Last week's Washington Post had a short article on using fruit instead of other sources to sweeten various dishes and baked goods. I thought I would expand a bit here and offer up some more suggestions for uses of various fruits as sugar-substitutes.
In the article, the author references a study by the American Medical Association that higher sugar (added sugar, mind you) consumption is linked to markedly increased risk for heart attacks. (for a more reader-friendly version try THIS.) Also, it's been found to, unsurprisingly, increase the risk of diabetes and obesity (though I feel like I don't need to tell you that again).
Sugar is rampant in our food system and most of it is found in packaged foods and comes in all types of forms, the most notable: white and brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, invert sugar, sucrose, malt syrup, and maltose. There are "healthy" sugars, that many companies will tout as better-for-you than regular sugar- typically honey, agave, and maple syrup. Sure, they have some antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds in them, but at the end of the meal, it's still straight glucose (that would be sugar). Your body is going to respond to that free-trade agave nectar from whole foods pretty much the same way it will to the Good Value table sugar from Wal-Mart.
That's not to say that sources of natural sugars- notably fruit- should be avoided entirely. Perish the thought! Fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients that are beneficial to us.
Along with the obvious choice of bananas in smoothies, you can also use them to make pancakes. How?
In a blender, blend:
1 Tsp of flour or oatmeal (to thicken it a bit)
Fry in a pan as you would regular pancakes. They're quite tasty and can be pretty fluffy depending on how long your blend it. Easy huh?
Bananas can be substituted in baking as well- about 1 cup of ripened mashed bananas for 1 cup of sugar. You may have to add a little extra flour to account for the extra moisture of the bananas.
Yes, fruit has sugar, but if you're going to use it, you might as well bundle it up with vital nutrients. Take a look at what apricots contain:
Dried fruit can also be used in baking- 1 cup of ground up fruit being equal to 1 cup of sugar. Raisins, dates, apricots, and prunes (though be careful how many of those you use...) are the typical fare.
A Reed-House Fave is:
2 cups dried apricots
1/2-3/4 cup oatmeal
3 Tbs peanut or almond butter (we found the peanut butter tends to overwhelm the cookie, but it's not a bad thing)
Water/milk as needed
1. Dump all ingredients, minus the water or milk, into a food processor and pulse until combined.
2. Add water/milk as needed to create a thick mud-like texture. After this, if you want you can sprinkle in chocolate chips...
3. Scoop onto a baking sheet 1 spoonful at a time.
4. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
Voila! A fiber-rich and tasty cookie!
The article also mentioned using 100% fruit juices in sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. Typically citrus are the best kinds- lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange. They add a pleasant zing to your food.
Next time you're in the kitchen, instead of reaching for the sugar canister, reach for the fruit drawer. Your tastebuds, waistline, and heart will thank you.