50,000 BC or thereabouts.

The US department of Agriculture requires that sweet potatoes be labeled as yams- sweet potatoes, so look carefully at the label on the packaging when you buy one of these edible roots.

There are clearly health benefits from both vegetables, but the sweet potato contains more sugars in the form of glucose, fructose and sucrose. It is useful for desserts as well as an accompaniment to the Thanksgiving turkey.

The sweet potato has the edge over the yam in terms of nutritional content, as it contains more beta-carotene, easily recognized because this is what gives fruit and vegetables the distinctive orange colour; carrots contain a lot of it for example. Both contain Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and as we don’t get enough of Omega-3 in our traditional Western diets, these ‘potatoes’ are useful sources, especially if you are not fond of salmon and other oily fish.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and also contain vitamins E, K and the B-complex vitamins which are essential for our mental and physical health. Nutritionally it has the edge as long as you don’t mind the sugar content and its sweetness. It is good for the immune system and the vitamins C, A and E have potent antioxidant properties and this means that the free radicals which damage our healthy cells and can cause them to become cancerous are inhibited. They are a good source of dietary fibre too and surprisingly low in calories if baked. These are moist but yams are dry and not so watery.

Personally I prefer the sweet variety because I am not fond of the more starchy taste of the yam, but they both have dietary fibre and so prevent constipation and reduce the risks of colon cancer.

The Ipomoea batatas variety is the one to go for if you don’t have a problem with sugar, but having said that, the dioscorin present in yams is thought to help lower blood pressure effectively.

I suppose it’s a matter of taste as to which you eat, but remember that neither of these vegetables are actually related to the true potato, although you can use both in exactly the same ways as you do the potato which is related to tomatoes and aubergines (egg plants). The flavour and texture is different and these two vegetables arguably have more health benefits.

Why not sample both and find out which you prefer?