Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Food blog eleven - happy eater?

I am no longer thirty ... I’m no longer forty even ... and, if I’m anything like friends of mine, my knees might be the first bits of me to start showing signs of wear and tear. I don’t incur damage by ski-ing or playing competitive field games but I did jump off a boat once and cracked my knee. The resulting injured tissue swelled like a balloon. Only this year, almost thirty years later, have I noticed pain in that knee. What to do? Lose weight. Get walking. Keep exercising that knee joint. Possibly take supplements. Swim. All of the above? Tick.

When it comes to exercise I can’t do crunches or anything that irritates a trapped nerve in my lower back but I swim, I walk, I do step-ups and I’m looking more and more at a low-sugar diet. One of the first steps to take in reducing sugar intake is to understand the implications of ‘added-sugar.’ The various books written by nutritionists concur on the fat v carbs (and sugar) debate:

The diet industry of the 1970s largely blamed fats for making us fat, eggs for raising cholesterol levels, butter for being butter and warned us all to go on to low-fat foods like spreads and yogurts.


If fat is removed from foods the flavour goes and food manufacturers started replacing fat with sugar and flavourings. So far, so not so good. 

Additives have long been the bad boys in class. But added sugar is causing havoc with blood sugars, insulin insensitivity and obesity ... leading to a surge in diabetes type2, atherosclerosis, raised blood pressure, heart disease and a strain on our over-stretched NHS. 

How to spot added sugar? Here’s one way...
When buying processed food in the supermarket - by that I mean food which hasn’t been plucked from the ground, picked from a tree, taken from a chick’s nesting box and has been packaged at a factory - we all need to look carefully at the list of contents. Many foods are sweetened with corn syrup and that’s the added sugar. If the food you’re choosing has a high carb count and it’s mainly high fructose corn syrup or table sugar, it’s good to know that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. So 24 grams sugar equals 6 teaspoons. Regular 12-ounce cans of soft drink contain 40 grams of carbohydrate —all sugar. That equals 10 teaspoons. The DAILY recommendation for added sugar in our diets is 6 teaspoons max ie 24g. All these added sugars add up, they add weight to our viscera, known as visceral fat, and add to the nation’s health bill. 

I don’t actually like canned soft drinks, thank goodness, but I do like chocolate and cake. There are ways around that - please see my last post for details. As the nutritionist of a friend of mine said to her no amount of exercise will combat all that added sugar so we have to change our diets. Either that or risk our health and, at best, become obese. 

Ingesting high concentrations of fructose can certainly increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated insulin resistance. In addition to obesity, insulin resistance results in glucose intolerance and possible diabetes, high triglyceride levels and fatty liver or pancreatitis and all the above-mentioned chronic illnesses. 
But this fate is avoidable.

Low-carbohydrate regimes reduce the intake of sugary drinks, foods with high-fructose corn sweeteners and refined carbs. All three lead to sugar spikes (upsetting insulin activity, an implication for a diabetic condition, and such spikes lead to greater hunger in a relatively short time.) 

It's easyish to control what you eat when you prepare meals at home. But eating out has grown as a leisure activity, as a celebration for family events, as a way of eating while holding down exhausting or demanding careers. But portion sizes have grown in restaurants and fast food outlets. Since 2000 many people eat a serving of pasta that is 480 percent larger than recommended. And the average muffin exceeds the recommended size by 333 percent. Value meals and “super-sized” meals are good for business. But it goes on our tummies, our thighs, our hips and can damage our liver - the fat has to go somewhere! 

In order to reduce the chances of eating added sugar it’s best to go back to eating whole foods ie those that are not packaged at a food 'factory'. Not for the whole of your diet nor for the rest of your life but in moderation. 

A whole food is any food that’s not refined or processed. Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits, in their own juice not in syrup, and vegetables are whole foods. A steak is a whole food but a breaded cutlet is not. Whole-grain bread is a whole food, rye bread or bread made with buckwheat flour has a lower GI. Refined white bread is not a whole food. Apple juice, with no added sugar is a whole food; a fruit pie filling is not. A baked potato is a whole food; potato crisps are not.

Sacre bleu I ate some crisps yesterday...

It’s easy to get sanctimonious about foods but at least we all know that by choosing foods with less added sugar, and non-processed foods by definition will have nothing added, we are helping our own health, and our NHS.

Last week I wrote about low-sugar breakfast and lunch. It’s not so difficult to cook low-sugar evening meals either. Harissa chicken has become a favourite of ours as has a meal of salmon, sea bass and meat balls.

Harissa powder is available at many farm shops. The recipe below contains 2g sugar.

4 skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp harissa (*cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes mixed)
- salt, cumin, chilli, coriander, garlic, mint, caraway, cayenne
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
250g pack cherry tomatoes - we are still picking ours but now we're into October it won't be for much longer
a handful of olives 

  • Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put the chicken into a medium roasting tray, then rub with the harissa, oil and oregano.
  • Cover with foil and roast for 5 mins, then remove the foil and add the cherry tomatoes and olives to the tray. Roast for 10 mins more until the tomato skins start to split and the chicken is cooked through. Serve with sweet potatoes - which have a lower GI than ordinary spuds. 
Another low GI food you can try with chicken, any poultry or a fish fillet, is wild rice. You don't have to fill up on white rice, pasta nor white potato, but you do need some carb, the lower the GI the better. 

Low GI foods help blood sugar to remain stable and, along with not eating added sugars, reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes which are spreading across the industrialised world like wildfire.

* homemade by Richard

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