The Halloween sugar onslaught is upon us. Why has this refined, de-natured sweetener taken control of the standard American diet? Not only is beet/cane sugar inexpensive, it also places the power in the hands of corporations. In addition, the sweet flavor is the primary human craving. It stimulates the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

Chronic stress, hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, when we consume sugars and simple carbohydrates, they release a short burst of serotonin. We feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state and crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates.

Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are tired or sad, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs energy. This signal causes a sugar or carbohydrate craving.

The problem comes not when we indulge in a sweet treat occasionally, but when we overconsume. This is easy to do when sugar is added to many processed foods, including breads, yogurt, juices, and sauces.

Americans average about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.

Instead of candy, I like to distribute granola bars and applesauce cups at Halloween because they are packaged. I also substitute maple syrup for beet/cane sugar. Whether you have the opportunity to hand out home-made treats or prepare some for yourself, I encourage you to try these recipes.

Granola Bars

You will need:

  • 1⁄2 cup dried, unsweetened dates, raisins, apricots (choose any combination of these)
  • 1⁄2 cup walnuts, pecans, almonds (choose any combination of these) – toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut butter or a combination of these)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Instructions:

  1. Boil 2 cups water. As water boils, coarsely chop all dried fruit and place it in a small mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over fruit. Soak for 15 minutes and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, mix maple syrup, nut butter, coconut, cinnamon, salt and oats in a medium mixing bowl. Chop walnuts/almonds and pumpkin seeds.
  3. Toast all seeds and nuts. Add to mixing bowl and mix together.
  4. Add soaked dried fruit to the above ingredients.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Oil a glass baking dish with sunflower oil: 7×11′′ is a good size.
  7. Press the mixture flat into the dish with a spatula.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  9. Slice into squares and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Winter Squash Bread

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup millet flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and nutmeg
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1⁄4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 cup steamed, mashed winter squash (I like acorn or buttercup)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease 8 or 9 inch pan with sunflower oil.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together.
  4. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center tests

The Healing Properties of The Ingredients

Almonds: high in monounsaturated fat, which promotes heart health, helps reduce LDL cholesterol, and aids in carbohydrate metabolism, thus contributing to weight loss; contain flavoproteins to balance blood sugar and improve energy levels.

Cinnamon: its anti-microbial activity stops the development of cold and flu viruses and bacteria. The active components in its essential oils warm the body and balance blood sugar.

Sunflower oil: this polyunsaturated oil is rich in vitamin E, which stimulates the liver rejuvenation and aids in nutrient absorption; its high magnesium content soothes nerves and muscles, acts as a diuretic to counter-act water retention, and lubricates the digestive system to aid elimination.

Winter squash: high in omega 3 essential fatty acids to tonify the internal organs and strengthen immunity; rich in carotenoids and omega-3s, whose anti-oxidant content offers anti-inflammatory support; high in vitamin C to boost immunity; rich in B vitamins to reduce stress.

Oats: high in fiber to lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease; ease digestive stress and support healthy transit time; enhance immune response to infection and stabilize blood sugar; calm and soothe the nervous system to alleviate mild depression.

Writer Lisa Mase is a culinary medicine coach, food writer, translator, and ​folk ​herbalist living in Vermont.​ For articles and recipes, visit Lisa at www.harmonizedcookery.com.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.