Is it really the cold and flu season? Or simply holiday candy and sweets season? It starts with Halloween candy in October, moves on to pies and desserts for Thanksgiving. Before you know it you’re indulging in Christmas cookies and fudge. Next, you just have to have that hot chocolate to chase away the winter blues. Of course, your sweetheart will buy you chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Then we enter the last stretch with the Cadbury eggs, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps for Easter. You may not want to admit it, but sugar is the bad guy this time of year.

First, sugar weakens your immune system.

Research shows consuming 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution can hinder the body’s immune functions. When your immune system is compromised, you are more likely to get sick. Consuming sugar lowers the efficiency of our white blood cells for several hours which inhibits our ability to fight infection and disease.

Do you think 100 grams doesn’t sound like much? 100 grams is about 20 teaspoons.

The USDA recommends you limit your consumption of added sugar to 10 teaspoons per day. The average person consumes 53 teaspoons of added sugar every day.

Added sugar is hidden in most foods that come in a box or a bag and have a long list of ingredients on the package.

You’ll also find sugar in salad dressings. You might think you’re eating a healthy salad but I encourage you to read your labels and find those hidden ingredients!

Bottled sauces, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and even frozen fruit can contain added sugar. Again, please read your labels.

There is a difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugar. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. Look for things like High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids, Sucrose, and Fructose.

The good news is there are new labeling requirements that will show added sugar vs naturally occurring sugar. These labels are supposed to be implemented by 2021.

Number two, sugar is addictive.

Eating sugar releases dopamine. Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter. It’s a chemical that transports information between neurons. The brain releases it when we eat sugar and it causes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. It simply feels good and when something feels good,  we want more causing a vicious cycle.

And finally, sugar robs our bodies of essential minerals.

Sugar depletes the body of essential minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This can weaken the teeth and bones, causing tooth decay and diseases like osteoporosis.

There is so much more – please do your research.

Artificial sweeteners are not a good substitute.

Instead, reach for sweeteners that have naturally occurring sweet flavors rather than added sugars.

  • Agave Nectar
  • Dates and Date Nectar
  • Stevia
  • Raw Organic Honey
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Maple Sugar
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Young Living Yacon Syrup

Personally, I use local honey and maple syrup the most. When cooking savory dishes, I like to add a few chopped dates if it calls for a little something sweet.

Every Fall I used to make these yummy pumpkin bars. I get a craving for them every year but I haven’t made them the past few years because they are full of sugar! This year I wondered if I could make my pumpkin-ny goodies and swap out the sugar.

pumpkin 1

Success!

In fact, I think my adapted recipe tastes even better than the original made with sugar.

While substituting the sugar with maple syrup does not make this a “health food” by any means, it at least allows me to consume naturally occurring sugar instead of refined sugar.

Because pure maple syrup is plant-based, it is naturally rich in antioxidants. It also offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Maple Syrup Pumpkin Bars

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Chosen Foods Organic Avocado, Coconut & Safflower Oil Blend.)
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (the original recipe used a 16-ounce can but I guess they’ve shrunk the cans since then!)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Beat eggs until frothy
  3. Add maple syrup and beat for 2 minutes
  4. Add oil and pumpkin and beat until thoroughly combined
  5. sift dry ingredients together
  6. Fold into the egg mixture until blended – do not overmix
  7. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9 pan (I have a fun mini-bundt pan I like to use.)
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top cracks and toothpick comes out clean
pumpkin 2

If you try this recipe, give us a review in the comments!

It would be great if you would share your favorite tips to avoid added sugar in your diet, too.

Enjoy!