Archive for February 21st, 2012

Last year, I wrote about how my husband lost weight when we chose to break free from our sugar addiction (35 lbs. and counting, in addition to the 20 lbs. he lost after giving up gluten/processed foods).  In that post, I outlined our simple weight loss strategy that has helped us to stay healthy and slim – mainly by changing our breakfast habits and reducing the sugar content in foods.  Lately, I’ve seen more and more articles on the dangers of sugar, so I think it’s worth bringing up the subject again.  According to an article by the YOU Docs (Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen):

  1. “When you eat more sugar than your body can burn, it messes up your proteins – for instance, it stops one from delivering oxygen to your tissues.  Then your liver repackages excess sugar into fat and dumps it into your bloodstream, where it clogs up your arteries.”  (Say hello to heart disease.)
  2. “There’s growing evidence that frequent, large doses of sugar are toxic to certain cells, causing damage that leads to cancer.  One example: people who eat a sugar-heavy diet are 70 percent more likely to develop deadly pancreatic cancer than those who shun the sweet stuff.”  (So if you have a history of cancer in your family, like I do, it’s important to limit sugar intake since sugar also feeds cancer cells.)
  3. “Too many sweets accelerate skin aging because sugar is attracted to collagen proteins.  Normally, collagen keeps skin elastic, supple and well-supported.  But when collagen hooks up with sugar, it can’t do its job properly.  Your face ends up looking a bit like a pumpkin.”

So even if weight loss is not an issue for you, the increasing evidence that sugar is bad news for your health combined with the increasing amount of sugar that’s being poured into “low fat” processed foods, means we all need to pay attention to the amount of sugar in our diet.  But even if you have a desire to limit sugar, how do you curb your sweet tooth?

The first step is to cut out high fructose corn syrup.  In a previous post, I went into detail about how high fructose corn syrup is not only bad for us, it messes with our taste buds because it is super sweet and trains our taste buds to prefer foods containing this sweetener.  I also listed several suggestions for brands of foods that are sweetened with sugar instead.

Next, gradually replace sugary foods with ones that are naturally sugar free or low in sugar.  Start reading labels and look for brands with the lowest sugar content (under 5 g./serving is best).  In my post last month about why January diet resolutions fail, I mentioned some simple steps you can take to replace sugary foods with healthy, whole foods that are naturally sugar free.  I also provided several low sugar, healthy breakfast options in my post, Breaking Free from the Sugar Addiction.  Chances are, you already have favorite foods and recipes that don’t contain sugar.  Try to plan your weekly menus around those items.  Good choices for those who are gluten intolerant include Mexican dishes made with corn tortillas, meat and potato meals, herb-seasoned chicken and rice, and gluten free pasta favorites.  If you need more ideas, many of the recipes on this blog are tagged “low sugar,” and everything is gluten free!

Once your taste buds are free from the addiction to sweet foods (which may take a few weeks), begin cutting down on the amount of sugar you add to homemade baked goods.  I’ve discovered that I can usually cut 1/4 c. sugar from most recipes without noticing a difference.  For instance, muffin recipes often call for 1 c. sugar, but 3/4 c. sugar works just fine.  If a recipe has lots of flavor from pureed fruit, like the Banana Blueberry Muffin recipe below, you can cut back the sugar to 1/2 c.  You might also experiment with substituting brown sugar for some of the white sugar in recipes where the molasses in the brown sugar is complementary, since the added flavor of the molasses can make up for a lower amount of sugar.  I almost always add vanilla to muffin recipes and baked goods, since vanilla and spices like cinnamon trick your taste buds into tasting sweetness because you associate those flavors with sweet foods.  When you’re first starting out, cut out a little sugar at a time.

  • If a muffin recipe calls for 1 c. sugar, try using 1/2 c. white sugar and 1/4 c. brown sugar.
  • Then, try cutting back to 1/3 c. of each sugar, and adding a flavor enhancer like dried fruit.  (We love dried cranberries in muffins, pancakes, oatmeal, and cookies, but since they are coated with sugar, I only add them to recipes that are very low in sugar to begin with.)
  • Next, cut back to 1/4 c. each brown sugar and white sugar (for a total of 1/2 c. sugar) and sprinkle a little brown sugar, decorators sugar, or cinnamon and sugar on top.  This gives you a hint of sweetness with the topping, but allows you to try the recipe with less sugar to see if you could like it without the topping.  Again, cut back on the sugar gradually to give your taste buds a chance to adjust, especially if you’re new to the gluten free diet and are still used to commercial baking mixes.

This method works well for most quick breads and desserts, although I don’t tend to cut out a lot of sugar in desserts because we try to eat desserts as an occasional treat in small amounts.  Also, be careful when cutting back on sugar in yeast breads because some sugar is required to feed the yeast.  However, I recently discovered a great sandwich bread recipe in “The Gluten Free Bible” that only requires 1 T. honey.

Of course, a healthy diet has more to do with what you DO eat than what you don’t.  As long as you focus on filling your plate with nutritional powerhouse foods (like spinach, berries, sweet potatoes, beans, broccoli, red grapes, whole grains, and foods with Omega 3s like salmon and flax), the health benefits of these foods should counter any negative effects of small amounts of sugar.  The muffin recipe below contains antioxidant-rich blueberries, Omega 3s from flax, whole grain oats, and naturally sweet bananas and applesauce.  Serve them with some scrambled eggs made with fresh spinach, bacon crumbles, minced onion and topped with a little shredded Swiss cheese for a tasty, nutrition-packed, low sugar breakfast.  (As always, you can substitute regular wheat flour for the gluten free flours and omit the xanthan gum if you’re not on the gluten free diet.)

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Banana Blueberry Muffins

Mix the following dry ingredients in a bowl:
1 1/4 c. *gluten free flour blend
1/4 c. sorghum or millet flour (or additional flour blend)
2 T. ground flax (optional)
1/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the wet ingredients:
1 small ripe banana, mashed in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (1 single serving applesauce cup)
1/3 c. milk (I used almond milk, which is creamy and low in sugar)
1 egg
1/3 c. oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional additional ingredients:
3/4 c. fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)
Gluten free oats (like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Brown sugar
Butter or dairy free spread

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until moistened.  Fold in blueberries.  Divide into 12 greased muffin cups.  If desired, sprinkle with oats and press lightly to adhere to muffins.  For extra flavor, sprinkle a little brown sugar (no more than 1/4 tsp.) on each muffin and dot with a sliver of butter or spread (I used a butter/canola oil spread on some muffins and left some plain with just the oats for the dairy free person in our home).

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Brenda’s Cheap & Awesome GF Flour Blend:
1 c. white rice flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch (it’s the same thing)
1/3 c. potato starch (not the same as potato flour)
1/3 c. corn starch
1 T. potato flour
1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour

You could stop short of the last two ingredients and get by in most basic cooking, but if you want to have the best texture and be able to swap this for wheat flour in any recipe with confidence, I strongly suggest you add the last 2 ingredients.  You can store these flours in the freezer and they’ll last a long time.

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