In today’s overwhelming environment of fatty and sugary foods, conditions such as diabetes have run rampant. Now, although this condition is mainly caused by a genetic predisposition, its overall predominance in today’s cultures is primarily involved with an overabundance of sugar. This can be granulated sugar, also known as table sugar, brown sugar, powdered or confectioner’s sugar, and even raw sugar.
This of course begs the question, ‘How do you sweeten your food and drink, without adding these sugars to them?” One way that works for you, the modern health-conscious cook, is to first start with ingredients that contain their own natural sweetness. Although fruits contain sugar, even in a high quantity, this sugar is fruitose, and ultimately it is handled better by the body. Many popular ‘sweet’ dishes can be made using a fruit base in order to give them the sweetness you want, without adding that extra white sugar that you would normally add.
An example is your standard, everyday Bolognese or Italian meat sauce. If you are one of those who like to make their sauce from scratch, you are already ahead of the game, as those fresh tomatoes actually contain some natural fruit sugars in them, and haven’t already had sugar added to them in the canning process. If you start your tomatoes stewing in a pot on the stove, first, peel them, as the skin of the tomato can be quite bitter and cancel out the natural sweetness. Instead of adding sugar to the stewing tomatoes, which is normally part of the basic process, instead try adding a fruit component, recommendations include some sweet berries, such as strawberries or raspberries to the mix. Alternatively, for those who don’t want to add actual fruit, you can substitute grape or apple juice, as long as it’s 100% no sugar added for your stewing liquid, and another good idea is to use roma and cherry or grape tomatoes as your base instead of your garden variety steak tomatoes. Traditional Italian red sauces actually were made with roma tomatoes and sweet roasted red bell pepper, and if you get the bell pepper when its really bright red, and maybe mix in some yellow or orange bell pepper as well, you may get plenty of sweetness for your palate.
As can be imagined, by creating a sauce with sweet ingredients, you don’t need to add that extra tablespoon or more of sugar you might ordinarily be inclined to. Another often forgotten source of sweetness that is actually a staple in most cooking is the sweet onion. Many malign the onion, because of its strong flavor profile, and smell, but if you cook it down, and caramelize it in its own juices, there is a world of sweetness that is released in this simple and very healthy vegetable and aromatic. Just be sure not to burn your onions, because like any member of the Allium family, like garlic, they become very bitter and astringent once you burn them.
Now, you are hardly going to want to be adding onions to your coffee or tea to add sweetness, and fruit is not always the flavor you want in your drinks as well, although, in the right drinks, fruit can be quite refreshing, so your best bet when it comes to sweetening your beverages is your local honey. Local honey is recommended for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is from the area, so because it was cultivated with the local plant life as its source, the honey helps build up your immune system to allergens in the air. Secondly, also because it comes from a local source, the sugars developed in the honey are more naturally handled by the digestive tract of those who live in the area and are exposed to its foods. Now, the best way to add honey to a drink is when it is hot, obviously, as colder drinks will tend to cause the honey to solidify and congeal on you, however, many cold drinks can originally be prepared warm, with the honey, before refrigerating them. Conversely, colder drinks that include honey can have just the honey heated slightly before adding it, or can be blended drinks where the blender actually uses the high speed mixing to loosen the honey until its incorporated into your drink.
By judicious use of honey, fruits, and other sweet ingredients, like onions or sweet peppers, you can infuse your dishes with a natural sweetness that is much better in this diabetic plagued society, where there is already a large amount of sugar added to preserve our prepared and prepackaged foods. Also by making fresh whenever possible, you can control the overall amount of sugar you take in.
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