filly’s blog – eatstrong – sugar addict?
On Wednesday, it was this little girl’s 2nd birthday.
She is a cute little monkey, this one. Full of energy and cuddles and the shortest fuse you will ever witness when her little hands can’t do what her brain is telling her. She’s also scared of fire. Hence the freaked out face over the birthday candles in the photo above. We love our Miss Poppy girl. Love to you, Miss Poppy. Kiss. Kiss.
When birthdays come around, what do you do? Eat lots and lots of cake! It’s a Western thing. As natural as honey. But actually, there are many people in the world that don’t feel the need to celebrate their life by filling their body with life-killing substances such as refined sugar and high-fructose corn-syrup (bit of an oxymoron, hey?). When I spent some months in Ukwala, a small remote village in western Kenya, back in 2008, the locals there had no idea that you must celebrate one’s birthday with something deadly sweet. Instead, they celebrated with fish and ugali and yams and offal, giving their bodies gifts of long life.
I love cake. I won’t deny it. I love the most naughty of the kind. I’m a sweet tooth. Not that I’m using that to justify my incline to sugar. I know that I’m addicted. But I am working my way to wean myself off. And I am slowly getting there. I don’t get that afternoon urge to raid the cupboard for something sweet anymore. And I can walk past (and even down!) the confectionary isle without my mouth beginning to tingle and salivate. And when I do eat something very sugary, I am no longer desensitised to the sudden shoot of insulin that makes me a little silly and sometimes even shaky or headachy or wired so that I find it hard to sleep that night.
I think we should make a club. Sugar Anonymous anyone?
So here’s the thing. When Poppy turns two, I’m stuck between my cultural upbringing (and my closet sugar addiction) to make her a big bright lolly covered cake. Oh how she would love it! But how can I, when I love this little girl? When I know (and research supports this) that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and that it leads to obesity, diabetes, cancers, mental illnesses, and the list goes on? Would I serve my daughter up a bowlful of poison? Wouldn’t that be child abuse? But sugar is poison. Would I be abusing my child, then – not only my own body, but my child’s as well?
Agh. It hurts my head – and my heart. It is difficult and confronting when you start asking these questions.
I did make Poppy a birthday cake. A snickers cake (see recipe below).
I caved, but only a little. The cake was made with medjool dates and a little bit of raw honey, as well as cashews and coconut oil and raw cacao. A healthier version, yes, but admittedly not as healthy as fish and yams and offal…hmmm, maybe next year? Offal cake anyone?
I have cut back significantly on making sweets. I eat nuts instead, or some fruit and homemade yogurt, or a hot carob drink, or a big spoonful of coconut oil. There are four sugar alternatives, however, that I use when I want to make a sweet treat. I either opt for natural whole food or fructose-free alternatives. These include (in order of preference):
Raw honey may be high in fructose (about 50%), but it is more than just a sugar. In it’s natural state (aka RAW), raw honey contains compounds that reduce the insulin response, so that fructose doesn’t have the same impact. It also stabilises blood sugar levels. In addition, raw honey contains a ton of wonderful, healthful minerals, enzymes, amino acids and vitamins. Humans have consumed raw honey for thousands of years, even back in the primal caveman days. In saying this, however, honey was difficult to acquire back then, which meant raw honey was eaten sparingly.
What does this mean for us? Raw honey’s a healthful wholefood, but only in small amounts (i.e. 1 tsp. a day, as long as you’re not having other wholefoods with lots of fructose in it as well).
I purchase my raw honey from a lovely beekeeper in Devonport. His business is Bees Knees Honey, and his raw honey is the yummiest and cheapest I have come across. A 1.5 kg tub of raw honey is $9 (if my memory serves me correctly!). He sells his honey from home, and has a few different varieties such as Leatherwood, Meadow and Blueberry. You can contact him on 6424 3538.
For more info on raw honey, check out Primal enthusiast Mark Sisson’s article.
I came across rice-malt syrup through Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar fructose-free program. Sarah advocates a fructose-free diet (with the exception of some low fructose fruits such as berries and lemon), and uses a range of fructose-free sugar alternatives. Rice-malt syrup is one of them. It’s made from fermented rice and it’s a complex carbohydrate blend of glucose and maltose, which is slow releasing. As such, it doesn’t have the addictive nature that fructose foods have, nor does it store fat or make us sick.
I use organic Pure Harvest rice-malt syrup, which you can buy from Coles in the health food section. It’s not very expensive. I think about $7.50 a kg. And it’s fairly sweet, so you don’t use much in recipes.
However, since I started my clean eating journey over a year ago, I’ve become stricter in eating more natural, wholefoods. I’ve started using rice-malt syrup less as it has been processed to some extent to turn it from rice to liquid in a jar.
Sarah Wilson from I Quit Sugar also advocates stevia, as it contains no fructose. Stevia appears to be better than rice-malt syrup, as it is derived from a leaf, and thus is more natural. It’s super duper sweet – 300 times sweeter than sugar – so you only need to use really small amounts. You have to be careful what brand of stevia you buy, however, as some have been processed.
I don’t use stevia all that often as it is fairly pricey, and also has a bit of an odd taste. But if you like the taste and want to spend the $$ than stevia might work for you.
You can read more on the benefits of fructose-free sugar alternatives here.
I love dates. But they’re last on my list of sugar alternatives in terms of the ‘healthiest’. They are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, but they are also 40% or so in fructose and don’t seem to have the healthful benefits that raw honey has. Plus, you have to use quite a lot of dates in a recipe (like 1 or 2 cups), as opposed to one or two tablespoons of honey. I try not to use dates very often, unless it’s a special occasion…ahem…like a birthday (see, I’m trying to justify my sugar addiction again!).
What I’m slowly coming to terms with in regards to sweet things is that less is best – and none is optimal. It’s better to bite those sugar cravings in the bud once and for all and not to tease them out with sweet alternatives. I’m certainly not at the ‘none’ stage, but we do have less (natural) sweet stuff in the home. However when I’m out at a function or at a someone’s place for dinner, I don’t deprive myself of that piece of mud cake of Pavlova. Indulging a little every now and then (meaning, like once a week) makes this way of eating sustainable for me at the present. Hopefully in the future ‘indulging’ will become non-existent, but for now, that’s where I’m at. And I’m ok with that.
Back to Poppy’s birthday.
So Poppy and Daddy and I did enjoy Poppy’s snickers cake. It was yummo, and I didn’t feel bad letting Poppy gobble down a nice-sized piece. However Grandma’s that night was a different story when we went over to celebrate Poppy’s birthday with the cousins. A big banana and walnut cake, full with refined flour and sugar, was waiting for us. (And yes, Poppy is still unsure about those candle flames, the poor dear). And my, that cake was also delicious. Luckily poppy only played with the cream cheese icing. I, on the other hand, may have had a slice (or two!). But I tell you what, I had the sorest gut that night and couldn’t get to sleep, and vowed never to eat refined sugar or flour again. Perhaps that was the day!
Sugar Anonymous anyone?
Poppy’s Snickers Cake
Recipe modified from Wholefood Simply, Simple Snickers recipe.
1.5 cups medjool dates, seeds removed
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 5 hours
½ tsp. natural vanilla extract
Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
¼ cup raw cashews
Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
½ cup coconut oil
4 tbsp. raw cacao
2 tbsp. raw honey
- Place base ingredients in your thermomix (or food processor) and blend on speed 9 for 30sec, or until smooth and well combined.
- Press mixture into a greased slice tin and place in the fridge
- Place ¼ cup cashews and salt in your thermomix and chop for 3 sec on speed 5. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- Combine the rest of the topping ingredients in the thermomix on speed 9 for 30 sec to make a smooth chocolate. Mix in the reserved cashews.
- Spread the chocolate over the base layer and return to the fridge for several hours.