When too much of a good thing is bad

If you have ever been on any type of regimen to lose weight or to become healthier (which btw. are not always synonymous) you’ve probably come across the notion that as long as you eat healthily you can eat a lot and it won’t matter. I hear it all the time. I make a sugar-free cake and all of a sudden my brain thinks it’s a free for all, eat-the-whole-cake kind of a deal. But whether you use healthy sugar-free ingredients or not it’s still a cake  – if you have one too many slices it will go right into your thighs and buttocks. Why is it so hard to remember?

Food is energy and it doesn’t matter what type of food it is (perceived to be healthy or unhealthy), if you eat more than you can use, it will most certainly be stored in your body especially when you’re already carrying too much weight on your frame. If you are already super lean, then it might be a different story (more about that in a future post), but for now, let’s assume that we all have some padding we could spare.

A common misconception that fuels the if-it’s-healthy-there-is-no-limits mantra is the idea that there are healthy and unhealthy versions of sugar. Let me explain: there’s been quite a bit of stirring news in recent years about the dangers of consuming too much white sugar that now almost everybody agrees that white refined sugar is bad and should be avoided or its consumption be minimized. You’d think that this is a positive outcome, but you’d be wrong. We still crave the sweet taste so we arbitrarily decided that we will find sugar replacements or “healthy versions” of sugar. We’ve been taught that because honey is made by bees it is somehow different than white sugar and it’s even considered a healthy sweetener – how many times have you heard somebody say to have some hot water with honey when you’re sick? Honey will not only not cure your cold, but it will make you sicker by spiking your blood glucose, the same way that white sugar will.

Another fraud that we have have fallen victims of at least once in our lives is being perpetrated by the the organic food industry : think organic molasses, organic coconut sugar, even simple white sugar parades as a healthy alternative because the label reads it’s organic. This is the biggest and most successful food scam that I have ever seen – not only are you still eating sugar, you are also paying through the roof for it. A 4.4lbs pound of non-organic white sugar sells for $1.99 and 2lbs of the organic variety is $5!

Does it change your purchasing habits if you see a label that reads “Wholesome”? It must be good, right?

The list goes on… if you think you are somehow doing yourself a favour by switching from sugar to Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Coconut Palm Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup etc. you are fooling yourself. They are all metabolised by the body the same way  as sugar – in the liver – and have a glycemic index around that of white sugar – anywhere between 50 and 70. Sure, you could be harming yourself even more by consuming maltodextrin whose GI is 100, but you could also be doing much better by not fooling yourself with “healthier” versions of sugar.

Pure Canada Maple has a great little spin on their website about the benefits of consuming Maple Syrup that touts its antioxidant, mineral and vitamin content. It looks impressive enough to make me want to chug on some straight from the bottle… until I remember that it is a sugar and it will make my body go bonkers trying to deal with a surge of blood glucose, my insulin will try to lower it and redirect it into liver and muscle as glycogen and when that’s full and it will be full very quickly, it will deposit the rest on my thighs. I also looked at their little comparison table trying to convince us that the nutritional information of Maple Syrup is so much more superior to that of other sugars… until you look at the calorie and sugar content that is on par with its neighbors:

Source: Pure Canada Maple

What counts the most is the damaging sugar content in all those sweeteners – this is the deciding factor of how much these sugars are going to harm your body and in effect negate the other micronutrient content. You can get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from other sources that will not spike your blood glucose and make you fat.

This idea that there are better options of white sugar paired with the first notion that if something is healthy we can eat unlimited amounts of it, followed by the revelation that there is no such thing as healthy sugar alternatives creates an atomic bomb kind of problem. If the sugar alternatives are just as bad as white sugar (and they are) but we perceive them as better, less harmful and as a result eat more of them then we might as well have  been eating the white stuff in fear and moderation all that time and be better off for it. Now, we’re eating more of the sweet stuff and the results is we are harming ourselves more than before!

So what’s the solution? – you ask. When I first started being aware of the damaging effects of sugar on my body in 2005 what really did it for me was to get rid off all sugar altogether. I went cold turkey to heal my body and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to do that, most of us want to have the cake and eat it too. Damned be all the social media food porn that teases us with the picture perfect images of various treats! Yes, I blame the social media – when I first started using IG, I swear to my food processor, I did get dummer! I bought in to all those pretty pictures of supposedly healthy sweet alternatives and started experimenting with substitutes myself. Mind you, my substitutes were never the above mentioned sweeteners, because by then I knew better. I picked my sweeteners of choice based on their blood glucose effect, forgetting completely that it’s still the sweet taste that mattered
and whether a sweetener has calories and high GI rating or not, it is still telling our brain that sweet stuff is coming. So my vices were and still are: Pure 100% Stevia, Pure 100% Erythritol (or a blend of those two) and to a lesser extent 100% Xylitol. When I say 100% pure I mean without any bulking agents – remember you have to look at the ingredient list – if your Stevia, Erythritol or Xylitol contain bulking agents like Maltodextrin or even Sugar, you might as well just be eating straight white sugar. Those 3 sweeteners have no or very little effect on blood glucose which is good, but consuming them daily does mess with my brain. I never thought I would say this out loud – because prior to my use of these sweeteners I consumed sugar based foods only once a month – but I now believe that the sweet taste (regardless what sweetener it comes from) consumed on a daily basis makes me want to eat more than I would normally eat. And it’s not even the idea of them being calorie free, I simply get a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the treat is gone that I reach for another piece and another and another, until the feeling turns into a disappointment with myself…

All this to say that the sweet stuff is here to stay and as much as I can make sure that packaged stuff doesn’t
contain any added sugar, I can’t in my right mind say that I will never consume any sweet treats. I’d be lying to myself and you. Our weekly grocery shopping includes many items that are high carb and high sugar because other members of my family do consume them. So I am surrounded by the carbage that taunts me on a daily basis. Do I like the taste of carbs? Yes! Do I have weak
moments? Yes! And I try to deal with them by creating my own “better” recipes that don’t contain sugar. Does it work? Most times it doesn’t, because I, like everybody else, have learned to believe that the sugar replacers are somehow better and my inhibitions get lowered and self control goes out the window and before I knew it, my latest low carb creation – The Poppy Seed Cakes – was gone!

If you read this far, you probably gathered that my New Year’s Resolution is not doing as well as I would have hopped and you would be correct. Granted, I’m not having my sweet treat every
day, but when I do my sweet tooth kicks in with triple the strength and I want to eat a horse made out of chocolate 😉

So I decided to try something new – this is probably an old wives tale, but I don’t care – they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so starting today until March 18th I’m quitting Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol (the only sweeteners I’ve been using for years now) to see if my sweet cravings subside. So, no treats, no pancakes, not even once a week. I’m fed up! You should join me too and let me know how you’re doing in the comments section.

In the meantime, I leave you with the creation that became the source of inspiration for this long rant – Poppy Seed Cakes. It is, of course an all time childhood favorite turned low-carb, but I momentarily forgot that it was still a sweet treat and inhaled them quicker than the speed of light – I am not even kidding. By now, they are all gone, of course. If you think you can apply self control better than me, I highly encourage you to try them, because they were truly off the hook delicious – I guess that’s partly to blame for their disappearance 😉

I was not quite as successful as I would have liked with the icing on top, but it did add a nice sweet component, if just a bit too crunchy…

Poppy Seed Cakes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 43
  • Serving size: 30g
  • Calories: 158
  • Fat: 47
  • Saturated fat: 21
  • Unsaturated fat: 8.4
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Sugar: 2.2
  • Sodium: 70
  • Fiber: 9.8
  • Protein: 12
  • Cholesterol: 95
Recipe type: Sweet Treat
Cuisine: Low carb
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Be warned - these are to die for!
Ingredients
  • 250g Poppy Seeds
  • 4 Eggs
  • 125g Coconut oil
  • 125g Butter
  • 300g Almond Flour
  • 130g Coconut Flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1tsp Almond extract
  • Liquid Stevia to taste
  • 4tbs Truvia (spoonable)
  • 1tsp Baking powder
Instructions
  1. Poppy Seed Mixture:
  2. Bring 1 cup of Almond Milk to a boil and add your Poppy Seeds, 1tbs Truvia, Stevia and 1tsp of Almond extract.
  3. Reduce the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. When cooled off process Poppy Seeds through a grinder to break down the seeds - repeat 4-5 times.
  5. Add 2 Egg Yolks, mix well.
  6. Gently fold in 2 whipped Egg Whites into the poppy seed mixture.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Dough:
  9. Mix together in a bowl: Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, 2tbs Truvia and Baking Powder.
  10. Add 2 Eggs, melted Coconut oil and Butter and mix well.
  11. Assembly:
  12. Using silicone muffin cups line the bottom of the cup with a tablespoon of the dough, pressing with your fingers line the bottom completely.
  13. Add a tablespoon of the Poppy Seed mix.
  14. Cover the Poppy Seed mixture with another layer of the dough.
  15. Repeat until all your dough and Poppy Seed mixture is used up.
  16. Preheat the oven to 350F and bake 45 minutes or until your cups turn brown on the tops.
Notes
This recipe was originally supposed to be in a shape of a roulade called Poppy Seed Roll, but having very little experience baking with these ingredients I had to improvise quickly. When I realized that rolling this closed would pose a problem I turned the recipe into individual cakes by using silicone muffin cups. The dough would just not stick and hold together the same way traditional flour does.

Traditionally, since this recipe calls for potato starch and regular white flour it does come out being fairly dry, so my mom would make an icing to drizzle on top. She would use icing sugar with hot water to create it, but of course that's a no-no in my books. So I used a bit of Erythritol with hot water, but as you can see it did not produce a good looking icing. My recipe tester also disapproved by scraping it off. He found it too sweet. Next time I might grind Erythritol into a powder to imitate the icing sugar texture.

 

They turned out amazingly well, given the fact that it was supposed to be a roll rather than a muffin 🙂
The filling was very dense but at the same time retained a lot of moisture from Almond Milk. Traditionally, though, the recipe would call for some dry fruit such as raisins – but those are not allowed in any keto recipes. You can also add chopped nuts into the Poppy Seed mix like walnuts, but I found that I did not need to increase the fat content in this recipe due to all the Coconut oil and Butter already used, so I skipped the nuts. Maybe next time I’ll play with different versions.

 

The bottom line is : whatever you decide to be your sweetener of choice for your treats make sure you use it as a treat, not as a constant, daily component of your meals – that’s why we call them treats, because they are supposed to be infrequent.

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