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The Best Alternatives to Sugar

Going sugar-free or at least trying to reduce sugar intake has become a lot more popular recently – and with good reason. In the UK, the average Briton consumes the equivalent of 238 teaspoons every week, and this contributes to over-consumption of calories with no nutritional value. When sugar is processed to create white table sugar, it is robbed of any nutrients it may have carried with it in its raw state and becomes ‘empty calories’.

There is also the issue of the environmental impact of sugarcane. The huge global market for the crop has led to pollution from industrial waste, soil erosion, and habitat loss because of the production involved.

With this in mind, you may be looking to substitute sugar in your diet with some better options. We’ve rounded up a few alternatives that you can incorporate into cooking, baking and general use, as well as some recipes for each sugar substitute to get you inspired to start a sugar-free kick. What are the best recipes you know that use no processed sugar? Add them in the comments!

Honey

The Best Alternatives To Sugar | Honey

Source

While honey has a slightly higher amount of nutrients than processed sugar, it does contain more calories, so it’s best to try and use it sparingly as with any sugar supplement. However it’s also sweeter than table sugar – so you could get away with using less but still keep the same sweet flavour. If you’re looking for a milder flavour choose a lighter honey, and darker honeys have stronger flavours.

If you’re using it in baking, try and reduce the oven temperature slightly as it will caramelise quicker than ordinary sugar. One benefit however is that it will retain liquid, keeping recipes moisture for longer, leaving you with a better tasting muffin or cake.

Substitute one cup of sugar for a cup of honey, or if the recipe calls for over a cup’s equivalent, use about three-quarters of a cup of honey for every cup of sugar. These energy bars are a good place to start for a recipe where the sweetness comes entirely from honey and fruit.

Xylitol

Xylitol is another naturally present substance that can be used instead of sugar (although chemicals are added during the production process). It’s found in the fibres of fruit and veg, most commonly in cobs of corn.

With an equal sweetness to sugar it’s quite a straight forward substitute to use. When following a recipe, use the exact same amount as is called for sugar. It’s suitable for sweetening tea or coffee and using in baking – but it can’t caramelise, so don’t use it when the sugar is expected to become liquid.

It also has several health benefits – a low Glycaemic index of 7, which means it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar or insulin levels, and it is a lot kinder to teeth than your average table sugar.

Here’s a recipe for sugar free carrot cake that uses xylitol.

Coconut Sugar

The Best Alternatives To Sugar | Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar or syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of the coconut plant – and manages to retain some of the nutrients from the coconut palm (unlike the empty calories of table sugar). Although it’s high in calories just like normal sugar, it has a small amount of iron, zinc and calcium giving it slightly more nutritional value.

While it does carry some nutritional benefits unlike table sugar, these don’t outweigh the calorific content, so be mindful when you add coconut sugar or syrup to your baking or meals.

Try making some flourless brownies sweetened with coconut sugar as a first go with the sugar alternative.

Pureed Fruit

In some instances, you can switch sugar for fruit in order to up the sweetness of your dish while retaining nutritional value instead of resorting to the empty calories of table sugar. In baking, using fruit as a sugar supplement can be difficult and may require some experiments, but it can be done.

Pureed apple or banana are quite commonly used in cake or muffin recipes. Keep in mind that using pureed fruit will increase the liquid content in a recipe, so you may need to adjust other quantities to make up for this.

Banana bread is a perfect example – try reducing your usual amount of sugar in your banana bread until you are satisfied with just the natural sweetness of banana, or jump right in and try and recipe like this which contains nothing but banana for sweetness.

Maple Syrup

The Best Alternatives To Sugar | Maple Syrup

Maple syrup has a unique flavour that a lot of people enjoy specifically for its taste, as well as its sweetness. Made from the sap of maple trees, it’s a natural alternative which has its own health benefits – as long as you find actual maple syrup, and not maple flavoured high fructose corn syrup.

While it is still made up of some sugar itself, it also contains some minerals and antioxidants such as calcium, potassium and manganese. The darker syrups have higher concentrations of antioxidants than their lighter counterparts, and are more suited to baking or cooking. Lighter syrups are better to use as they are – to drizzle on pancakes, for example.

A good guide is to substitute 1 cup of white sugar for ¾ cup of maple syrup. Give sugar-free maple granola a go for a first try with cooking with maple syrup.

Stevia

Stevia is another popular alternative to sugar, with virtually no calories (whereas a teaspoon of sugar contains around 16). Some studies have shown that it can contribute to lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels in diabetics.

It’s a lot sweeter than sugar so you can use less, and is suitable for using in baking (but reduce the volume if your recipe calls for table sugar). Here’s an example of a sugar free cookie recipe using stevia.

Have you started trying to lower your processed sugar intake? What’s your favourite sugar substitute? Let us know below!

DIY Natural Skincare Recipes

DIY Natural Skincare Recipes

Are you thinking of changing up your skincare and beauty routine? Struggling to think of a present for an upcoming birthday? Or simply just fancy getting stuck into a crafty project?

Well, we’ve got the answer! We know a lot of our customers like to keep as many areas of their lives as natural as possible – whether it’s the food that they eat, using herbal remedies to support their wellbeing or even ensuring their products are as pure as possible. Therefore, we’ve made a handy guide to DIY recipes for creating your very own range of skincare and bath goodies that are made from all-natural ingredients like essential oils, honey and carrier oils like aloe vera and coconut.

DIY Natural Skin Care Recipes

We teamed up with the brilliant Laura who is the creator of Wholeheartedly Healthy to create our seven recipe cards for you to use. (Bookmark her blog if you’re interested in living a wholeheartedly healthy lifestyle – her recipes are brilliant!) Together, we created step-by-step recipe cards that show you just how easy it is to combine natural ingredients to create finished products to use to cleanse, moisturise or exfoliate your skin. They also make brilliant presents – just package your bath salts, cleanser or body scrub up into a bottle or jar (we have a range here) and decorate with ribbon.

We’ll be featuring one of our seven recipes each week, delving deeper into why the chosen ingredients are great for incorporating into a natural lifestyle. We’ll also be putting the images up on our Pinterest  – so make sure you follow us if you haven’t already to keep up to date!

Finally… If you’re feeling lazy but still want to switch your skincare routine up to incorporate more natural ingredients and less chemical nasties, we stock plenty of natural skincare and beauty brands – you can find them here!

 

 

The Benefits Of Ashwagandha

The Benefits Of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of our favourite herbs in store because it alleviates many of the symptoms of a stressful modern life. It acts as both a tonic and a sedative making it a must-have in any natural remedy collection. Whilst Ashwagandha is well-known in Ayurvedic healing many of you may know it by some of its other names like Withania Somnifera, Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. In this blog post we will introduce you to some of the most useful facts about the history, uses and precautions to consider if you’d like to add Ashwagandha to your diet.

The Benefits Of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a blend word coming from Sanskrit. The first part of the word – “ashwa” – means horse and “gandha” means smell. It was given this name for two reasons: the first being that it smells a little like a horse in its raw form and the second is that people believe it gives you the power and vitality of a horse!

How can Ashwagandha help?

There is a long list of ways in which Ashwagandha is believed to help the human body. These include:

-          It guards the immune system by acting as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant.

-          It help fights the effects of stress.

-          Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression without creating drowsiness.

-          Believed to help increase focus, memory, and reaction times so it is often used by sportsmen and women before competition.

-          Helps lower cholesterol.

-          Enhances sexual potency for both men and women.

Ways of adding Ashwagandha to your diet

If you’d like to try Ashwagandha for yourself there are a number of easy ways to add it into your diet. Probably the simplest way is by taking Ashwagandha Capsules twice a day with water.

Herbal tinctures are another great way to get your regular helping of Ashwagandha. A sensible dosage when using a tincture is 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) and it can be taken 3 times a day.

The Benefits Of Ashwagandha

To prepare a decoction, we would recommend boiling 3/4–1 1/4 teaspoons (3–6 grams) of Ashwagandha root for 15 minutes and leave to cool. You can drink up to 3 portions (750 ml) daily.

Precautions

Medical practitioners have warned against the use of Ashwagandha if:

-          You are pregnant or breast-feeding

-          Suffer from diabetes

-          You have high or low blood pressure

-          You are being treated for stomach ulcers

-          You have a thyroid disorder

You should also stop using Ashwagandha 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery as, when it is combined with anaesthesia, it may slow down your central nervous system.

If you have any questions, our team of experts are happy to help and advise you on all your personal needs and requirements.

 

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use?

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use?
It’s difficult to keep up with the latest opinions on fat. Previously health guidelines have advocated low fat diets, whereas more recently it seems like butter and full-fat dairy is back in fashion.

Regardless of trends, the majority of people would say fat is necessary in some part to maintain a healthy diet as it helps the body to absorb minerals and vitamins as well as providing energy.

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use

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When cooking, many people will turn to a form of fat to add flavour and prevent food sticking to the pan. If the issue of fat wasn’t already confusing enough, there are so many different types of cooking oils that it can be difficult to choose which one to use – whether you’re focused on the healthful properties or just on how different oils will affect your cooking.

At Baldwins, we also have plenty of options of cooking oils, but we thought we would break down a few as examples so you can better understand their properties and feel more confident when choosing which healthy fat to incorporate into your diet.

Grapeseed oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? - Meridian Grapeseed Oil

Extracted from the seeds of grapes, grapeseed oil is another good choice for cooking oil. It contains a high amount of omega 6, helping the body to burn fat, and contains antioxidants to support a healthy body from the inside out.

This oil has a high smoke point which means it can be used at high temperatures without the oil smoking and releasing toxic fumes. It if the perfect choice for general cooking, and also has a light flavour so can be used as a neutral fat in salad dressings, for example.

Sunflower oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? - Meridian Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is the vegetable oil with the highest level of polyunsaturated fat with plenty of fatty acids. This is great if you are concerned about blood pressure or heart problems. Saturated fats can also make people feel sluggish, so polyunsaturated fats are a good alternative to try as they naturally boost energy levels. It also contains vitamin E, which contributes to regenerating cells and protecting you from any skin damage while repairing scars quicker.

When it comes to cooking with sunflower oil, it has a mild flavour which is better preserved if you choose a cold-pressed and unrefined bottle. This will work very well in dressings. It also has a high smoking point so can be used for frying.

Extra virgin olive oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? - Meridian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is extremely high in monounsaturates (considered a ‘healthy fat’) and has anti-atherogenic properties (helps to avoid clogging and hardening of the arteries, lessening the risk of cardiovascular problems). It’s also packed with anxtioxidants, so it’s a great choice to incorporate into a healthy diet for a boost of goodness.

Extra virgin olive oil is probably the best type of olive oil to choose as it is extracted naturally, which makes it a better choice than the majority of ‘light’ olive oils. It also has a stronger fruitier flavour which makes it brilliant for salad dressings.

Coconut oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? - Essential Organic Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is extremely versatile – good for spreading, frying, roasting and baking, as well as using as part of a natural beauty routine! If you’re interested in incorporating coconut into your cooking oils, it contains many health benefits that should convince you.

While it counts as a saturated fat, which some may think is the ‘bad’ type of fat, its structure means it is actually made up of lauric acid – one of the same properties as breast milk. This makes it more digestible, a great source of energy and, unlike other saturated fats, it actually helps to lower cholesterol levels.

Soya oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? Clearspring Soya Oil

Soya or soybean oil contains a high level of plant sterols and fatty acids. Both of these regulate cholesterol levels as well as the Omega-3 contributing to the good health of skin and eyes, lowering inflammation and promoting cognitive function.

Soya oil isn’t the best for using with high temperatures – save it for lightly sautéing meat and veg instead of roasting or frying. It also works well in strongly flavoured recipes, as its mild taste will complement punchy spices.

Sesame oil

Which Cooking Oil Should I Use? - Meridian Sesame Oil

Another heart-healthy choice, sesame oil is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats regulates blood sugar, and polyunsaturated regulate blood pressure. It has a similar nutritional profile to olive oil, but the main difference is that sesame oil has its own unique taste which works extremely well with Asian recipes such as stir-fries.

If possible, go for cold pressed and unrefined sesame oil as both of these don’t use artificial processing methods, as well as retaining more flavour.

 

 

Natural Remedies for Muscle Cramps

With temperatures outside improving, we are beginning to dust off our athletic clothing to participate in outdoor exercise again. The Christmas hiatus means that sore, tired muscles are common at the moment but it isn’t just exercise that can cause muscle cramps: dehydration, stress and fatigue can all trigger this painful muscular condition. We’ve learnt some handy, natural techniques that we’d like to share with you for making sure you keep your body in full working order.

Natural Remedies for Muscle Cramps - Don't 'Run' yourself down!

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevebraund

Prevention is better than a cure

Stay Hydrated

Chia seeds have become very popular due to how versatile they are but it is their ability to prolong hydration that has brought them to the attention of athletes. The seeds can absorb many times their own weight in fluid making you resilient to dehydration.

Coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes as well as having the added benefit of being low in calories plus cholesterol and fat-free. Electrolytes are important in maintaining the water balance inside and outside of cells in your body.

How about combining Chia seeds and coconut water to create your own homemade energy gel? Simply leave your chia seeds to soak in the coconut water (2 parts coconut water and 1 part chai seed) for 11 hours in the refrigerator. When you come back you’ll have a great gel for rehydrating! This is a wonderful way of avoiding all the artificial colourants and flavourings that are used in the energy drinks you’d find in your local store. You could also try this great recipe for a Chia Fresca.

Bananas and dates are good sources of potassium which is essential constituent in avoiding leg cramps. They are also very handy for refuelling on the move.

What to do to alleviate cramp

Hydrate

All the factors that protect you from getting cramp also contribute to alleviating its symptoms. Replacing fluids is vitally important after exercise so you should aim to drink 500ml of water for every pound you lost during exercise.

Have a warm bath

This is probably our favourite tip: treat yourself to a long soak in a warm bath. Using Epsom bath salts can help as they contain magnesium which promotes muscle relaxation.

Vitamin E

There is some evidence to show that vitamin E is a good way of reducing night leg cramps. The easiest way to add extra vitamin E to your diet is by taking one tablet daily with food.

Stretch and massage

Massage oils can be used to relieve aches and pains. We would recommend trying Wintergreen oil to start with. Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate which is great for relieving localised pain. Any massage with oil will be good for relieving the symptoms of cramp so feel free to use whichever oil you find most relaxing. You will need to use a carrier oil to dilute your choice of essential oil if you are going to apply it directly to you skin.

Let us know which natural remedy works best for you!

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January!

After a hectic Christmas and New Year you may be feeling a little worse for wear. Many people are looking to revamp their diets after overindulging, but one specific area to consider is the health of your liver. This extremely important organ has several jobs, including processing food during digestion, eradicating toxins and helping to store essential fuel your body needs day to day – even while it’s getting a bit of a battering from alcohol during party season!

There are several ingredients and foods to look out for which help to boost the liver’s functions and act as a supportive supplement while it recovers after the festivities.

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients – Milk Thistle

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Milkthistle

Milk thistle is a Mediterranean herb that many recommend as a complementary ingredient for helping to restore and refresh the liver. Silymarin is its main component, and it works to provide an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant presence in the body.

We have a milk thistle tincture which is perfect for an easy way to incorporate the herb into your health routine. A typical dosage would be 1ml-5ml diluted in water which you can take up to three times a day.

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients – Turmeric

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Pukka Wholistic Turmeric

Turmeric is another ingredient that you can incorporate into your diet to help give your liver some support when it needs it most. It is touted in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as being hugely beneficial for digestion and calming the liver during these processes. Studies into its main component, curcumin, have shown that it helps to stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile, which the liver can then use to breakdown toxins.

You can choose to cook with turmeric powder, or an alternative is to take 1-2 a day of these Pukka turmeric extract capsules to kick-start your liver’s recovery.

 

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients – Dandelion Tea

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Clipper Dandelion Tea

Another all-natural ingredient that you can rely on to help stimulate a congested liver would be dandelion. It’s another substance that helps to ensure a proper creation of bile within the gallbladder, which makes the liver’s job even easier to promote healthy digestion. Clipper makes a lovely ‘cleansing infusion’ dandelion tea – stick a box by your kettle and you’ll feel the benefit!

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients – Green Tea

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Clipper Organic Green Tea

Another form of liquid goodness is green tea. Its health benefits is mainly down to the fact that it is rich in catechins, a type of antioxidant flavonoid. Not only do many people find that green tea in their diet improves various health issues, it has been said it is especially good for cleansing the liver. However, green tea extract, found in some supplements and weight loss pills, has shown potentially negative effects due to its extreme potency. Therefore, it’s best to stick to the tea which has a natural amount of these antioxidants – try this one by Clipper.

 

As well as individual ingredients or components, there are several other types of food that you may already be eating that benefit the liver and help it get back to its best condition. Citrus fruit, garlic, avocado, leafy greens, carrots and olive oil are all examples to pop in your shopping basket or reach for next time you’re preparing a meal.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick and easy option to cleansing your liver and promoting its functions within the body, we have specific products for this very need that are extremely easy to turn to in a pinch.

Liver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Terranova Liver SupportLiver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Renew Life Liver SupportLiver Cleansing and Boosting Ingredients to Jumpstart Your January! - Dr Stuarts Liver Detox

Terranova’s liver support complex capsules contain dandelion and turmeric which we have already mentioned as great standbys after some over-indulgence, as well as all natural ingredients including sea buckthorn and kale. Renew Life’s 30-day liver cleanse kit is another option for a more intensive liver cleanse rather than simply supplementing its functions. Finally Dr Stuart’s teas have a specific liver detox tea blend that combines milk thistle, dandelion and also the age-old remedy Centaury to ‘get it out your system’ as it says on the tin!

As always if you have any questions about our products, or want more information or advice about our herbs and oils, don’t hesitate to drop in or give us a call or email.