CAN SWEET SNACKS BE VEGAN AND HEALTHY?
Sweets and snacks are mainly associated with sugar dense, unhealthy and processed foods. Unfortunately, most of the time this is true. But is there a way to continue to indulge in your favourite treats without harming your health? We want to find out what exactly are ‘bad ingredients’ that we should be avoiding and how to recognise healthy vegan snacks, especially the sweet ones. Let's go back to the basics and start from the beginning.
What is snacking anyway?
We’ve all had that familiar feeling, of wanting to eat regardless of the time of day.
You suddenly start craving something sweet to fill your stomach, improve your mood or simply out of boredom. But why does this happen? The craving for sugar is caused when the pancreas produces too much insulin, which therefore lowers our blood sugar levels and further exacerbates the cravings for something sweet. However, we all know, if you eat too many sugar-dense products, this can lead to bad habits as your body can become addicted to the sugar rush, resulting in poor health. As a result of this addiction, when we feel tired our brain receives a signal that it needs glucose immediately, thus continuing the cycle.
Sweet snacks additionally stimulate the brain to produce serotonin, the chemical that is responsible for happiness. This increase in serotonin therefore leads us to associate sugar with happiness and this is how sugar addiction is born.
There are many forms of sugar, White, cane, powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, there are really a lot of them on the market, but which sugars should we avoid when choosing a snack? It all depends on how it is obtained.
Sweet poison, i.e. refined sugar
It is quite surprising that refined sugar comes from the Sugar beet vegetable, which itself contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, and salts necessary for the proper functioning of the body.
All of these substances are irretrievably lost during the treatment the plant is subjected to. To obtain its white colour, the vegetable (, or what is left of it) is treated with calcium chloride. This compound can contribute to food poisoning, heartburn, cardiac arrhythmias, and more. Not surprisingly, when consumed in large amounts, refined sugar can have some pretty nasty consequences.
Why should you stop consuming refined sugar?
It's very simple - refined sugar is devoid of everything that is valuable to human health. Refined sugar flushes the body of substances needed for daily functioning, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and more. Regular consumption of refined sugars leads to excessive acidification of the body. Because of this, teeth and bones also begin to deteriorate.
Another reason why it is worth eliminating it from your diet is also its high caloric content. Research also shows that excess sugar is deposited in the liver. When refined sugar is consumed in large quantities, the excess of glucose accumulated causes the organ to expand like a balloon. When there is not enough space in your liver, the excess sugar is transported to the blood in the form of fatty acids. These, in turn, begin to live in the folds in the abdomen, thighs, arms, hips and many other places. But this is not the end - the real problem starts when there is not enough space in these areas of the body. The excess sugar will begin to be stored in the form of fatty tissue that forms around your major organs such as your heart and kidneys. The only thing that can be done to prevent this process is to simply avoid products containing this substance.
How to successfully avoid refined sugars?
Unfortunately, this type of sugar is a common ingredient found in many food products. There are plenty of them in both drinks and food. There is a massive amount of refined sugars to be found in most sweet snacks on the market to include yoghurts, puddings and ready-made cakes.
Unfortunately, refined sugars have many names, therefore it is really important to check the packaging of processed foods when purchasing them and to make sure you should avoid anything that includes the ingredient “E509”.
Manufacturers are also known to interchangeably refer to refined sugar as high-fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, molasses, caramel, and sugar or cane juice which makes it harder for us to understand exactly what we are putting into our bodies.
Refined sugars are also often hidden under names that end in -ose, such as dextrose, glucose, and maltose. So how do you avoid them? Firstly, you have to be aware of these names and it is important to read the labels on all food items purchased, look for healthier alternatives and even to prepare sweet snacks for yourself at home :)
Fortunately, there are healthier substitutes for refined sugar ensuring you do not have to give up "sweet" flavours forever. So what kind of sugars should you look for in healthy snacks? One of them is…
Coconut sugar is made from the flowers of the coconut palm and is classed as unrefined sugar. With a taste similar to brown sugar, coconut sugar is gaining popularity as a universal sweetener for coffee or tea, cakes and healthy desserts. It is sold in a powdered form and contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. As a result, it is indicated that Coconut sugar is better for our intestines than traditional sugar. Coconut sugar is commonly referred to as "vitamin sugar" or "diabetic sugar" because it is a good alternative to refined sugar for people with diabetes. The glycemic index for this food product is 35 as opposed to regular sugar, which in turn has an index that is twice as high. Coconut sugar contains less fructose than other sweeteners, ranging from 3% to 9%, while Beet sugar consists of 50% fructose.
Removing Beet sugar from your diet in favour of coconut sugar is expected to bring positive health effects as it supposedly has probiotic properties that have a positive effect on the stomach and contains large amounts of fibre. The lack of artificial ingredients added to coconut sugar also has a positive effect on your health.
What are some other healthy alternatives to refined sugar?
We recommend that you test these healthy alternatives when experimenting in the kitchen or when sweetening coffee or tea. An interesting replacement is Stevia - a plant originating from South America. When testing Stevia it is important to be aware that - it is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, so in recipes it's grammage is calculated in a completely different way than ordinary sugar. The situation is different with Xylitol, its sweetness compared to sugar is practically 1: 1. It is a birch bark sugar with a low glycemic index. Another sugar substitute is Erythritol, obtained in the process of glycerol fermentation. It is less sweet than regular sugar, but is highly recommended for diabetics as it’s glycemic index is 0! Some other equally good alternatives are maple syrup, molasses, honey, tagatose or date syrup.
We already know that sugar is primarily responsible for whether a snack is healthy or not, but how can you tell if the snack you want is also vegan?
- Pork gelatin (E441) :
protein from cartilage, bones, tendons and skin of animals are often used as a gelling agent in jellies, yoghurts and sweets.
- Lactic acid (E270) :
derives from milk sugar, a preservative used in confectionery, carbonated drinks, pickles and sauces.
- Stearic acid (E570):
comes from animal fats and is used as a component in chewing gums.
- Rennet (renin): an enzyme produced by the mucosa of the calf's stomach. It is used in the dairy industry for the production of rennet cheeses.
- Albumin: comes from egg whites or milk - and is used as a binding agent which is added to confectionery
- Myristic acid: comes from a mixture of animal and vegetable fats is added to chocolate, ice cream, candies and cakes
These are, of course, just some of the animal products that are added to many known sweet snacks and foods. It is always worth reading product labels in shops or scanning them with applications that read the ingredients.
Our best advice is to find a proven health food store or shop where you can stock up on sweet snacks, without having to carry out detective work every day.
Here at My Raw Joy, we ensure that our products do not contain any refined sugars or any animal products.
We have a range of ready-made healthy vegan snacks prepared for you, because we know how much tiring and time consuming the hunt for healthy (yet delicious) snacks can be.
We have created snacks that can easily be integrated into your main dishes - such as Granola for porridge, Smoothie Bowl Mix for breakfast and, Cashew Spread as a base for sauces. We also have a range of delicious Spreads that can be used to top whole grain bread sandwiches!
Our chocolate, choco bars and energy cookies can be used in baking as well as to be eaten during the day as a healthy snack.
There are so many great vegan raw foods that you can prepare yourself.
Remember there is always a vegan alternative to any dish. It’s a great way to tune in with your inner chef and expand your cooking skills while experimenting with new flavours. This also applies to quick snacks and sweets.
You may be wondering what sugar-dense items can be replaced?
Easy - peasy :)
To finish off your lunch.
Treat yourself to an energy-boosting cookie full of superfoods, or one of our Choco Bars instead of a processed chocolate bar that you bought on the go. Do you feel like having something sweet after lunch? Grab a piece of vegan chocolate or chocolate truffles. The taste is rich, creamy and delicious.
If you still crave sweets, avoid candy and opt for raisins or almonds mixed in vegan chocolate instead. Attention! We can confirm it is OK to eat a jar of chocolate spread with a spoon as long as you choose the right ones!
Choose from our range of spreads and nut butter which are delicious and do not contain refined sugars. It’s the guilt-free alternative that you can enjoy without any remorse or health repercussions?
Warning: Our spreads are known to be addictive due to their creamy texture and delicious taste!
We also encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter, where you will find even more tips and ideas on how to live a healthy (yet tasty) vegan life.
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