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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Bars

I really wanted to try Elana’s Pantry Pumpkin Bar recipe. So, I decided to make a batch last night. They are super, super easy to make. All I used was my food processor which limited the dirty dish factor and made me happy!

The original recipe called for ½ c agave nectar but I often find that much agave makes things much sweeter than I want. I really like the taste of food and don’t want it to be overly sweet. So instead I substituted with a little less than 1/4c pure organic maple syrup. I also substituted 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice for the spices. I loved it! They weren’t too sweet and were perfect for a rainy fall evening.

Pumpkin Bar

Pumpkin Bars
½ cup pumpkin pure
¼ cup pure maple syrup (I actually used a little less than a ¼ c)
2 eggs
1 cup blanched almond flour
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In a food processor , combine pumpkin, maple syrup and eggs and pulse for 2 minutes
Pulse dry ingredients into wet for a full minute, until well combined
Pour batter into a greased 8x8 baking dish
Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes

The great agave debate ..

So I was wondering, which is better? Agave or pure maple syrup (make sure you check the label on the maple syrup! Otherwise there might be some surprise ingredients!)? At the end of the day it might not matter a whole lot. After all, sugar is sugar no matter what it looks like! I decided a little research was in order. But don’t get me wrong! I’m not an agave or syrup hater! I use both because I love to bake and love baked goods. I try to stay as primal/paleo as possible, but cakes, cookies, and other baked creations are just not something I can get away from. But, obviously, I don’t eat that kind of food everyday, just on occasion as a treat! The three sugars I use are raw honey, raw agave nectar and pure maple syrup.

I found an article in Organic Lifestyle Magazine that had a breakdown of “healthy” sugars. I’ve never used stevia but have had natural gum with xylitol in it and it wasn’t bad.

Stevia – GI: 0 - Best Healthy Sugar Alternative
Though it is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia is not a sugar. Unlike other popular sweeteners, it has a glycemic index rating of less than 1 and therefore does not feed candida (yeast) or cause any of the numerous other problems associated with sugar consumption. Read more about stevia at Organic Lifestyle Magazine (OLM). Please note that Stevia and Truvia are not the same thing.

Xylitol – GI: 7 - Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol sweetener found in the fibers of fruits and vegetables which can cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption. It's said to be safe for pregnant women, and is said to possibly treat ear infections, osteoposis, respiratory infections, candida, and is it even helps fight cavities. In fact, in Finland, virtually all chewing gum is sweetened with xylitol.

Agave – GI: 15-30 - A sweet syrup made from the Blue Agave plant, Agave Nectar is obtained by the extraction and purification of "sap" from the agave plant, which is broken down by natural enzymes into the monosaccharides (simple sugars): mainly fructose (70-75%) and dextrose (20-26%). Read more about agave nectar at OLM.

Raw Honey – GI: 30 - A Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation
With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, raw, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many alternative health care practitioners and a remedy for many health ailments. Choose your honey wisely. There is nothing beneficial about processed honey. Read more about honey at OLM.

Maple Syrup – GI: 54 - Maple syrup is made by boiling sap collected from natural growth maple trees during March & April. It is refined sap and is therefore processed. It has a high glycemic index, and though it is much more nutritious then refined table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, there are better choices.

But it seems the reason Agave is so low on the glycemic index is because the index tests the glucose in food. Agave only has about 10% glucose which means the rest of it is made up from fructose, which is not good. A great article entitled “Agave Nectar Worse Than We Thought” has a lot of information on the agave debate and says:

“In spite of manufacturers’ claims, agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules. Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites. (One agave manufacturer claims that his product is made with “natural” enzymes.) That’s right, the refined fructose in agave nectar is much more concentrated than the fructose in HFCS. For comparison, the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas is 55 percent refined fructose. (A natural agave product does exist in Mexico, a molasses type of syrup from concentrated plant nectar, but availability is limited and it is expensive to produce.)”

In essence, the hubs was right (there, I said it) all along about Agave, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be and I’m sad about it. I don’t think I’ll be buying any more agave and will use what I have in extreme moderation (it was expensive! I don’t want to just throw it away). I’m still not an agave hater, just an agave skeptic and I’m going to try to limit my intake of it.

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