Healthy Holiday Sweets for People with Dementia and for Everyone Else

It seems that people with dementia, and the elderly population in general, really love ice cream and sweets. A healthy, vital human being has between 10,000 and 15,000 taste buds. But as we age we start to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes. Simultaneously, the sense of smell begins to wane, impacting the sense of taste even more. Additionally, some medications have a tendency to deplete our sensitivity to certain tastes.

The sense of taste in people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease is more dramatically affected by the progression of the disease. The taste of sweet is the first taste we are exposed to as infants, and the last one that we enjoy as we reach the end of life. So it makes sense that as people progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease they enjoy sweets more than other foods

The problem is sugar is not a healthy food. It wreaks havoc on the immune system and blood glucose levels. Here are two healthy alternatives to white sugar.

Stevia is a South American herb that is processed into a white powder or liquid. It has been used for more than 30 years in foods in Japan. Stevia contains no calories and no carbs and is 25 to 30 times sweeter than sugar. The best thing about stevia is that it is good for you, and is much healthier than artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Stevia does not contribute to tooth decay and helps control normal blood sugar levels, making it a safe, healthy sweetener for diabetics. The one downside of stevia is that it has a unique flavor that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Stevia in available in most health food stores. You can also buy 12 different liquid stevia flavors (vanilla cream, English toffee, dark chocolate, root beer, etc.) from the Healthy Shopping Network,

In general, when substituting stevia for sugar, follow these guidelines:

1 Tsp Stevia (powered)=1 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Stevia (liquid)=1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Tsp Stevia=1 Tbsp Sugar
6 Drops liquid Stevia=1 Tbsp Sugar
A pinch of Stevia=1 Tsp sugar
2 drops liquid stevia=1 Tsp sugar

Recipes using stevia

Banana Bread
Pre-heat oven to 325°
Oil and dust a bread pan with a bit of flour

3 bananas
1-¾ cups flour (substitute gluten-free flour or almond flour, if you like)
1/4 tsp powdered stevia extract
1/2 tsp stevia concentrate
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup canola oil
1 egg
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Puree bananas in a food processor. Add the dry ingredients, and then the egg and oil. Don’t over process! Blend until the mixture is moist and evenly blended. Mix in the walnuts. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Turn out the loaf and cool on a rack.

The following two recipes are from
Rita DePuydt”s Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More! Published by Book Publishing Company

Hot Cocoa
(4 to 5 servings)
3 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp powdered stevia extract
4 to 5 cups of soymilk, coconut milk or cow’s milk
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the cocoa and stevia extract together in a medium-sized saucepan. Add about 1/2 cup of the soymilk or milk to the dry ingredients to make a paste. Gradually thin the paste with about ½ cup of the milk. Add the hone or maple syrup while bringing to a low boil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of the milk to the desired richness. Add the vanilla and return to burner until heated through.

Coconut Fig Chews

1/2 cup chopped figs
1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice or water
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup unsweetened sesame seeds
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp powdered stevia extract
2 tablespoons cashew butter
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a cookie sheet
Stew the chopped figs in the fruit juice or water for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the coconut to the pan, mix and set aside.
Grind the sesame seeds in a blender. In a mixing bowl, place the stewed figs and coconut, ground sesame seeds, salt, stevia extract, cashew butter, and flour. Mix well. Shape the cookies with your hands. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes

Coconut sugar is another healthy sweetener that can be used as a sugar replacement in all baked goods. It doesn’t taste like coconut and isn’t quite as sweet as white sugar. Coconut sugar comes from the nectar of tropical coconut palm blossoms. The sweet sap from the blossoms is boiled until it thickens and caramelizes. It is then ground into very fine crystals that are called coconut sap sugar. Substitute the same amount of coconut sugar for white sugar in your recipes.

Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index of 35. The glycemic index provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. The higher the glycemic index the faster your blood sugar levels rise.
White sugar has a glycemic index of 60 to 65. Corn syrup has a glycemic index of 100 to 115. Brown sugar has a glycemic index of 70.

Coconut sugar contains 16 of the 20 amino acids, including glutamine, which helps reduce sugar cravings. Glutamine is also important for healthy brain function. Coconut sugar is also rich in minerals and contains the vitamin B complex.

Granulated coconut sugar is available at health food stores and online.
Makes sure to look on the level to make sure it is 100% coconut sap sugar.

Enjoy your holidays and enjoy sharing your sweets made with healthy sweeteners!

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