Limiting Processed Sugar—W2: Natural vs Processed Sugar & Valentine's Day Raw Hearts

Limiting Processed Sugar Week 2: The difference between natural and processed sugar. And a raw mocha bite recipe to fill the void. www.fernsandpeonies.com

This week we continue on with our discussion on why you should limit your processed/refined sugar intake (click here to read week one's blog on what sugar does to your body). I want to look in to the difference between natural and processed sugars and how our bodies actually process the two.

First, let's get this little tid-bit out of the way: sugars are carbohydrates and our bodies need carbs to survive and fuel our bodies. So to say we shouldn't eat sugar at all is simply wrong. As with most things, sugar in excess is a bad idea—no matter what type of sugar we are talking about. And sugar is sugar; they are calories. However, natural sugars should be eaten in moderation, whereas processed sugars should be limited. The key is to understand how our bodies process the two different types of sugars.

Let's start with natural sugar. Natural sugars are found in dairy, fruit and vegetables. The biggest advantage to eating natural sugar vs processed sugar is that foods which contain natural sugar have a myriad of other nutritional benefits and tend to be high in fiber. Processed sugar has very little—if any—nutritional benefit.  The fiber causes the natural sugars to break down slowly in the digestive system and prolongs the release of sugar into your blood, which in turn gives you longer lasting energy. You also feel full faster and eat less in the process.

On the other hand, processed sugars are, in essence, empty calories. They provide no benefit, other than satisfying a craving and giving you a sugar rush—only to crash shortly after. Any sugar you don't use or store in your liver (as in, you have too much stored already), your body converts to fat and it is instead stored in your cells. And there you have it, a simplified reason as to why sugar in general causes obesity.

But you love sugar! I know, ME TOO! Especially on day 7 of my 10-day sugar detox (click here to read that blog). Consuming natural sugars in moderation and limiting processed sugars are both essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The problem is that it is so hard to know where all those hidden sugars are! Read a ketchup, salad dressing or jelly label and you might think it they are sugar free. Think again. Most contain added sugar, but you probably didn't recognize the word used to hide the fact that it has added sugar. That's why I looked up some of the most popular food label terms used for sugar. Sweet of me, right?

Limiting Processed Sugar Week 2: The difference between natural and processed sugar. And a raw mocha bite recipe to fill the void. www.fernsandpeonies.com

The dreaded Valentine's Day is next week. It was obviously the candy manufacturing industry which decided to put a holiday devoted to chocolate in between Christmas and Easter. Most likely, you will get a box of chocolates from your sweetheart. Should you throw them out? No. Store them in the freezer and have one a night. Limiting doesn't have to mean doing without. However, if you want to make your own Valentine—who happens to also be a coffee addict—eternally happy, then make them my raw mocha bites. And when I say "coffee addict", I'm not messing around. These are not for some mamby-pamby light coffee drinker. Finely ground espresso beans are what make these bites so amazing.  However, if you (who are we kidding, these aren't for sharing) aren't a coffee drinker, simply leave the espresso out and consider them hot chocolate bites!

Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

I found this great heart shaped silicone mold at the craft store for $9, but you can easily make these into balls or into bars. The key with all three is to make sure you compress the mixture by either pressing down hard for the hearts or bars, or rolling tightly with the balls. This keeps them from crumbling, as does storing them in the freezer or fridge until you are ready to eat them.

Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

All it takes is 5 minutes to blend everything up in your food processor. I know I say this all the time but I absolutely love my Cuisinart, which I have had for years. You can find yours here:

Before adding coconut oil

Before adding coconut oil

After adding coconut oil

After adding coconut oil

Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com
Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com
Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com
Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

Please don't think that just because these are made from natural sugar (dates) and are raw that "regular folk" won't like them. They are nutty, chocolaty, and the espresso flavor is so rich and comforting—I bet you/they will even like them better than a heart shaped box of milk chocolates!

I hope you enjoy! And Happy Valentine's Day love. Xoxo

Valentine's Day Raw Mocha Bites. Gluten-free, Vegan and Paleo. And processed sugar free. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

Time: 5 minutes to make, 1 hour in freezer

Ingredients:
1/2 c. raw almonds
1/2 c. raw brazil nuts (or leave out and use 1 c. raw almonds)

1 c. dates
1/4 c. cacao powder
1 1/2 tbsp. finely ground espresso beans
1 tbsp. cacao nibs
2 to 3 tbsp. responsibly sourced coconut oil, melted


Directions:
In your food processor, blend the nuts 10-15 seconds until it forms a course meal. Add the rest of the ingredients, other than the coconut oil, and process another 10-15 seconds to combine. Add 2 tbsp. coconut oil and blend. If mixture is not sticky enough, add last tbsp. of the oil. The moisture in your dates will determine how much coconut oil you will need in the end.

Form into balls, press into silicone shaped mold (think heart holds for Valentine’s Day), or line a bread pan or small cake pan (depending on thickness desired) with parchment or wax paper. Dump contents into pan and spread evenly with clean hands. Press to mold.

Place pan into freezer for 1 hour to harden. If making into bars, cut into desired dimensions. Store your bites or your bars in freezer in airtight container.

Print the recipe!