Sweet and Sattvic Treats

December 18, 2014    BY Shannon Sexton

Did you know that we consume our body weight in sugar every year? Our deepening love affair with sweets causes countless problems, including insulin resistance, diabetes, liver damage, and ballooning weight. As a result, many diets du jour condemn sugar and other carbs and demand that their devotees stick to a regimen that is almost completely devoid of sweets.

Ayurveda finds this approach counterproductive. According to the ancient texts, sugar is a sattvic food—it promotes purity and balance—if consumed in small quantities. And “sweet” is one of the six tastes needed for a balanced, satisfying diet. If we deny our body the sweetness it needs in moderation, we’re bound to binge later on and disrupt our equilibrium even further.

According to the ancient texts, sugar is a sattvic food—it promotes purity and balance—if consumed in small quantities.

Sweets come in many forms, some healthier than others. Store-bought, pre-packaged goods loaded with refined sugar and white flour give us minimal nourishment and a short-lived sugar high that begs to be repeated. But there are also plenty of delicious, nutritious, homemade desserts that can satisfy our need for sweets in a healthy, nourishing way. Here are a few of our favorites.

Pears with Chocolate

Ripe, succulent pears are delicious when partnered with chocolate. (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large pears, such as Bosc, Anjou, or Bartlett, peeled and halved, 
  • seeds and cores removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the pear halves, cut side up, in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Fill each half with 2 tablespoons of chocolate, then drizzle the apple cider over the fruit.
  3. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes, or until the pears are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Serve the pears warm with chocolate syrup spooned over them.

Adapted from Yogi in the Kitchen: More than 100 Enlightened, Delicious, Healthful Recipes for Body and Soul by Elaine Gavalas.

Blueberry-Couscous Cake

This is a luscious cake—dense, moist, and rich-tasting, yet fat-free. Serve it topped with unsweetened raspberry or strawberry jam or orange marmalade, thinned with a little water. It’s great the next morning for breakfast, too.

(Yields one 9-inch x 14-inch cake)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups couscous
  • 1 pint blueberries (or strawberries or raisins)

Directions:

  1. Wash the blueberries gently under cold water. Set aside on paper towels to dry.
  2. Place the apple juice, vanilla, and couscous in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir continuously, until the couscous has thickened and all the juice has been absorbed.
  3. Gently fold the blueberries into the hot couscous. Pour immediately into a 9-inch x 14-inch shallow baking pan that has been rinsed but not dried. Chill until set, about 2 hours.

From the Yoga International archives.

Fresh Fruit Compote

All of the world’s healthiest cuisines have a delicious version of fruit compote made with seasonal fruits at peak ripeness. This version makes the most of a compote’s fruity essence.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup fresh fragrant herbs (such as mint leaves, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, rose- or lemon-scented geranium leaves)
  • 5 cups peeled and cubed tropical fruit (such as pineapple, mango, papaya, kiwi, star fruit, cherimoya) or fresh fruit in season (such as sliced apples, pears, nectarines, oranges, grapes, berries) 
  • 1 ripe banana, thickly sliced

Directions:

1. Combine the water, lemon juice, and herbs in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the honey, and let steep for 30 minutes or until the liquid is flavorful. Strain the mixture, then refrigerate until cold.

2. Combine the fruit in a large bowl. Pour the honey mixture over the fruit and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, then serve.

Adapted from Yogi in the Kitchen: More than 100 Enlightened, Delicious, Healthful Recipes for Body and Soul by Elaine Gavalas.

Alternative Sweeteners

These sweeteners (available at your local health food store) contain minerals and vitamins from their original sources and are less likely than refined sugars to be processed in chemically toxic ways:

  • raw honey 
  • date sugar 
  • maple syrup 
  • sucanat 
  • rice syrup
  • barley malt 
  • stevia 
  • "all fruit” jams 
  • dehydrated cane juice (in Indian stores it is labeled as rapadura,  gur, or jaggery).

Shannon Sexton
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.