Earlier this week I was helping my daughter do a paper for school. The subject was sugar and other sweeteners. The timing was great because my recipe for this week is a Paleo Caramel which while not using high fructose corn syrup, does use honey and/or maple syrup. I’ll have more on this later. OK, so my daughter had to come up with an argument as to why sugar should be banned and then a counter argument why it shouldn’t. From the reading materials she had from school she had already come up with plenty of arguments as to why it should be banned and was looking for help from me as to why it shouldn’t. Her arguments for banning it were pretty convincing (diabetes, heart disease, death) and I was having a hard time helping her with why it shouldn’t. My first answer, without really thinking, was that nobody should tell responsible people what they should and shouldn’t put in their bodies. Of course this could have opened up a huge discussion to which we would have never finished her homework, but luckily she is a 13 year old who just wanted to finish her assignment.
With that potential discussion safely put on hold for at least a couple more years (hopefully), I set upon my iPad mini to google some information to help her out. The first thing I found was a quote about sugar consumption in the U.S. In 1822 Americans consumed 45 grams of sugar every five days. That is the amount of sugar in one can of coke. In 2012 Americans consumed 756 grams of sugar every five days, or 130 POUNDS of sugar a year! Heart disease and Type II diabetes has risen with it. (Statistics show that meat and fat are NOT responsible for an increase in heart disease. So, “responsible” is kind of a moot point since we don’t seem to be very responsible as a whole. ONE THIRD of the nation is obese! I’m not going to get into the details of the article, but I encourage you to read it here: Why Sugar is The Worst Thing Ever For You. Seriously. Ever. Another great resource is from Mark Sisson’s blog. He looks at sugar in detail here: The Definitive Guide to Sugar
So, back to why sugar should not be banned. The first thing I came away with after reading the above articles is that sugar is a very broad term. On a chemical level we have simple sugars or monosaccharides like glucose (which we burn for energy), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose and complex or disaccharides like sucrose (table sugar), maltose and lactose (milk sugar). Sugar comes from MANY natural and processed sources: fruit, honey, cane, beats, and syrup just to name a few. So number one, how can we ban glucose if we need it for energy and how can we ban fruit. (Fat can be used for energy as well and has been for millions of years.) After all, fruit is good for you right? Read the articles above and make your own decision on that. So should we just ban processed sugar? The reasons my daughter put in her paper to not ban sugar was that it is probably safe in small quantities and when used responsibly adds to the enjoyment of life. I use it mainly for the latter and in doing so get more than I need for energy.
So why the long post about sugar? It’s my lead in to a sugary (honey based) recipe. I had to give you the warnings before I gave you a recipe that could lead to diabetes, heart disease and death.
- Honey – Is Winnie the Pooh onto something here? Is honey a better alternative than regular sugar? The appeal of honey is that it’s not just fructose or glucose, but a mixture of all sorts of compounds, minerals, and more. A study comparing honey to various types of compounds resulted in good results for the sticky stuff: “Overall, honey improved blood lipids, lowered inflammatory markers, and had minimal effect on blood glucose levels.” Along with that, honey resulted in a lower blood glucose spike in rats compared to other types of sugar.
Remember, I’m not giving you this recipe because it is healthy. It is, however, less unhealthy than the caramel sauce you would get from the store and may even have some health benefits as noted above. But most of all it will make you happy because it tastes so good and after all, happiness will help your quality of life.
Yields about 1 cup of caramel
1 can full-fat coconut milk
½ cup / 6 oz / 170 gr raw organic raw honey or maple syrup (if using honey pick one with a mild taste)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or ghee or butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large saucepan with a thick bottom combine coconut milk, honey (or maple syrup) and salt.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and let reduce for about 40 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add coconut oil (or butter), vanilla and cook for another 5 minutes until it reaches a deep caramel color.
Don’t rush it. The process could be faster or slower, depending on how hot your burner is.
Stir every so often towards the end, to keep the bottom from burning too much. A little burning is okay but you need to stir it into the mixture (it will also give the caramel a darker flavor).
Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool for about 5 minutes, then stir vigorously until smooth and glossy.
Use coconut caramel while still warm for best spreading results. Caramel sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated in a double boiler (or briefly in the microwave.)
You can also eat it by the spoonful, just be careful not to burn your tongue.
One tablespoon yields 88 calories, 6 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs and 0.4 grams of protein.