The #3 diet change is natural sweeteners.
Actually, eliminating artificial and refined sugars is #1 on my list, but here's how to add in the good ones.
SOME FACTS ABOUT SUGAR
Monosaccharides (mono means one) are the smallest breakdown of carbohydrates and include fructose, glucose, galactose, etc. Monosaccharides can be immediately absorbed into the bloodstream because there is no further process necessary to break them down.
Disaccharides (di meaning two) are a combination of two monosaccharides (such as glucose + galactose = lactose) and include lactose (milk sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and maltose (found in beer). These require enzymes to break them down into the individual monosaccharides, and thus 'usually' are less quickly absorbed. (I need you chemistry majors to help me out on this one in case I've got my facts wrong)
So why is all this important?
Glucose (from sucrose and sometimes lactose)
Glucose is really a good substance. Our cells use it to make energy! The hormone Insulin is responsible for helping your cells to utilize all of the syrup you just poured over your buttermilk pancake, but if your pancreas is just plain overloaded from all that sugar (genetic pre-disposition is a factor as well), it may cease to function. Think of a horse pulling a sled with more and more stones added. There comes a point at which he can't carry all that weight and has to come to a halt. And since gravity is against him, his chances of being able to move again are slim.
When no more insulin is produced, all of that glucose in your bloodstream can't go anywhere, and will cause death.
Many, many people right now are in what is called the 'Pre-diabetes' stage (within a few years will develop type 2 diabetes). It is so rampant, it is actually a clinically diagnosed condition! When is the time to prevent the irreversible damage that Diabetes can cause? NOW! God made our bodies with a miraculous ability to recover from abuse. The pancreas often just needs a break from all that sugar in order to heal.
THE SWEET THINGS IN LIFE
* Raw Honey - I hate to use this in baking because heat destroys the enzymes, but it really adds a lot to cakes, breads and cookies. Use 1/2 - 3/4 of the amount of honey that you would normally use of white sugar in a recipe. Pour raw honey over anything that needs sweetener -heaven!
* Raw Agave - the light, mild flavor of this syrup makes it perfect for a panckade topping substitute. My family mixes it with maple syrup for enhancing the flavor, since Agave is cheaper than maple syrup. I have also used it with success in place of honey and sugar in recipes.
* 100% Maple Syrup - you don't need any encouragement on this one :)
* Stevia (glycerine-based) - use in homemade icecream, hot chocolate warmer, tea, yogurt, or anything else that needs a touch of sweetener. The alcohol-based Stevia extract leaves a bitter aftertaste, so it does not make a good substitute.
- Chai Tea
1 tsp. loose black tea (or herbal tea)
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
1 C. water
Simmer in a covered saucepan for about 10 minutes. Strain into a mug and add raw milk and stevia to taste!
* Blackstrap Molasses - full of Vitamin B6, B2, Thiamin, Calcium, Copper, Iron (extremely rich source), Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc. With that list, how could you go wrong? One of my favorite snacks is fresh homemade sourdough bread with raw butter and molasses - the ultimate in flavor! Use molasses on oatmeal, in bread, granola, on toast, and in place of syrup.
- Energy-packed Smoothie
1 C. raw milk
1 raw egg (minus the shell)
1-2 T. blackstrap molasses
* Less refined cane sugars like Rapadura, Sucanat, and Turbinado (Demerara). I hesitate to put that last one in because it is pretty refined, but the taste is great and makes a good transition sweetener.
Avoid refined Fructose like the plague. If you want fructose, eat honey, fruit and vegetables. Crystalline Fructose (often used in healthy cookbooks) can actually be derived from High Fructose Corn Syrup!
High Fructose Corn Syrup and table sugar (sucrose) are both a combination of glucose and fructose, that cause hyperactivity in kids, addiction (have you ever asked a family member or friend to give up that daily can of soda or cookie? Fructose has an alcohol-like effect on the body.), and spiking of blood sugar causing the pancreas to cry 'I surrender!'
In my typical symplistic understanding, Agave and Coconut sugars are called 'low-glycemic' and safe for diabetics because they contain very little glucose. But they still need to be consumed in moderation because of the high level of fructose (unlike being immediately utilized by cells, fructose is sent to the liver to be converted into fat). The benefit of Agave lies in the fact that it is unrefined and contains a lot of beneficial enzymes and minerals.