There was an error in this gadget

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oh the sugar shame of it all

Last weekend I had my biggest fall off the sugarfree bandwagon in over 3 months. My (adorable) nephew's birthday cake (of which I was in charge of making) was my undoing. 

Getting the cake right took 3 attempts. My first attempt didn't even require willpower. All the mixture made it to the tin. Any leftovers were scraped clean into the bin (oh I do tell I lie... I had two little munchkins at my side who licked their fair share from the beaters). But for me: no spoon licking, no taste testing, nothing. 

When cake numero uno failed however my emotions rose and my willpower dropped. By the time I'd dragged two kids to the supermarket to get yet another 3 boxes of cake mix, another thing (what is the noun for...) of butter and another half a dozen eggs, I was in no state to be strong. Cake number 2 found me having a taste test and another and another and just a little bit more.

THEN, by the time cake 3 came out (and successfully turned out of the tin) I was onto the icing. Pure icing sugar, mixed with butter, vegetable shortening and green colouring. I was slurping up slops and inhaling icing. It was messy. It was ugly. It was undignified.

But I paid for it and I paid big time. Later that night I was bloated and uncomfortably hot. I was on the verge of vomiting. 

I had a sugar hangover.

It was even more sickening to calculate that what I'd taken in over the prior 24 hours was a drop in the ocean compared to my life before #IQS (I quit sugar). In the past, that indulgence would have been forgotten as soon as I'd left home for the party. Pre IQS me would have continued the day with a glass or three of soft drink, sauce on my BBQ meat, a few man-sized handfuls of M&Ms, a snack size milky way and probably more than one slice of birthday cake (all of these things were on offer, but thankfully I avoided: apparently my willpower switch wasn't completely defunct).

Despite being very physically uncomfortable after my sugary binge, it was somewhat comforting to know that I have changed the make up of my body in someway. I've shifted the boundaries. I have cleansed my system. Rather than being complacent, my body now rejects sugar overloads.

Happy Birthday Max !

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wholesome foods pt 4: Activated Nuts

On Friday night I told my husband I was going to activate some nuts over the weekend. It was naive of me not to expect the testosterone fueled response that I got in return. Much to his disappointment, his nuts stayed unactivated, while I turned my attention to almonds, pepitas, pecans and pinenuts. 

Activating nuts is a long process (considerably longer than the activity my husband had in mind that's for sure.). First, you have to soak the nuts over night in a bowl of salted water. After they've had a night floating in their saltwater bath, the nuts are then patted dry with paper towel. Then it's into the oven, on the lowest temperature possible, for a very long time. The recipes I have found for activated nuts differ in their suggested oven time anywhere from 5 hours to 24 hours. From what I can decipher it depends on the nuts you are using. It's seems best to go by feel and by taste. (When they're done they should look, feel and taste dry).

One for almond milk, one for activated nuts

So why activate nuts? Nuts are full of enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting in dry conditions. And those enzyme inhibitors can make nuts difficult to digest (sometimes resulting in constipation, stomach cramps and bloating). Soaking nuts in salted water breaks down the enzyme inhibitors, tricking them into sprouting mode and therefore making it much easier for the body to absorb the nuts' nutrients (Still, I can't help the voices in my head telling me I've just eaten a sprouted almond... am I going to grow into a almond tree?). 

The dehydration process (The 5+++ hours in the oven) ferments the nuts and breaks down their complex carbohydrates - again aiding digestion. Dehydration differs from roasting which spoils many of the nutrients that nuts have to offer.

Almonds are a popular choice when considering activated nuts. Almonds are great for cardiovascular health, contain no cholesterol (and even have the super power of being able to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol), they support the brain and nervous system, boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Talk about wholesome!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

But whatabout keeping the Doctor away?

I'm generating a bit of conversation amongst my peers regarding my sugar free lifestyle. Most people think it's a common sense kind of approach to eating, but when the topic of fruit comes up jaws begin to drop. The notion of giving up fruit seems to shift the sugar free concept from common sense to the just blooming ridiculous. 

Before I go on, it needs to be noted that even though we use the term "sugar free," it is actually the fructose in our diet that we are trying to eliminate or reduce significantly. Sugar as we know it, is actually 50% fructose, 50% sucrose. There's a whole stack of things (and different types of sugar), like fruit, that need to be reduced/cut out/moderated when going "sugar free". I guess sugar free sounds a bit sexier than fructose free.

To be honest - I don't have a firm grasp on the different types of sugars, fructose and other 'oses. (Glucose, dextrose etc). Nor do I fully understand the chemistry behind the way they interact with the human body. But for me, I know that prior to going sugar free, fruit wasn't a huge player in my diet. (I'm more of a vegie kind of a gal). But now that I am sugar free, fruit is a lot more appealing and something I regard as a bit of a treat. 

And that is the point we aim to get to.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Going back in history (before the invention of sugar in the 1800s), humans would get their fructose intake from 1-2 small pieces of fruit each day. 150 years ago our sugar intake per year was next to 0kg, now it's a whopping 60kg per year. (Being a Ballaratian I'm sure the invention of boiled sweets like raspberry drops, now available at Sovereign Hill is largely to blame... dang they're good!)

The thing is our bodies are designed to metabolise only a small amount of fructose per day. If we were just eating 1-2 pieces of fruit, it would be ok. But nowadays we consume sugar with our breakfast cereals, snacks bars, soups, sauces, breads, dairy products etc etc etc etc. As Sarah Wilson puts it in her eBook "sugar is natural, but the amount we're exposed to isn't"."

If we eat too much fructose (i.e. more than what is in 1-2 pieces of fruit) the liver can't process it fast enough so it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them into the bloodstream as triglycerides which are then converted to body fat and can create a risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Too much fructose also bypasses the appetite-regulating hormones. So you are left feeling unsatisfied. Fats, proteins and carbs have corresponding appetite hormones which tell us when we have had too much. Fructose is the only molecule that doesn't have a a relative "off switch" in our brain. I know personally, I couldn't eat as many cubes of cheese as I could Starburst fruit chews. 

Now that I've completed the 8 week program, I've started to allow a little bit of fruit back in my diet (and foods with a less than 6g sugars per 100g). I'll have some berries (low fructose fruit) with my yoghurt, I'll have a sip of the freshly squeezed juice I make for the kids. But I'll treat it like a treat. Which is how the body is designed to have it. We quit sugar so we can have 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.

Not so blooming ridiculous hey?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

If not sugar then what?

When I tell people that I have quit sugar, it is surprising how many respond with "well, what do you eat then?". Clearly, people are aware how prevalent sugar exists in our western diets. Most are aware that sugar isn't good for us. But very few can contemplate cutting it out. Possibly due to that question alone - what would one consume if it weren't for sugar?

Carbon NYC
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

So, as boring as it may seem I thought I'd give you a bit of a snap shot of my day to day culinary delights:

Breakfast: I almost always start the morning with a lemon tea (slice of lemon in hot water). Then what used to be a breakfast of muesli, fruit and flavoured yoghurt has now been replaced with rolled oats (cooked on stove) in full cream milk, topped with natural yoghurt (I'm loving Barambah Organics at the moment) and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. I often follow this with a slice of Aussie Farmers Direct multigrain sourdough, with a smear of coconut oil. (Of which there are many, but so far my choice is Niulife - it's extra virgin, organic, unrefined and just damn tasty.)

Midmorning: As a mum of young children, mothers group morning teas, shopping centre trips and cafe stops for mental sanity are rife. So my mid morning snack would have once been anything in the field of a chia latte, hot chocolate, black tea with sugar along with a muffin, sweet slices or biscuits (NB: plural... I never stopped at one). These days, mid morning will often pass without hanger pangs. On occasion, I might grab a "Cheds" biscuit (less sugar than their first cousin the Country Cheese) with the kids  and with much gratitude, my mothers group has been retrained to put out a plate of saladas with cheese or vegemite. It doesn't showcase our 'housewifeyness' quite as well, but it does do our waistline wonders.

Lunch: Thankfully quitting sugar for me coincided with the warmer months, so it worked well with my usual lunch time salad. I make a colourful mix of spinach leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, celery, radish (give or take any number of these things) with a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, then topped with shaved turkey, danish feta and the new addition of chia seeds. (I've blogged about the benefits of these here). In the past this would have been frantically followed with chocolate, a sweet biscuit, or meringues (basically I'd rummage around for the sweetest thing in my pantry). Nowadays, it's a much more civilised (and delightfully sweet) licorice root tea. 

Mid arvo: I'm normally hungry come 4 o'clockish, so that's when I reach for a rice cake or two with a smear of almond spread. Otherwise I might have a slice or two of cheese.

Dinner: Well, like anyone, this can vary. But I avoid packaged sauces (so for example if I make a chicken parma I'll crush fresh tomatoes for the sauce). My all time love, sweet chilli sauce, has been turfed (almost 50% sugar) so pasta dishes usually have a light dressing of lemon juice and maybe some oil. I'm yet to use Tamari, but come winter time this will be the best option for my beloved stir fries. If I make a pizza, I'll use passata instead of the higher sugared tomato paste, or depending on the toppings, I might use oil or pesto. I use a lot more herbs than ever before and lemon and garlic seem to make their way into most dinner dishes I make. 

Over and above this, for Christmas I "arranged" for myself (and by "arranged" I mean that I bought it, gave it to my husband and instructed him to give it to me Christmas morning) a copy of Lee Holmes' Supercharged Foods. As a result, all of the above has been invigorated over the past week with things such as Tropical Blueberry Smoothie (a breakfast, lunch or snack option), a Green Renewal Juice and Super Seeded Bread. I'm absolutely loving the book (great present, thanks husband) as it is inspiring me to fine tune my diet even further with vitamin rich, wholesome, body loving, SUPERCHARGED foods!

So there you have it. A day in the life of my tummy. Goes to show how one can survive without sugar really quite merrily!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wholesome foods pt 3: Chia seeds

I've traded chai for chia. While the two aren't really interchangeable, Chai lattes once made a common appearance in my diet and now Chia seeds are common little lunch time buddies. 

Chia is a species of flowing plant in the mint family. It was originally grown in South America and used as food from as early as 3500BC. Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, Omega 3 and Antioxidants. They come as tiny little black or white seeds. I first picked mine up at the health food store, but have noticed them starting to make an appearance at regular supermarkets.

Chia seeds can assist in weight loss due to their tendency to expand with water, thus making you feel fuller for longer. They can balance blood sugar thus providing more constant energy.  AND because Chia seeds are a great antioxidant (which fight free radicals in your body) they work as a brilliant "age-defier" (do a I hear a whoop whoop in da house?).

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I sprinkle a tablespoon or so of white chia seeds on my salad each day. (I'm told at my local health food store, nutritionally there isn't really much difference between the black and white seeds, so it's personal preference. The little buggers do have a tendency to get stuck in your teeth like sesame seeds, so I find white a little more inconspicuous). There are stacks of recipes available for muffins, slices, dips, soups etc etc etc. They don't have a lot of flavour, so you can put them in just about anything. In fact, I'm going to sneak a tablespoon of two into the coating of our fish tonight.

Look out world: high omega 3 fish and high omega 3 chia seeds - people might start mistaking me for my daughter!