Friday, February 10, 2012

Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins

Breakfast can be tough to manage for us regular humans. Five out of seven days each week most of us are rushing out the door, rubbing sleepies from our eyes, and trailing coats, scarves and phone chargers. But that's no excuse for missing the most important meal of the day! A healthful breakfast will jump start our metabolism and give us energy throughout the morning, helping us avoid reaching for coffee or sugar at 9 or 10am.

Who doesn't love a delicious breakfast muffin? But those Dunkin' drive-throughs are dangerous - find lots of sugar and preservatives in their treats. 

Try this Make-Ahead Breakfast Solution. These morning glory muffins are great toasted with butter, or nut (almond or peanut) butter. Freeze half your batch to last longer. I modified the Whole Foods recipe by substituting the sugar and brown sugar with honey (read more about the benefits of honey over refined sugar here). 

Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins

1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 cup of honey 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 eggs 
2/3 cup canola oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled and diced 
1/2 cup seedless raisins 
1/2 cup grated carrots 
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried flaked unsweetened coconut, divided 
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, honey, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, eggs, oil and vanilla, then add to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add apples, raisins, carrots, walnuts and 1/4 cup of the coconut and stir gently until well combined. 

Spoon batter into 16 paper-lined muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full. Top evenly with remaining 4 teaspoons coconut and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Hey Honey!

Boston Honey Company:
 my favorite local honey people
So now you know more about how reducing your sugar intake could benefit your health (see my previous post about sugar here), but also that sweetness and sweet flavors are an important part of a balanced life and diet. Luckily there are a number of natural and possibly less toxic alternatives to highly processed white sugar such as sweet fruits (which have naturally occurring fructose) maple syrup, and honey. Honey is still a form of sugar, but unlike highly refined white sugar, it can be consumed in a more raw and natural form and has a number of beneficial components. According to the The National Honey Board (a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight):

"Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates (natural sugars) and water, as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Providing 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is an all-natural sweetener without any added ingredients.
Honey also contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals. Generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys." 

Additionally some people find that eating raw local honey improves their seasonal allergy symptoms.

Now, we are not talking about the honey that comes in that adorable plastic bear. While cute, and reminiscent of my childhood, that honey is highly processed, can have extra fillers and ingredients, and is likely NOT local (many times from Asia). Local, raw, and organic honey can be found at your farmers market or in health food stores and sometimes in conventional grocery stores (just check the label).
Enjoy it, honey!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sugar's Effect on the Body and Brain

Sweetness is an important part of life, in our diets, our personal endeavors,  and in our relationships. The sweetness in life is an important counterpart to the sour and bitterness of life. According to Macrobiotic Philosophy, sugar has "yin" or contractive qualities, which balances our "yang" or expansive qualities.
We have all heard that too much sugar is "bad for us" and that as a society we are consuming "too much sugar." A nasty combination. Yes, sugar has “empty calories” and can contribute to weight gain, but I'd like to shed some light on some of the less talked about reasons we might want to reduce the amount of sugar we eat. 

·      Sugar can suppress the immune system and feed bacteria and fungi (such as candida or yeast) in the body. (4)
·      Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium, which can contribute to osteoporosis
·      Sugar can promote insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes (1)
·      Sugar contributes to obesity, because it has a high caloric content with no nutritional value leaving your body 'hungry' (1)
·      Sugar can raise blood levels of triglycerides which increases cholesterol and heart disease risk (3)
·      Sugar can impact ability to concentrate, especially in children
·      Chronic high blood sugar can contribute to Alzheimer's Disease (2)
·      Sugar has addictive qualities, similar to cocaine!
·      And many many more….

Consider how much refined sugar and added sugar you are putting in your body each day or week. What would your health be like if you reduced your sugar intake?

1.  USDA document suggesting the initiation of taxes on Sweetened Beverages
2. Alzheimers and High Blood Sugar
3. Is Sugar Toxic? NYTimes April 2010