Saturday, 29 September 2018

Food blog ten - the joy of the velvet edition

On my journey towards a low-sugar diet I have enjoyed foods with higher concentrations of fat. And, counterintuitively, a higher fat intake does not result in added pounds or kilos. But I’m careful about which carbs I consume.

The best carbohydrates I enjoy include my all-time favourite: porridge oats. For breakfast I have around 50g rough cut, rolled oats with full fat milk and blueberries. Oats won’t reduce down to sugar quickly causing an unhealthy sugar-spike, and insulin levels fluctuate less. Plus they fill me up! And blueberries are fab for so many reasons.

Not only are they vitamin C-rich but blueberries can also give your body a boost: 

The antioxidants in these lovely, dark purple berries may lower your risk to a whole host of illnesses, largely by limiting inflammation, and antioxidants, I understand, help protect cell life. My first degree was a BSc in Biology but I’m no nutritionist and I’m still learning. According to some researchers inflammation sets off arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, blindness, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental illness. I’m probably too old to suffer autism or asthma but arthritis, atherosclerosis, blindness, cancer and diabetes are still ever-present threats.

The flavonoids in blueberries can reduce the risk of reduced cognition and dementia. Flavonoids do this by enhancing circulation and protecting brain cells from damage, or so it says in a book of mine - written by a  very clever nutritionist.

Some studies, as stated by the clever nutritionist, have linked eating blueberries with decreased blood pressure. Since they’re loaded with polyphenolic compounds that help blood vessels, blueberries count as a cardioprotective food. I’m not sure what polyphenols do to blood vessels exactly but either way they are juicy, sweet and a great contrast to otherwise dry, bland oats. 

Porridge with berries makes for less sugar and more goodness from a simple breakfast - and it fills you up. A good handful of berries counts as one of your 5-a-day too.

Lunch at the moment consists of salads made with Richard’s home-grown beef tomatoes and my French beans plus shop-bought lettuces now our plot has been exhausted. Or, on cooler days, we have a soup with as few additives, especially low sugar, as possible. And I stay off bread! Gluten-free rolls are a healthier option but low carbs are the way forward for me. I haven’t had pasta, rice, potatoes, wheat bread, pastries or biscuits since I was in back-recovery mode last May. And I don’t miss it.

However I do miss cake! But I have got round that by baking chocolate cake or carrot cake with sweeteners, rather than sugars, and using gluten-free flours. Do see my last few blog posts for details. I can’t eat cake every day as the calories are still high but for a treat g-free, s-free fare is a good option for me. Another treat is Green & Black’s Velvet Edition 70% dark chocolate. Because it’s 70% cocoa it’s far less likely to be full of sugar.

Quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a few other minerals, or so says my nutrition guru.

It is also loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols ( again) flavanols and catechins, among others. My guru says ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity.” It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.

According to the guru bad free radicals are set against a sample of a food, I have no idea how, and scientists see how well the antioxidants in the food can "disarm" the radicals. Dark chocolate is very effective at this, it says here. I have no idea of the science behind it, not having a Ph.D. in free radicalisation, but if it means I can eat chocolate as a food rather than as a tablespoon of sugar who am I argue? 

Two squares a day improves several risk factors for disease too. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL (bad cholesterol) to damage ie it’s easier to get rid of bad cholesterol, while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) and improving insulin sensitivity. Having improved insulin sensitivity is the way to avoid becoming type-2 diabetic.

Some  results show a reduction in heart disease risk among those who consume the most chocolate. Oh dear! We’ll all have to eat dark chocolate 3-5 times a week to feel the benefit! What sadness.

At least 70% chocolate - when consumed - not spread on your face - can improve skin apparently. Studies, which ones exactly? show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.

And cocoa’s good for the brain too. It may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people, especially if they are suffering from mental impairment. It could improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well. Although with vague claims like that I’ll stick to the dark chocolate-is-good-for-lowering-bad-cholesterol and is therefore good for the heart tagline.

It is fortuitous that my drinks during the day include Green & Black’s cocoa. I like to make this, now we’re enjoying a beautifully sunny autumn and the evenings are cooler, by adding a teaspoon of cocoa powder to milk. After I’ve made a paste I add hot water and stir well. I also use Co-op free trade cocoa. It’s important to check the packet to see there is no added sugar. Drinking chocolate is quite a different species and is no alternative to cocoa!

And an apple - usually a small granny smiths - is my third or fourth of my 5-a-day and it’s a healthy snack for mid-morning, mid-afternoon or before an evening meal. 

A nutritionist I met last year said eating before 7:30 pm was a good way to avoid putting on weight as your body has longer to digest it if eaten earlier in the evening. You're also likely to burn some calories off before bedtime if you eat earlier. We have yet to conquer our habit of eating at 8pm in our house but Richard and I can work on that. 

Next week I’ll share a few thoughts on preparing healthier but filling evening meals.They mainly use higher-than-expected fat levels yet allow me not to put on any weight. It’s a win-win scenario.

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