Are you choosing the “healthiest” sugar?

I found this very interesting article on The Huffington Post today, and I think you might find it interesting as well.

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“We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but we feel the need to clarify a common misconception: There’s no such thing as a “healthy” sugar. Or even a “less bad” sugar. Your body doesn’t care if it’s “organic” or “unrefined” or “all-natural,” and it certainly doesn’t care if Gwyneth Paltrow deems it suitable for her children’s consumption.

Done hyperventilating? Now let’s delve into the nutritional science behind this.

First things first: All sugar is sugar.

It’s no secret that consuming sugar in large quantities has deleterious effects on your health — studies have linked it to obesity, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease, to name a few. Sure, you need carbohydrates, which include both complex and simple sugars, for your body to break down and convert to energy. But it’s the added sugars that sweeten some of your favorite foods and beverages that you need to watch out for.

So why can added sugars like agave nectar, raw honey or coconut palm sugar never really be deemed “healthy”? Because, as Dr. Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, put it, “Sugar is sugar, alas.” Meaning: No matter what type of sugar you consume — whether it’s table sugar or maple syrup chock full of “vitamins” and “minerals” — your blood sugar goes up. “Minerals don’t counter calories or hormones,” Nestle told The Huffington Post.

And it’s those pesky calories that link deceptively “healthy” sugars with the regular refined stuff. Dr. Jaimie Davis, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, explained to The Huffington Post, “Ultimately, they’re all having similar effects on obesity and metabolic disorders. There’s no data that suggests that if you consume more calories from honey, you store it differently.”

And by “sugar,” we mean a combination of fructose and glucose.

To understand why “sugar is sugar,” one must know what it is in the first place. What we commonly refer to as table sugar is actually sucrose, a compound composed of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Most caloric sweeteners, including the so-called “healthy” ones, contain some ratio of glucose and fructose, which trigger key reactions in your body. Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, told The Huffington Post that when you consume sugar, the metabolic process begins the minute the sugar reaches your mouth. But the majority is ultimately absorbed in the small intestine, where the sugar is metabolized and absorbed into your blood. Enzymes from the stomach then convert the sugar into glucose, your body’s preferred energy source. While it can provide your cells with fuel, something your body and brain need for proper functioning, glucose can cause excess weight gain. It spikes your insulin and blood sugar levels, plus it’s absorbed and used up quickly.

“Insulin is the chaperone that takes the sugar into your cells where — after your body immediately takes what it needs — it’s transformed into glycogen, stored and ready to be drawn on by the body for energy,” she explained, noting that this is a very basic explanation of the metabolic process.

Fructose, or “fruit sugar,” is metabolized differently, since the liver does most of the metabolizing and your insulin levels don’t spike quite as much as when you ingest glucose (this is due to the lower glycemic index of fructose). That can make fructose sound like glucose’s better half, but it’s not true: insulin triggers the hormonal response that tells your brain you’re full. Fructose doesn’t elicit this reaction, so it’s easier to overeat. The effects of sugars higher in fructose is a controversial topic in the nutrition world, since fructose is often blamed for adverse health conditions — like increased LDLleptin resistance and uric acid increase — and fructose is the form most likely to be added to foods, Kirkpatrick explained. Fructose may be tolerable in small amounts but more and more research is being conducted to determine if even small amounts put you at risk for metabolic disorders like insulin resistance. It’s worth noting that some so-called “healthy” sugars, like agave nectar, are even higher in fructose than table sugar.

While sugar is never “healthy,” you can certainly adopt mindful sugar consumption habits.

The problem with calling sugars “healthy” is the health halo effect, which makes people feel better about eating more of it. But Davis conceded, “I have heard that people who use honey and agave are a little bit more health-conscious, so they might use less, which would have a beneficial effect.” And that’s the trick when it comes to sugar: just use less of it. Yup, Mary Poppins wasn’t so off-base with that whole “spoonfull of sugar” theory, after all.

When incorporating sugar into your diet, keep in mind that the World Health Organization recommends that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your calorie intake, while the American Heart Association wants women to consume less than 100 calories and men to consume less than 150 calories of added sugars a day. And it doesn’t matter if it’s organic molasses or plain old Domino sugar — it’s thequantity that makes all the difference.

So when it comes to trying to decipher between sugars higher in either glucose or fructose, it’s very much a “choose your poison” scenario. You don’t have to cut out added sugar altogether per se — the bottom line, according to Nestle, Davis and Kirkpatrick, is to limit your sugar intake no matter what the source. And don’t let yourself get too smug for choosing the raw, “all-natural” or “healthy” sugar du jour.”

So, tell me, what sugar do you use most often?

Frozen cranberry almond tarts with a banana coconut filling

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on writing my thesis, which leaves me with little time to cook, bake and create. Unfortunately. But, even without a trip to the supermarket I managed to make a delicious dessert for a family gathering. I might’ve mentioned before that I have a lactose free diet, and my dad has a gluten free diet, so you could say desserts are a challenge. However, this dessert is gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free, and therefore it suits our whole family. Perfect, right? Seen the fact that this was just an experiment I was rather… preserved, but it turned out really well and I got some lovely comments as well. I hope you’ll like these (raw) ice cream tarts with cranberries, almonds, banana and coconut as much as we did!

[klik hier voor de Nederlandse post]

FROZEN CRANBERRY ALMOND TARTS WITH A BANANA COCONUT FILLING (yields 9 tarts)

Frozen Cranberry Almond Banana Coconut Ice Cream Tart 

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED
For the crust
– 125 gr dried cranberries
– 100 gr raw almonds
– 35 gr coconut oil (melted)
– 1 tbsp agave syrup (or honey)

For the filling
– 2 ripe bananas
– 40 gr coconut oil (melted)
– 35 gr coconut cream (melted)

– food processor or blender
– muffin tin (for at least 9 muffins)
– sheet of baking paper (cut in strips)

THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
1. Put the raw almonds in the food processor or blender and process for about a minute.

2. Add the cranberries to the almond grains and process for another minute or two.

3. Add the melted coconut oil and agave syrup and process shortly.

4. Take the muffin tin and add one strip of baking paper to each hole. This will help you to take the tarts out of the muffin tin when they are done.

5. Put about 1 (heaping) tbsp of the cranberry and almond mixture in each hole of the muffin tin and form cups with the back of a spoon or just use your fingers.

Frozen Cranberry Almond Banana Coconut Ice Cream Tart Frozen Cranberry Almond Banana Coconut Ice Cream Tart

6. When you’re done, put the muffin tin in the fridge.

7. Next, put the bananas in the food processor or blender and process for half a minute.

8. Add the coconut oil and coconut cream to the banana puree and process shortly.

9. Take the muffin tin with the cranberry almond crusts out of the fridge and divide the banana coconut mixture over the nine crusts. I actually had too much of this mixture, but I’d suggest you put it in the freezer and you’ll end up with some nice ice cream as well!

10. Put the muffin tin in the freezer and let them chill for a few hours.

 Frozen Cranberry Almond Banana Coconut Ice Cream Tart

Frozen Cranberry Almond Banana Coconut Ice Cream Tart

Homemade falafel with a yoghurt parsley dressing

I have been a fan of falafel for a long time now, and I always eat it when I’m making my ‘I don’t want to spend too much time cooking-dish’, which is couscous with onion, carrot and raisins. Usually I buy them at my local north african shop (which is one of my top top top favorite stores in town) and I heat them in the oven, BUT, this time around I had more time to spend on my couscous and falafel dish, so I made my own falafel. And honestly, I was surprised  how easy it is to make! Try it for yourself, I’d say.

[klik hier voor de Nederlandse post]

HOMEMADE FALAFEL WITH A YOGHURT PARSLEY DRESSING (yields 2 dinner-sized salads)

Salad with homemade falafel and yoghurt dressing

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED
For the falafel balls
– 150 gr broad beans (cooked)
– 150 gr chick peas (cooked)
– 1 egg
– 1 very small onion, chopped
– 15 gr fresh parsley
– 1 clove of garlic
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 1/2 tsp chili flakes or powder
– sea salt
– 50 gr flour
– 50 gr breadcrumbs
– vegetable oil

For the yoghurt dressing
– 200 mL yoghurt
– juice of 1/4 lemon
– 15 gr fresh parsley
– pinch of salt and pepper

For the salad
– Any type of lettuce, I used iceberg/cabbage lettuce
– 1 red onion

– food processor or blender
– skillet

THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
1. Process the broad beans and chick peas in the food processor or blender.

2. Add the egg, onion and 15 gr of fresh parsley and process again.

3. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, chili and sea salt to taste.

4. Form little balls, the size of a walnut, and cover them in flour. Set to firm in the fridge, for about 2 hours.

5. Meanwhile, make the yoghurt dressing by adding all ingredients together and mixing them well.

6. Cut and wash the lettuce if necessary. Cut the red onion in rings.

7. Take the falafel balls out of the fridge and cover them all in breadcrumbs.

8. Heat oil in a skillet and bake the falafel balls 5 pieces at a time, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.

20140502-DSC_0169 yoghurt dressing with lemon and parsley

homemade falafel salad