Those who don’t already know, eating sweets (or sugar) has been compared to heroin addiction by some scientists. Some of us can understand just why. Especially if you can’t do without the 3 pm choco chip muffin from Starbucks, or the 6 pm red velvet cupcake from LPQ. And how you hate it that Subway always runs out of those cookies before it’s 1 pm! Well then, welcome to the world of sugar addiction!
Expert opinion on why our body craves for more sweet is due to ‘phantom sugars’ we consume, in processed foods, bread and even in tetra pack milk. The deal is, the more your body gets sugar, the more it wants it. And that’s where some of us are now. This is bad for our skin, waistlines and overall health, as large amounts of sugar on a regular basis causes insulin resistance.
So, what are the options? Apparently two. One, to ban refined sugar entirely and second, intelligent eating and reduced consumption of sugar and sweets. We’d recommend the second, because in small amounts, sweeteners cause no problems to most people, especially in natural forms like fruits. We got some chefs to tell us how to get off the sugar wagon without depriving our sweet tooth, and they not only had some tips to share, but recipes too.
Suresh Thampy, Executive Chef at the Courtyard by Marriott recommends stevia, a herb native to North-West Paraguay, a natural sweetener with fewer calories than sugar. You can find it at medical stores in Mumbai. It’s grown across the world, including India, and perhaps its low profile is only due to a war going on between artificial sweetener manufacturers and stevia proponents, that we aren’t supposed to know about.
You could also get your hands on coconut sugar, also known as palm sugar, that comes from the sap of coconut flowers, suggests Sandeep, Executive Chef of Renaissance. “A drizzle of honey is an option too,” he adds.
Fruits containing natural sugars, are great substitutes too. “A homemade sorbet is a good way to fill sugar cravings without overdoing it on the white stuff,” says chef Thampy. Also blending fruits in yogurt, or half milk and half yogurt requires less or almost no sugar to be added to the smoothie.
Another way to sweeten your treats is “to use freshly made fruit pulp and sauces,” says chef Sandeep. Mashed and puréed dates and bananas are in fact used in some eggless cake recipes to good effect, says Icing On Top’s Ayushi Shah. “Steamed sweet potatoes can also be added to chocolate desserts, but expect an earthy flavour,” she adds.
A healthy relationship:
Protein and sugar
When you haven’t eaten for long, even if you grab a fruit, your system is unable to break it down and utilise the vitamins, fibre and antioxidants from it. Instead, it sends an exasperated ‘feed me!’ signal and goes straight for the sugar in the fruit. And without protein or fats to slow its absorption, the sugar will be swept up into your bloodstream very quickly. This hit of sugar then tells your pancreas to release insulin to help absorb it, and your body converts the extra sugar to fat. The way out is to make a conscious effort to eat sugar (whether pastries, refined carbohydrates like rice, bread and potatoes, or fruits) in combination with protein foods like meat, fish or beans and lentils or healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil. So by all means, enjoy bananas for breakfast, but alongwith eggs and yogurt. Or take a handful of nuts when grabbing an apple. This rule can change your waistline!
Yogurt Cheesecake recipe by celebrity chef Harpal Singh
Plain or vanilla yogurt (low fat): 1 container
Unsweetened pineapple juice: 3 cups
Strawberries, small, washed and dried: 1 pint
In a medium strainer (sieve) place two layers of paper towels. Place the strainer over a bowl. Stir yogurt in its container for consistency. Adjust paper towels to remove any folds, then pour the yogurt into the strainer. Cover the bowl, with the strainer in it, with plastic (cling) wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours, until yogurt thickens.
In a small saucepan, bring pineapple juice to a boil. Cook over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Cover and refrigerate.
Place a plate over the mouth of a strainer and invert it to unmold the yogurt. Gently remove the paper towels. Smoothen yogurt on sides to make a flat cheesecake. Garnish with strawberries and serve with pineapple sauce.
Carrot Cake recipe by Chef Suresh Thampy
Almond meal flour (you can grind almonds finely in blender or food processor): 1 and ½ cup
Quinoa or amaranth flour: ½ cup
Baking soda: 2 tsps
Cinnamon: 2 tsps
Allspice and cloves: ¼ tsp each
Virgin coconut oil or unsalted ghee or ½ and ½ of each: 1 cup
Stevia leaf or raw, powdered stevia:
Raisin sauce: 1 cup
Vanilla extract: 1 tsp
Grated carrots: 3 cups
Chopped walnuts (optional): ½ cup
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 9x9x2 inch pan. Mix together almond meal baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Blend in oil or ghee, stevia, raisin sauce and vanilla extract. Add grated carrots, then eggs, one at a time, beating well after each time. Blend in the walnuts. Bake for 30-40 minutes or till done. Cool and cover after five to 10 minutes to maintain moisture if using flours other than nut meal. Serve warm.
An easy to make treat is stuffed apples with oats. De-core apples and stuff them with oats, nuts, and a little honey for sweetness, and bake it. “This treat is easy to make ahead and reheat. You could also dip fresh strawberries in chocolate and refrigerate it for a guilt-free treat,” suggests chef Thampy.
Baked Honey and Spice Yogurt by Ayushi Shah
Whisk together 125 ml yogurt, 1 tsp honey and 100 ml cream, to a smooth mixture. Mix in 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder. Pour into shallow baking ramekins and bake in a water bath. Bake at 180ºC for 20 minutes. Once cool, refrigerate overnight and serve cold.