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Would you believe that sweet, creamy carrot cake can also be healthy?

Today, it seems that only copious amounts of added sugar – sugar that is added in cooking and processing – can make anything taste good. People in the US consume on a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugar (350 calories) a day on average (2), whether from seemingly innocuous bowls of breakfast cereal or extravagant desserts.

Yet, studies continue to find an alarming connection between added sugar intake and dangerous health conditions, like poor nutritional intake (5), obesity (6), heart disease (1), stroke (1), diabetes (1), fatty liver disease (1) and cancer (21, 22).

So why not replace sugary desserts and snacks with these scrumptious, no-bake, no-added-sugar carrot cakes? Made with only whole, fresh ingredients and natural sugars, these indulgent carrot cakes will leave you satisfied – and certainly, much healthier!

The Problem with Added Sugars

Natural sugars, which are naturally found in fruits and and other foods, often accompany other beneficial nutrients that balance it out, like vitamins and fibres. However, added sugars, like refined white sugar, offer sweet flavor and lots of calories, but little to no nutritional value (4).

This means that excessive added sugar – and all its empty calories – could have detrimental effects on the body, such as:

  • Poor nutrition (10). Excessive sugar intake has also been associated with other dietary problems, like excessive consumption of processed foods, saturated fats, and sodium (1).
  • Weight gain. Sugary beverages have been found to raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglyceride fat levels in the blood, as well as other risk factors for metabolic diseases (11). Too much fructose can also impair regulation of insulin, a hormone important in helping the body absorb sugars from the blood, and make it difficult to feel full (30).
  • Gut health issues. Excessive sugar intake could encourage the growth of yeast, the Candida fungus, and bad bacteria in the intestines, thus leading to flatulence, abdominal discomfort, constipation, and acid reflux – but also more serious conditions, like damage in intestinal walls and leaky gut (8).
  • Tooth decay. Heavy sugar intake in the long term may lead to cavities and other dental diseases (3).
  • Heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke (1, 7, 12).
  • Fatty liver disease. Too much sugar could lead to a buildup of fat in the liver, thus laying the groundwork for the development of fatty liver disease (1, 13) – a condition that could bring about long-term scarring in the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure, and cancer (14).
  • Diabetes (15, 16, 17). Diabetes itself also increases the risk of other serious health complications, like kidney and nerve damage, eye and foot damage, hearing impairment, and even Alzheimer’s disease (18).
  • Obesity (19). One study even confirms a link between consumption of sugary beverages and 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide each year (1, 20).
  • Cancer. Consuming added sugar increases the risk of developing cancer (1, 23, 24) in the esophagus (21), small intestine (21), and pancreas (22).
  • Arthritis. Women who drink one sugary soda or more a day may be putting themselves in greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammation of joints and other parts of the body (25).

Clearly, reducing the amount of added sugar will be the key to lowering the risks of the health conditions above.

Luckily for us, a low-added-sugar diet does not have to mean giving up sweets! Try these sweet-and-creamy, no-refined-sugar raw carrot cakes – and taste its healthy, natural sugars for yourself!

Recipe: Sweet & Creamy No-Refined-Sugar Raw Carrot Cakes

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This recipe from Clean Eating Recipes

Makes: 16-20 mini cakes

Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat), chilled
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Place the ingredients for the cake into a blender or food processor. Pulse until everything is evenly combined.
  2. Press the mixture firmly into a mini cheesecake pan or muffin pan.
  3. Spoon chilled coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk can.
  4. Blend together the chilled coconut cream, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and ground cloves until completely combined.
  5. Spread the glaze on top of the cakes. Top with additional walnuts if desired.

Other Tips for Cutting Down Added Sugar

Health guidelines, like this one, now suggest that women should not consume more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar (24 grams or 100 calories) a day, while men should not exceed 9 teaspoons of added sugar (36 grams or 150 calories) a day (4).

If you find that you are eating more added sugar than you should, try these tips to lower your added sugar intake and use up empty calories:

  • Cut down the amount of added sugar you use by two-thirds (6). Alternatively, try replacing sugar with flavour-boosting spices like cinnamon, ginger, almond, and vanilla (26), or moderate amounts of dried fruits, like dates (6).
  • Skip sweet, processed foods.  Check that the ingredient label of any processed food you buy does not list sugar – in any of its 60+ various names – as the first or second ingredient (4). Alternatively, eliminate processed foods from your diet altogether.
  • Choose whole, natural foods. Try replacing your usual processed fare with natural and/or less sweet alternatives, like reduced-sugar jam, almond butter, or whole fruits. When cooking, try using moderate amounts of natural, low-sugar sweeteners like stevia instead of added sugars (23).
  • Try a sweet cleanseTry going 2 weeks or more without any added sugar, and eating only foods that contain less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. This should get your palate to perceive less sugary foods as being much sweeter than before (28).
  • Eat fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut. These foods will introduce good bacteria into your body that boost your digestive system, as well as help your liver and guts break down extra sugars (29).
  • Get plenty of exercise. Keep active to burn off the extra sugar and calories, manage body weight, and prevent obesity (9).

Slashing added sugar from your diet may take some getting-used-to. But rest assured that your newer, healthier diet plan will be no less sweet than your old one – so long as you make the right substitutions, eat nutritiously, and remember to keep active.

 

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2) Johnson, R., Appel, L., Brands, M., Howard, B., Lefevre, M., & Lustig, R. et al. (2009). Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(11), 1011-1020. http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/circulationaha.109.192627

3) Sugars intake for adults and children. (2017). World Health Organization. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/

4) Added Sugar in the Diet. (2017). The Nutrition Source. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/

5) Don’t get sabotaged by added sugar. (2017). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/added-sugar/art-20045328

6) Sugars in our diet – Live Well – NHS Choices. (2017). Nhs.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/sugars.aspx

7) Xi, B., Huang, Y., Reilly, K. H., Li, S., Zheng, R., Barrio-Lopez, M., . . . Zhou, D. (2015). Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of hypertension and CVD: A dose-response meta-analysis. The British Journal of Nutrition, 113(5), 709-717. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114514004383

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8) Kiefer, D., & Ali-Akbarian, L. (2004). A BRIEF EVIDENCE-BASED REVIEW OF TWO GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESSES: IRRITABLE BOWEL AND LEAKY GUT SYNDROMES. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 10(3), 22-30; quiz 31, 92. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/204828978?accountid=12339

9) Stanhope, K. (2015). Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Critical Reviews In Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 53(1), 52-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990
10 Louie, J. C. Y., & Tapsell, L. C. (2015). Association between intake of total vs added sugar on diet quality: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 73(12), 837. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1732941831?accountid=12339

11) Too Much Can Make Us Sick. (2017). SugarScience.UCSF.edu. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/too-much-can-make-us-sick/#.WclTCIyPJPZ

12) Larsson, S., Akesson, A., & Wolk, A. (2017). Sweetened Beverage Consumption Is Associated with Increased Risk of Stroke in Women and Men. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from

13) Griffin, B. A. (2015). Relevance of liver fat to the impact of dietary extrinsic sugars on lipid metabolism. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 74(3), 208-214. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665115002050

14) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – Symptoms and causes. (2017). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/dxc-20211639

15) Basu, S., Yoffe, P., Hills, N., & Lustig, R. (2017). The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. Retrieved 25 September 2017.

16) Schulze, M. B., Manson, J. E., Ludwig, D. S., Colditz, G. A., & al, e. (2004). Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Jama, 292(8), 927-34. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/211374496?accountid=12339

17) Evans, C. E. L. (2017). Sugars and health: A review of current evidence and future policy. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(3), 400-407. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116002846

18) Type 2 diabetes – Symptoms and causes. (2017). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/dxc-20169861

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19) Siervo, M., Montagnese, C., Mathers, J. C., Soroka, K. R., Stephan, B. C. M., & Wells, J. C. K. (2014). Sugar consumption and global prevalence of obesity and hypertension: An ecological analysis. Public Health Nutrition, 17(3), 587-96. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980013000141

20) Singh, G., Micha, R., Khatibzadeh, S., Lim, S., Ezzati, M., & Mozaffarian, D. (2017). Estimated Global, Regional, and National Disease Burdens Related to Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption in 2010CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from

21) Tasevska, N., Jiao, L., Cross, A. J., Kipnis, V., Subar, A. F., Hollenbeck, A., . . . Potischman, N. (2012). Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. International Journal of Cancer.Journal International Du Cancer, 130(1), 159-169. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.25990

22) Larsson, S. C., Bergkvist, L., & Wolk, A. (2006). Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84(5), 1171-1176. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/231954661?accountid=12339

23) Whiteman, H. (2017). Sugar: should we eliminate it from our diet?. Medical News Today. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288088.php

24) Duchaine, C. S., Dumas, I., & Diorio, C. (2014). Consumption of sweet foods and mammographic breast density: A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 14, 554. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-554

25) Hu, Y., Costenbader, K. H., Gao, X., Al-Daabil, M., Sparks, J. A., Solomon, D. H., . . . Lu, B. (2014). Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(3), 959. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1557117977?accountid=12339

26) Leung, C., Laraia, B., Needham, B., Rehkopf, D., Adler, N., & Lin, J. et al. (2014). Soda and Cell Aging: Associations Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and Leukocyte Telomere Length in Healthy Adults From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(12), 2425-2431. http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2014.302151

27) Valtuena, S., Numeroso, F., Ardigo, D., Pedrazzoni, M., Franzini, L., & Piatti, P. et al. (2005). Relationship between leptin, insulin, body composition and liver steatosis in non-diabetic moderate drinkers with normal transaminase levels. European Journal Of Endocrinology, 153(2), 283-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1530/eje.1.01960

28) Sugar challenge: Cut the sweetness for 2 weeks. (2017). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 September 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sugar-challenge/faq-20322776

29) Chilton, S., Burton, J., & Reid, G. (2015). Inclusion of Fermented Foods in Food Guides around the World. Nutrients, 7(1), 390-404. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu7010390

Images and Video Sources:

1) YouTube. (2017). The Sugary Truth. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFlnlGx0B5U [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

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