Tag Archives: chocolate

Designer sugar? Why my heart sinks.

In a bid to make foods taste just as sweet, but using less sugar, the food industry proudly presents…”designer sugar”!

What exactly makes sugar “designer” is being kept a secret – alarm bells should already be ringing right there!! – but in broad terms it means “tinkering with the shape of sugar molecules to deliver the same sweetness but with a lower amount of actual sugar“, reports The Guardian.

Nestle are spearheading the “tinkering”. Where other cheap-chocolate manufacturers have mooted making bars smaller, Nestle are looking to use a new Frankenstein sugar. We are told we can expect to be consuming the stuff as soon as 2018. Oh joy!!

I have to tell you – if you haven’t already spotted the obvious – I’m not treating this as good news.

We are emerging from a decades-long experiment with trans fats, otherwise known as “hydrogenated” fats. Creating a hydrogenated fat means binding hydrogen molecules into an oil, liquid at room temperature, to make it saturated, solid, spreadable. Hydrogen is a natural molecule. It exists as the most abundant element in our universe. So it’s surely safe? Scientists might have thought so at the time they began developing the technology, but in just a few short decades we’ve come to know it as one of the most dangerous things to have happened in food technology. So dangerous, in fact, that the American government under President Obama ordered trans/hydrogenated fats to be removed from all processed foods in just 3 years. We are now eating into that 3 year time period, and already we can see the difference. Reports published just this week, in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology, show that removing trans/hydrogenated fats from the human diet is already leading to lower rates of heart disease and strokes. Yes, trans/hydrogenated fats have been causing heart disease, strokes and more – collectively termed “cardiovascular events”. They’ve been a major contributor to the epic levels of heart disease in the developed world!

The idea that we are lurching from “tinkered with” fats to “tinkered with” sugars makes my heart sink. What have we not learned from the trans fats debacle? Do we think somehow this will be different? Apparently so! At least the technicians working on designer sugar declare it to be safe: John Coupland, professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University and president of the nonprofit Institute of Food Technologists, says: “It’s not dangerous, just not common.”  (Quote taken from the Guardian article linked above.)

Until Mr. Coupland and his colleagues shown me a plethora of long-term studies showing the health effects of human consumption of their designer sugar I will remain unconvinced by their claims of safety. The moment Nestle start selling products containing their tinkered-with-sugar-molecule will be the moment they lose my custom I’m afraid – and, as they are one of the biggest employers in my home city of York, I say that with true regret.

Let’s wind forward, and assume designer sugar does prove to be safe – having no detrimental effect on our health…

…are there other reasons to be cautious? Sadly so. We already know that other artificial sweeteners have had a detrimental effect on our health. Designer sugar is, despite its name, just another artificial sweetener. Once the tinkering scientists have changed the molecule it is no longer as nature intended, and by definition no longer a natural foodstuff.

Artificial sweeteners are now known to cause weight gain, and are increasingly linked with obesity and all its concomitant diseases. Medical research has been telling us this for several years already. Whilst they can’t actually raise blood sugar levels, chemical sweeteners have been shown in research to cause our bodies to produce insulin nonetheless, just as though we have consumed actual sugar. The problem is there is no sugar for that insulin to act upon, and we are left with excess circulating in our blood. Ask a diabetic if excess insulin is a good idea – they’ll give you an emphatic “no”.

Is designer sugar a good idea? Time may tell. But, in this rush to maintain a market share in the profit-driven food industry, time is not being allowed! Right now, my answer simply has to be, likewise, an emphatic NO!

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Your Christmas Survival Guide! (Or “How to have the most Merry, Enjoyable, Jolly Christmas ever!!”)

Survival? Seriously? Is that a word we should even associate with Christmas? What about Merry, Enjoyable, Jolly? Well that’s exactly what we’re aiming for! How to have the most Merry, Enjoyable, Jolly Christmas ever!!

Let’s get the reason why we need this guide out of the way from the outset: if you have insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), you live in a body that doesn’t deal well with sugar. That doesn’t change at Christmas. It isn’t in your best interests to pretend otherwise. Denial doesn’t change the facts – it puts you at risk. The secret to your best ever Christmas is to work with your body, not against it. Here are my 10 Top Tips to ensure a “treat” for you is the right way to treat your body!

  1. Gotta think carbs! Remember it isn’t just sugar itself that’s going to raise your blood sugar. Every bit of carbohydrate you consume will eventually add to your blood glucose levels. Any glucose that you don’t burn off will have to be stored – mainly as body fat. The wrong kind of body fat. Visceral fat. So do a deal with yourself – think about all the carby foods you might consume, and then choose just a couple of favourites to keep in and plan the rest out of your Christmas menu. There are some easy and delicious alternatives to any of the usual Christmas foods. Let’s go…
  2. Make your breakfast as carb-free as possible: you’ll possibly be indulging later, so get off to the best start. Keeping your blood sugars level at breakfast time means you’ll maintain your energy, focus and enjoyment of the rest of your day. Some of the most luxurious breakfast choices fit into this very well: think smoked salmon; scrambled eggs; poached eggs on a bed of spinach with a dollop of Hollandaise on top; kippers; a middle eastern breakfast of feta, hummus, olives, cold meats… You’ve a lot of choice to go at!
  3. Keep bread off your table – even if you’re having a soup starter. Let’s face it, bread has no place in fine dining (ask Giles Coren, food critic, who says “Lay off the bread. Bread is not a first course, it…will ruin your whole damn meal. And make you fat.” Same goes for that Yorkshire pudding by the way!
  4. There’s nothing much to argue about where a good old roast is concerned – except perhaps the amount of starchy root vegetables that find their way to your plate. Those starches will turn to sugar and your blood glucose levels will be affected! Swap out potatoes for sweet potatoes – superb roasted! Then limit carrots, parsnips and beets to just one or two pieces. rebal-ball-2016-38Go mad for the Brussels sprouts though! Cauliflower, broccoli, peas, mangetout all have a place on your festive plate. And spiced braised red cabbage – oh yum!! Just find a recipe that doesn’t call for sugar – or simply miss it out – it isn’t necessary for health or the taste of the dish. Sign up for my latest newsletter to see my favourite festive red cabbage recipe! I served turkey in this way (above) at The Blue Ball in November – it went down a treat. One of the guests rang later to say how great he felt – not sluggish or sleepy the way he normally does after a roast – lively and up for a spot of dad-dancing to boot!!
  5. OK now, pud. There is a ton of natural sugar in anything made with dried fruits, so puddefinitely choose one – or make your own – without added sugar. They’re well worth hunting out, and, again, you won’t be compromising on flavour! The same goes for Christmas cake. Sign up for my latest newsletter to see my no-added-sugar celebration cake recipe!
  6. Serve your (small piece of) pud with cream. Make it a good quality organic cream. Pouring, whipped or clotted according to your personal preference. There’s no added sugar in pure cream, so it makes a better choice compared with a sugary brandy, rum or custard sauce! For the even better option try it with a full-fat no-added-sugar organic natural yoghurt: the sharpness of the yoghurt beautifully compliments the richness of the pudding. If Christmas cake is your chosen treat a small piece of my no-added-sugar celebration cake (see above) with a piece of traditional Wensleydale cheese is the way we do it in Yorkshire!
  7. Get out!! Christmas happens outdoors too! Research has shown that going for a walk after a meal is beneficial. It helps to regulate blood sugars – by burning off some of that free glucose now roaming around your blood stream – and promotes weight loss. All good then! Make a breath of fresh air a part of your day – you’ll find kids out on their new bicycles, scooters, skateboards, skates; people walking their dogs. Maybe that could be you? 30 minutes steady or brisk walking will set you up for the rest of the day – you’ll be awake, alert, full of life for more fun and games.
  8. It’s snack time? Hmmm. Sounds like the opportunity for a carb-fest, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose nuts. Good healthy fats and plenty of protein. A handful of nuts a day has been shown to benefit blood sugar levels and be a good choice for people affected by diabetes. Why not get the ones with shells? Volunteer to be the person in charge of the nutcrackers – you’ll be nibbling rather than scoffing! 
  9. What about the chocolates? We both know you are not expecting me to give you a green light here! Unless you are into 100% chocolate of course! But assuming you are not, then find a way to keep it to just one or two. Instead of the big box of cheap choccies, why not buy a small box of something really expensive and luxurious? You’ll see every single chocolate as a treat in itself. Last year my lovely hubby bought me some amazing truffles – just 9 in a box. He couldn’t resist telling me the price! At over £2 per. truffle I savoured each and every one: just 9 chocolates lasted 4 days!
  10. Alcohol? Ditto! No authentic green light here either. Sip don’t guzzle. Wine and soda for a longer lasting smaller measure? A nip of something special rather than a bottle of something cheap? Alcohol is especially dehydrating so be sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Hydration is especially important to anyone living with diabetes, as you will already be at increased risk of dehydration as your kidneys may be working overtime to pee out excess glucose today.

You’re special, and you can make your Christmas extra special. Try something a little different and see just how well you can feel this year – and how much more that sense of well-being enhances your day!

 

Surviving Easter with diabetes?

CAdae0sWUAAm2C-In 3 days it’s finally time to rip the jewel-like tin foil off those Easter eggs to reveal the real treasure hidden inside – chocolate!

Just holding that thought evokes strong memories for me. Easter Sunday was one of my favourite days of the year: chocolate for breakfast, chocolate for lunch and chocolate for tea. With chocolate snacks in between! OK – so this is the most embarrassing admission I will probably ever make to you – one Easter Sunday my breakfast was 12, yes a whole dozen, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. Yes I did feel gross and sick afterwards, and yes I did learn a kind of lesson – temporarily until the nausea wore off of course.

So I get it. I get the urge to give in to crazy temptation. And I get the joy that too many kids will experience this weekend when they dive into their own chocolate eggs. According to one report, the average child in the UK will gobble down 8000 calories in chocolate eggs this bank holiday weekend, at an average cost of £56.00. If that is truly an annual one-off then hey – it’s Easter after all. But there is every reason to think that an obsessively unhealthy relationship with sugar is at the root of the increasing rise in health problems for our kids: tooth decay, obesity, earlier and earlier onset of Type 2 diabetes.

As an adult my attitude and behaviour this Easter Sunday will be tempered by knowing exactly what that kind of indulgence might eventually lead to – obesity, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes are the one’s relevant to my blog of course. And I will indulge…

…I will indulge in my favourite 100% cocoa drink – no sugar. I will indulge in a small amount (because a small amount is enough!) in one of my favourite 100% – no sugar – chocolate bars.

Hmmm. Can I guess what you are thinking here? Perhaps. You see there was definitely a time when I would have been very sniffy about anyone claiming to be so virtuous where chocolate is concerned. And it’s a real turn around from the person who ate the 12 chocolate eggs for breakfast one year.

But it’s a turn around I’ve had to work at. It’s my way of combining a desire for great health with my big, BIG love of chocolate. The first time I tried olives, I didn’t like them. But I wanted to like olives. So I worked at it, kept trying them, kept spitting them out, and eventually came to tolerate them. Came to like them. And came to love them!. I did the same with alcohol in my early adulthood too. The wine that tasted like vinegar gradually began to taste like nectar. Can anyone relate to this train of thought yet?

It wasn’t love at first taste with 100% chocolate either. But I persevered. Now, it’s pretty much the only chocolate that packs enough taste to satisfy my adapted taste buds! And I love discovering new brands, as you can see in my VIDEO below:

I’d love to tempt you to try it – and if you need an added motivation to acquire the taste let me share one of my favourite research findings in ages: high cocoa content dark chocolate, eaten in the right circumstances, could help you to lose weight!

Have a very happy & healthy Easter everyone!