Wednesday, 14 November 2012

And on that bombshell...

Well I told you it was going to be bad news. And you could have guessed that anyway. I hope you found the summary of The Bitter Truth interesting - I was certainly engrossed in every detail and it really blew my mind to be honest. There was a lot of chemistry involved but, unlike at school, I was seriously interested in the results of the lesson, and that had me hooked. For a sleep deprived, breast-feeding, grieving mother of two small children, I think working through all that information makes me brilliant and amazing.

But there's a lot to talk about. For today, let's see if we can look at the questions you have raised, and the questions that have come to my mind as well, and next time we'll look at where to from here.

Honey - Oh dear. Well I've learnt that honey is high in fructose and higher in calories that white sugar. But it's just so hard to believe it's not better for you. I feel like I want to keep working on it until I find some better news. I know it has vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, but that doesn't improve the fructose and calorie levels. What about Lustig's comment, "When God made the poison He packaged it with the antidote"? I thought the answer was going to be that there is fibre in honey - but there is just 0.2 grams per 100grams. Perhaps it's better if we eat it on a nice fibre-y bread? Despite the bad news on honey, I think I will still be passing it firmly to my son when he asks for honey or jam (if I can't convince him to have something else).

Fibre - Actually, I'm not joking about the fibre. Lustig says to get more fibre in our diets to reduce the effects of fructose. Perhaps if we really want to bake some good old-fashioned sugary chocolate chip cookies, we should throw in a good dose of oats. Not only are oats better for us than the white flour they are substituting, they'll help reduce the effects of the fructose. I'm not sure that it makes eating three chocolate chip cookies per day suddenly OK, but if we're going to have one anyway, we may as well make a small improvement. Perhaps we'll look in to this a bit more, it would be good to know how much fibre really makes a difference

Fruit juice - we don't have fruit juice in the house so this is a bit of a non-issue for me. If it's around and my 3 yr old son shows an interest, I'll slop some in to a glass of water for him and I'm happy with that. I can see that some of you are conscious of the fact that your kids like to drink juice regularly. If you want to try and reduce their intake, you may like to look in to sugar levels of the different options available or you may be able to work on some fun and creative alternatives.  I'd love you to share your ideas here, but I won't be doing any research on it myself.
I have to tell you - I realised yesterday at breakfast - that I do still have some juice in the house. I have an old fashioned "lemonade" (not a fizzy one) that I have a tiny glassful of at breakfast. There's something about the strong, tangy, turn-your-mouth-inside-out hit that I love after my last bite of breakfast. It's not going anywhere for now.

Sugar in packaged/savoury foods - we've focused alot on baking because I have been looking at sugar alternatives, rather than sugar... removal, shall we say. Yes, there certainly is sugar in all kinds of savoury items that we pick up at the supermarket. Whether avoiding these is a) something we are willing to attempt and b) an effective way of significantly reducing our fructose intake, I don't know. I am keen to follow this up in some way, so there will be further posts about it, though I would love your help and input if you are interested. It may involve some serious label reading and calculations, though surely someone somewhere on the internet has already done it all for us?
May I suggest that unless you have previously given this whole sugar thing some serious thought, you and your family are probably consuming a lot more than you think you are. Speaking of which:

Dried fruit - dried fruit is extremely high in sugar, higher than fresh fruit. If you want to know more you can have a read online - a quick google search got me some interesting info, have a look here and scroll down to the questions in blue font.

Mind your Ps and Qs - Despite being the bearer of bad news I have not apologised for it (though I very nearly did in the paragraph above Hannah!), as I think it is *fantastic* to have this information and understanding. How great to have this knowledge, and the ability to make some changes. In return I ask you to not apologise to me if there are some foods that you just can't give up. Any choices you make are for you and your family, not for me! It will be awesome though, to travel this journey with some of you and to give and receive support.

Men - Emma from Craving Fresh has been doing work on removing sugar from her diet and educating her readers, and she is setting her sights way above mine. Her blog is well worth a look, and you may be particularly interested in her summary of a book called Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. It is explained here that women's oestrogen, much like fibre, helps to protect them from the artery clogging effects of fructose. Sugar eating women send the fat to their hips, sugar eating men send the fat to their arteries. Sit up and take notice men - this sugar-reducing thing is not a bunch of women trying to make themselves look skinnier. Don't leave your wife and children behind after a heart attack in your 40s because you couldn't resist pudding.

What about, well, everything else? - Obviously there are a myriad of things to consider when looking at what we eat, and I'm not planning to cover them all at The Cook's Sponge. I must, however, give a nod to the concept of GI (Glycaemic Index) which you can read a bit about here. Fructose, though bad for us as we have read, is low GI. Glucose, though a crucial part of life, is high GI. It may be hard to find sugar alternatives that are low in fructose and also low GI. If low GI is important to you, keep this in mind. And I am aware that if you have other dietary considerations you will need to mold our ideas here around those. Feel free to share how that is working.

Moderation - I don't go with the concept of everything in moderation. At least, not if that translates in to, "everything is good in moderation." My view is that sugar (other than in fruit) is all bad, and that we would be better off without any of it at all. But I like to eat it and it's hard not to. So I will continue to, but at a reduced rate. I am yet to work out what I think is an acceptable amount for me and my family, or what my ultimate aim is. I'm the one doing the research and delivering it to you, but I sure ain't gonna be setting the gold standard. You should see what I had at a cafe this morning (actually, it was fairly normal, but with all my new knowledge that made it even worse, both because of what I ate, and because it was so normal).

It should be fairly clear to you long-term Cook's Sponge readers that I am pretty fond of baking too, both the making and the eating. I think I am finding some good ways around this with some great sugar alternatives, and I'll do all I can to let us have our cake and eat it too.

Next on this topic we'll look at where to go from here. In the meantime it might be time for a few pretty pictures and a recipe or two. And I should probably pay some bills and do some dishes and pay some attention to my kids.

A couple of you have mentioned some further possible sugar alternatives. Thank you - I'll write about them shortly.

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  1. I've never met you, but I think it is pretty safe to say that you are both brilliant and amazing, for very many reasons.

    I like the idea of adding oats to baking to increase the fibre content - I've been doing that with fruit crumbles for a while now (not for any virtuous reason, just because I like the taste) and I'm sure it could work with cookies etc.

    I had a look at different apple juices when I last did my shopping and noticed that the fresh, pressed, cloudier 100% juice had more sugar and more calories than the made-from-concentrate stuff that I'd always assumed was "worse". I'm not sure where that takes me. Still thinking.

    Without wishing to sound like a broken record, I tried Sweet Freedom on our breakfast toast this morning and my son didn't seem to notice or complain. Will definitely be steering him in that direction rather than jam in future (though like you, I am struggling to believe that honey is *really* bad for us!)

    Otherwise, my only thought has been to try experimenting with lower quantities of less-refined sugar in my baking. I tried making some coconut cupcakes with demerera rather than caster sugar yesterday, for example, and they tasted just fine. Not sure whether the refining process does anything to the fructose content, though, so this may just be a distraction from the real issue. I feel some googling coming on...

    Thanks, again, for prompting the reflection and forcing some conscious decision making.

  2. Yes the fructose levels remain the same in sugar no matter how highly processed - or not - it is. You do get more vitamins and minerals in the less processed sugar, but I'm not convinced that it makes it a much better option for us given the fructose issues, not would it be a very effective way to consume vitamins and minerals I don't imagine!

  3. I frequently (yes, frequently...) bake choc chip bikkies with oats in them - on the basis that not only does it give them some redeeming feature but it makes the mixture go further, therefore...more bikkies!!! Plus I have a recipe from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld which throws chick peas into C.C.B. She uses them whole but that's just a bit weird for me so I mash them and they make a moist, soft and, yes, delicious treat! I think I left that book in NZ... :(

  4. Have you read this page on Craving Fresh? Feeling hopeful about honey :-)

    1. Yes that's very interesting. We can't deny the fructose and calories it contains, but perhaps they are worth consuming, in limited amounts, for the all the unique benefits that it also contains.
      (My understanding is that teaspoon for teaspoon, honey has more calories than white sugar, but because it is sweeter we are inclined to eat less, and therefore eat less calories).


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