Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Wait, before you pick up the diet coke, or artificial sweetener, consider this…….

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There’s so much conflicting evidence about the benefits and drawbacks of artificial sweeteners. Large variations in results of studies both villify and praise the use of aspartame (Equal) and saccharin (sweet’n’low), and sucralose (splenda). Results from a study that will be published in Nature this week concluded that gut bacteria changed in subjects who consumed artificial sweeteners. This may lead to glucose intolerance, which may be a precursor to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. As usual, this experiment provides the foundation for important questions, rather than being conclusive, but the evidence points to good reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners as a rule. Look here for more details-

In fact, there’s an increasing amount of evidence to support minimizing sugar intake for many reasons. Weight gain may be the most obvious one, but now researchers are discovering that sugar causes an inflammatory response in many people. My blog in February of this year outlined some of the perils of consuming excessive sugar- go to So, if you have a sweet tooth like I do, think about getting your sugar from natural sources, such as from fruits and vegetables. The vast majority of fruits contain sugar- so people who should avoid sugar may need to limit fruit intake as well. Most of us will be safe with vegetables. What vegetables may satisfy that need craving for sweet? Beets, carrots, squash (especially delicata, which is wonderful this time of year) vidalia onions (caramelized is even better) and of course yams may all serve the purpose.
Here’s a tasty recipe, Pureed beets with yogurt and za’atar we made tonight that is satisfying and healthy from the Jerusalem cookbook.

2 lbs beets
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chile, seeded and finely chopped
rounded 1 cup greek no-fat yogurt
1 tbsp date syrup (can omit, use honey, or maple syrup)
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish the dish
1 tbsp za’atar ( middle eastern spice, can be found in specialty stores or formaggio shops)

garnish: optional:
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp, toasted hazelnuts, coarsely crushed
2 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 400. Wash beets and place in roasting pan. Put them in the oven and cook, uncovered until a knife slides easily into center, about an hour. Peel the beets once cool enough and cut each one into about 6 pieces, allow to cool.
2. Place beets, garlic, chile, and yogurt in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in date syrup, olive oil, za’atar, and 1 tsp salt. Season to taste.
Transfer the mixture to a flat serving plate and smooth over the plate. Garnish with scallions, hazelnuts and goat cheese and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

This recipe is very nutritionally complete- anti-oxidants, b complex vitamins, and folate from beets and scallions, probiotics from the yogurt, immunity building properties from garlic, protein from goat cheese, healthy monounsaturated fats from olive oil, and essential minerals, B complex vitamins and folate from hazelnuts. What will you do to move to natural sweet foods? Try some whole foods combinations like the recipe above- Bon appetit !

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