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