We all love sweet things but sugar, and especially the highly refined sugars that are present in many processed foods, can really do a number on our waistline and our health. Artificial sweeteners come with their own problems – they may damage our gut and cause us to crave sweet things even more.
I feel the best way to address our natural preference for sweet tasting foods is by eating fruit every day. Most of the time that should be in the form of whole fresh fruit enjoyed as a snack or dessert but sometimes I step it up a notch and use fruit to sweeten something really decadent. Case in point:
- Chocolate Power Bar Balls
- Chia Seed Jam
Chocolate Power Bar Balls
The recipe for these Chocolate Power Bar Balls comes from one of my favorite sources for gluten free and other healthy recipes, Elana’s Pantry. Although there is a small amount of refined sugar in the chocolate, the “sweet” is achieved primarily with dates. Dates are so sweet that you can use a really dark chocolate (70-80% cacao) here. The higher the cacao content the less sugar! I usually buy a good quality bar and chop it into pieces for this recipe.
These are so easy to make; the only preparation required is to chop the chocolate bar and the dates into small pieces and throw everything in the food processor. I only added a tiny bit of water because my dates were really juicy. As you can see I used a small cookies scoop to portion out the mixture. I like to put them in the refrigerator to firm them up.
A word about dates – although I’ve seen dozens of recipes in old cookbooks for date bars, breads, cookies, etc. I don’t ever remember eating a date while I was growing up. When I started reducing the sugar in my diet a couple of years ago I tried them and I am hooked. I always have a container or two of Medjool dates on hand.
Blackberry Chia Seed Jam
Chia seeds have come a long way since the 1970’s when they were used to sprout greenery on the iconic chia pet. They are now one of the “pets” of the nutrition world because they are packed with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Their fiber is in the soluble form that helps to absorb dietary fats and cholesterol. That solubility also gives these seeds a unique quality that makes them “gel” in liquid. They can be used as a thickener, egg replacement, or to create jams.
There are many recipes for chia seed jams. The first one I tried was this one from the Oh She Glows website. Since then I’ve made jam with strawberries, raspberries, and even rhubarb. The chia seeds don’t require heat to do their magic so I even made a raw version recently as a topping for strawberry shortcake dessert.
This time I used the Oh She Glows recipe and frozen wild black raspberries I picked from my back yard earlier this summer. Don’t worry if everything looks a little dry when you put it in the sauce pan – the berries will release their juice as you heat the mixture. The jam should keep for up to a week in the fridge and freezes well. Use it to stir into plain yogurt or to top oatmeal, toast, etc. This went on top of my overnight oats this morning!
There are some people out there who may be avoiding fruit because they are concerned about the fructose content. I don’t think you should be worried about that if you are consuming whole fruits. I’d like to direct you to this video from Dr. Michael Greger’s website nutritionfacts.org in which he describes the results of a weight loss study involving women who added fruit to their diet (and consumed more calories than the control group). They lost more weight than the group eating fewer calories but no fruit.
I highly recommend Dr. Greger’s website and his new book “How Not to Die” if you would like to learn more about eating for your health. I was privileged to hear him speak recently and to meet him. He’s a wonderful person!