11 October 2011

super easy brownies :: day 11 :: sugarfree


My sometimes friend, Anonymous, popped in to say hi earlier and asked about rapadura and other sugars. Although, I suspect Anonymous knows a thing or two about it already and may have been having a dig... Anonymous can get like that sometimes. Anyhow, it's a valid question. We claim to be going sugarfree, here. I suspect Anonymous may have missed my first sugarfree post, and other posts of mine on rapadura. So I'll have another go at clarifying this particular sugarfree journey.

We have removed all REFINED sugar from our diet. When cane sugar is refined, every nutrient, vitamin and mineral is stripped away until all you are left with is a product that is sweet and cheap. And highly addictive. And in EVERYTHING. Even most savoury food contains it. There is a reason for this. Peeps love sweet. Breastmilk is sweet. Fruits and berries that are ok for us to eat (not poisonous) are sweet. Its programmed into our DNA to love a little bit of sweet. It's not programmed into us to love the refined stuff though. So where we're at now with refined food sees us consuming sweet stuff that's just no good for us. Fructose is also not so super good for us. High fructose corn syrup is really not great and is often in foods that refined cane sugar is not. And even ones that it is. We choose to avoid that too.

Photo A pre-sugarfree afternoon tea... hold the green spider!

So, what sweeteners do we allow ourselves, and why? On our list are honey, maple syrup and rapadura. At a pinch, we might use agave or concentrated fruit juice for a special occasion, if a recipe calls for it - although I prefer not to due to the super high fructose levels.  The reason we choose these products is because they are natural sugars, whole foods, or much closer to wholefood products than a highly refined product. They retain the minerals and vitamins and can actually be quite nutritive. Rapadura is dehydrated cane sugar juice. It hasn't gone through  huge refining or extraction process. Used in India for thousands of years, it keeps all its good stuff, is low GI and tastes good. We use it sparingly and find no negative body reaction in doing so. Honey (preferably raw) and maple syrup are similarly more of a whole food, so much better for us. We eat fruits with gay abandon too because we love fruit.

The reason why we choose to consume them at this point is because we are aiming to eat a healthier, whole food diet.  One that doesn't involve deprivation and seriously sad owlets. And a similarly sad Huz who would previously have eaten about 1kg of sugary food per day just to get through. We'd like this to be a lasting thing, so its baby steps. I also find that if we limit ourselves to natural sugars, we end up eating less sugar overall because its more of a hassle to prepare it. We have to make sweet treats, rather than buy a packet of bikkies. So we think it through more. And hey, everything in moderation... This approach may not be the ideal of everyone. There are loads of authorities on the subject who will tell you all sugar is evil. Or that some sweeteners are better than the ones we've chosen (and we may try others in the future). For us, a little bit of the right kind of natural sweeteners is having a huge effect. Huz's orb, for one, but in my own body I've noticed yeast infections disappear and hormones balance out. This moderate approach is one that suits our family well and maintains a balance.

Photo Lunchtime at ours these days...

So in going sugar free (or our definition of it), we removed all refined sugar and products containing it, from our house. Gradually using them up, or just throwing them all out at once this latest time. Then comes the healthy shop. Being conscious about our food choices. Feeling good about them. Then cooking. Staples at first and on occasion, a treat. Sweet treats through the day consist of fruit, fresh or dried. Usually with nuts too. A friend of ours put us onto hazelnut butter, which is a winner for cravings and dips in blood sugar level. Then about once or twice a week, we might have something home baked, containing one of the natural sweeteners mentioned above. I mostly fiddle with old favourite recipes, substituting where possible. Rapadura can dry things out a smidge, so a dash of maple syrup or honey can balance things out.

With that in mind, here's Sunday night's dessert. An old fave I've modified. Not the best brownies ever, but easy and super chocolatey when there's no actual chocolate in the house. My sister and I used to make this one after school and sometimes we even baked it...

Super Easy Brownies

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees, then melt...
125g butter, with...
1/2 cup cocoa, in a saucepan...
Add 1 cup of rapadura (I added less because it's quite sweet!)
and two beaten eggs.
Add 1tsp vanilla essence or maple syrup.
Add some walnuts if you like (we don't)
Add 3/4 cup of wholemeal SR flour
Add 1 pinch salt

Mix together in the pot, then put in a small baking tray. I use a square cake tin. Then bake for 25-30 mins. Eat warm and gooey, with cream.


We've found the following resources helpful in researching the kinds of natural sweeteners we've chosen...
Sweet Sustenance by Joanne Hay
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
My Years Without Sugar Blog


  1. good on you for having the patience to answer anonymous. I got a whole heap of flack from relatives about going sugar free (in the same way you have ), and I just thought to myself "thats it", I am going to start a new blog and not tell them about it. I am just too lazy to bother backing up my choices with links and references for them.
    The best one was "I am 85 and been eating sugar my whole life and there is nothing wrong with me". I am so OVER having to explain my choices that Ive made by REASEARCHING! Maybe people think unschooling means uneducated...sigh with frustration!

  2. You have more patience than I to answer Anonymous! It was a good explanation of the difference in these things in general though. :)Thank you!

  3. Anonymouses suck. And usually have only half the story.

    Meanwhile, I'm making these brownies :-)

  4. I did the sugar-free thing in the same way. At the point I did it agave was the great new thing so I used a fair bit of agave before discovering it wasn't that wonderful, so for a time I was exclusively using honey and maple syrup. It got VERY expensive. I felt guilty about the food miles in maple so honey became my staple... but I wanted to bake cookies! So I decided to give rapadura a go. I am not refined-sugar free anymore but will go for honey, coconut sugar and rapadura over refined sugars in my homebaked food. I'm aiming to decrease my dependence on sugar again, as I too feel so much better without the refined stuff!

  5. Have you looked into coconut sugar? I've tried some & it's similar in taste & texture to rapadura and low GI :) Basically, coconut flower bud sap is boiled down until it turns into a thick syrup at 115C which crystallises as it cools & is then air dried before packaging.

    We've also got a stevia plant in the garden which is good for a nibble ;)

  6. A really interesting read, thanks! We are putting more thought into our diet at the moment and I am definitely interested in adapting homebaking recipes to make them more healthy.

  7. I prefer your approach to the sweet poison approach :)

  8. I can't wait to try your recipe. We have been using rapadura for years...but where I live now it isn't available, which means ordering it over the internet and waiting for the ship to come! Makes it extra special when it gets here (so hope to make brownies in a few weeks). We are up to Day 8 of sugar free and it's awesome - thanks again for the inspiration to tackle sugar head on!

  9. Anonymous people are always pains. Hopefully they understand a bit better now!

    We do the totally no-fructose thing (so no rapadura, honey etc.), but I reckon at the end of the day you've got to do what's right for you! AND you're all feeling better from doing it this way, so it must be working!


  10. Anonymous. What a great friend he is to all! Bless you for having the patience to answer A =)

    Thanks for the brief education on rapadura. I wasn't aware it was low on the GI list, so I wonder if my hubby (who is Type 1 diabetic) would be able to consume that without it raising his blood sugar. Something we will look into.

  11. Nice summary. I made some cupcakes with honey and they were actually nicer than sugar, and cheaper than rapadura (local supplier). Then again, I have baked about 10 times in my life, so it isn't really a huge consideration. Though I've been making almond milk, and having to make these cupcakes just to use up the meal! The irony, healthy milk diversity = more sweet treats :/

  12. That post has just made me ridiculously hungry!! :P

  13. It's so great travelling this sugar-free journey with others. Even if we do all do it a little differently, making different choices to each other. It's that thing of understanding and being understood - it is good. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about your little family's journey.

    Sel xxx


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