Whole Family Wellness

Naturopathic Physician

Biomedical Approach to Special Needs

CEASE Therapy Practitioner

phone: (802) 472-9355

Offices in Hardwick, VT



By Thauna Abrin, N.D.

The holidays are here! It’s a time to celebrate the simple pleasures of life—namely, eating and spending time with your friends and family. What is normally thought of as a simple pleasure can become a harmful activity, however, if you use unhealthy ingredients to prepare your favorite holiday dishes. Some of these less healthy ingredients include simple carbohydrates and sweeteners that are high in sugar. Below you will find the facts on different types of sweeteners and carbohydrates, so that you’ll know which ingredients to use and which ones not to use. You’ll also find tips on easy ways to incorporate the healthier types of sweeteners and carbohydrates into your holiday cooking for a more nutritious holiday season.

The Glycemic Index

Every food has a glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measurement of the rate that your body’s blood glucose, or sugar, rises after eating a particular food. Foods with a low the glycemic index indicate that they do not cause your blood sugar to rise as much as other types of foods. Ideally, you want to eat and cook with ingredients that have a low glycemic index, and avoid ingredients with a high glycemic index, to maintain low blood sugar levels. This improves your immune system, and decreases your risk of developing health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, yeast infections and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Natural Sweeteners

There are two factors that determine if a sweetener is healthy, its glycemic index and nutritional content. White sugar, or sucrose, not only has one of the highest glycemic index of any sweetener, but also prevents white blood cells from fighting infection. Excessive sugar interferes with the transport of vitamin C and neutralizes the action of essential fatty acids in your body. Sugar also depletes the body of B vitamins, which are required to digest and metabolize processed sugars and carbohydrates.

Natural sweeteners, on the other hand, are rich in vitamins and minerals and are absorbed more slowly by the body than white sugar. Common types of natural sweeteners include honey, organic maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, date sugar and mixed fruit juice concentrate. Honey and maple syrup contain the highest glycemic index out of all natural sweeteners, while brown rice syrup and fruit juice concentrate contain the lowest.

Organic Versus Non-Organic

While all of these sweeteners are available in organic and non-organic forms, maple syrup and date sugar are the most important to buy in their organic form. Some non-organic maple producers use formaldehyde pellets during processing. These pellets are carcinogenic, increasing the risk of cancer. Non-organic dates often contain pesticides and sulfites, a preservative found in dried fruit that many people are allergic to.

Cooking Instructions

You can easily substitute honey and maple syrup for white sugar when cooking baked goods and desserts. Honey is better for baking bread than maple syrup. You should avoid giving honey to children under the age of one because it can transmit botulism, a type of bacteria that can cause infant fatality. Brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup have the lowest glycemic index of all natural sweeteners, but are not as versatile as honey and maple syrup. They can make cakes too hard, but work well in cookies, crisps, granola, pies and puddings. Barley malt syrup works best when it used in combination with other sweeteners (use up to 40 percent barley malt syrup and 60 percent of another natural sweetener such as honey). Barley malt syrup tastes wonderful in spice cakes, gingerbread and baked beans. Date sugar burns easily, but can be used in crisps, and as a sprinkle or topping. Mixed fruit juice concentrate (peach, pear, grape or pineapple) can be used in all baked goods and desserts, especially spice, carob and chocolate cakes.

Quantities To Use When Cooking With Natural Sweeteners


Substitute 2/3-3/4 cup of honey for 1 cup of white sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup and add 1/4 tsp. baking soda per cup of honey. Reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees F and adjust the baking time.

Organic Maple Syrup

Substitute 2/3-3/4 cup of maple syrup for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 TBSP for 1 cup of maple syrup. Add 1/4 tsp. of baking soda for 1 cup of maple syrup.

Brown Rice Syrup

Combine with another sweetener such as maple syrup for cakes. Substitute 1 1/3 cups of brown rice syrup for 1 cup of white sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/ 4 cup for 1 cup of brown rice syrup. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda for 1 cup of brown rice syrup.

Barley Malt Syrup

Substitute 1 1/3 cups of barley malt syrup for 1 cup of white sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for 1 cup of barley malt syrup. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda for 1 cup of barley malt syrup.

Date Sugar

Substitute 1 cup of date sugar for 1 cup white sugar. Add hot water to dissolved date sugar before using it in batters.

Mixed Fruit Juice Concentrate

Substitute 2/3 cup of fruit juice concentrate for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/3 cup for 1 cup of fruit juice sweetener. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda for 1 cup of fruit juice sweetener. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F and adjust the baking time.

Stevia Powder

People with diabetes should use stevia powder in baking instead of natural sweetners. Stevia can be incorporated into a recipe by dissolving 1 rounded teaspoon of stevia in 1 cup of water in place of 1 cup of white sugar.

Simple Versus Complex Carbohydrates

You can also make your holiday meals healthier by cooking with complex carbohydrates, which are unprocessed starches high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, are processed starches that convert of simple sugars in your body. The fibers found in complex carbohydrates have many health benefits, such as slowing the absorption of sugar, lowering cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Many types of flours made from complex carbohydrates are perfect for baking. These include whole wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and oat flour. Some of these flours are denser than others, so the dense and lighter flours should be mixed together so that your baked goods will rise. The lighter flours are oat, barley, and white spelt, while the heavier flours are rye, whole wheat, and spelt.

When preparing stuffing and grain dishes, use whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, roasted buckwheat (kasha), bulgur wheat, millet, and amaranth. Also include legumes such as lentils, soybeans, pinto beans, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. Limit cooking with white rice, white bread, couscous (made from semolina flour), and white flour pasta.

Be sure to include high-fiber vegetables in your holiday dishes, such as sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, squash, artichokes, beets, kale, carrots, green beans, peas and broccoli.

Other Health Tips

Stay active! Start your new year’s resolution of getting exercise before, not after, the holidays. Walking for just 30 minutes 3-4 times per week has many health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, cancer and chronic stress. Choose a type of movement that you enjoy, whether it be yoga, tai chi, biking, walking, or swimming. Go on a walk with your friends and family after eating your big holiday meals. Walking lowers your insulin levels, which prevents obesity and diabetes and heart disease.

Happy Holidays!



Create your own first aid kit to have in the home in the event that you or your children are injured. Herbal and homeopathic medicines first aid remedies are a gentle yet effective choice for acute care. These items are available at Dr. Abrin’s office or at your local health food store for $8 -10 each. Homeopathic first aid kits (10 remedies) are available at Dr. Abrin’s office for $60, an $80 value if each remedy was purchased separately.

Bites and stings (bees, wasps, spiders, mosquitos)





Scrapes (abrasions) and Cuts (lacerations)



The dosage for the above homeopathic medicines is as follows: Dissolve 2 pellets under your tongue hourly for a more serious injury, then 3-4 times daily for 3 -4 days. For a minor injury, dissolve 2 pellets under your tongue 3-4 times daily for 1-2 days. Stop taking the homeopathic medicines if your symptoms worsen for more than 3 hours or when your symptoms are relieved.

I recommend buying the following book to learn how to prescribe homeopathic medicines for acute care: Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines by Ullman & Cummins

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