Archives for posts with tag: stevia

Amazing silhouette of man jumping at sunset toward 2014

January is here and as usual we are all starting the new year by watching what we eat and trying to mend our wicked Christmas ways. There is no doubt that the food focus for this month is on healthier eating … whatever that may mean.

It seems you can’t pick up a paper or watch a TV show without someone telling you something contradictory about what we should or shouldn’t be eating. Coffee – good or bad? Fat – good or bad? Organic – should we or shouldn’t we? Cheap meat, juices, red wine, fruit….it goes on and on. How we are supposed to figure it all out with all this misinformation?

Having spent last year working on an organic farm with a boss who had very strong views about food, I have to say that my understanding and opinion has developed once more. It can all be made quite simple. Eat like our grandparents ate and those before them. So keep it to pure foods, cooked fresh. No ready meals, nothing with additives, nothing that is not nurtured in an ethical way from our surroundings. Eat meat that comes from well treated animals and veg that is not sprayed with chemicals. Fat is good, most especially fat generated from grass fed animals. Our bodies need it. In addition, drink water and have enough sleep. Simple eh?

Stevia leaf

The big killer that is coming down the track and which has been having a lot of publicity lately is sugar. My first week on the above mentioned farm, my boss sent me this video (Sugar – The Bitter Truth). It is very clear from this and all that has followed that sugar (not fat) is the real threat to our diet. Even previously well regarded substitutes like agave syrup have been exposed as bad now. So what can you do? Well, clearly avoiding sugar rich drinks and foods is a must, but you can’t deny a girl with a sweet tooth everything, so what are the options? Well, it comes in the form of a rather innocent looking leaf – the stevia leaf.

This plant from South America has been used for thousands of years in that continent. It is a natural sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than traditional beet or cane sugar and yet it is natural and without calories. Because it is so sweet, some manufacturers are combining it with cheap bulking agents which don’t always complement the values so beware which version you buy, but one that is getting good press is natvia. It is taking Australia by storm and those guys know what they are doing. Natvia is apparently now stocked in over 25,000 cafes across Australia and is now coming over here. Already 110 EAT sandwich shops nationwide are stocking it as their preferred sugar substitute.

natvia

Large companies like Coca Cola and Danone have been exploring this alternative to support their need to take a healthier approach. They need to. A single can of Coca Cola already exceeds the new recommended limit of 8.75 teaspoons, or 35g, of sugar in the UK. Out of interest, the NHS estimates the average UK adult consumes approximately 20 teaspoons of sugar a day!

Trop 50

This week I saw the first product advertised on telly that has used stevia as a substitute in a fruit juice – Trop50. This is the ‘healthier’ version of Tropicana juice, boasting 50% less sugar and calories. Mind you, it still has over 8g of sugar in any single 200 ml serving, which is about a quarter of the recommended daily dose – so don’t be fooled!

Another forward thinking company is my local Primrose Bakery. They announced at the end of last year that they were making a lemon and poppy seed bundt cake with natvia to meet customer demand for sugar free options, but one that they could proudly serve to all their customers. I admire what they are doing and appreciate a company that can still deliver great product whilst making a healthier choice in its production.

lemon poppy bundt

So natvia is the way to go. You heard it here first!

I have been thinking this week about sugar.

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Yes, I know this is a strange thing to think about, but it was provoked by a fascinating video that I was sent by someone much wiser than me. “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” gives a very clear factual presentation on this ‘poison’. I use the words that Dr. Lustig uses because his arguments are very compelling. If you ever felt the need to drink even one can of cola, then this video will make you re-think immediately. Just watch the first 12 minutes to understand what it does to your body. I think I am instead going to play with my wonderful sodastream Christmas present, which to date I have simply used to make sparkling water, but there must be so much more that I can do to make wonderful naturally tasty, sweet drinks without all the hidden extras that come in the canned stuff.

Mind you, it is not only the drinks that we are in danger of misunderstanding – it is the diet stuff too. As we all embark on the obligatory January denial many of us will turn to low fat products believing that fat is the issue. I refer to Dr. Lustig’s video once more which shows that this is simply not true, and also my own very basic knowledge that we need some fat in our bodies to simply have an efficient metabolism. Low fat products are not only anathema but full of sugars to compensate for the lack of flavour coming through the fat. Read the labels. Look at low fat mayo compared to normal mayo and see what I mean.

Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil comes in all sorts of varieties

Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil comes in all sorts of varieties

So what can we do this year? Well the first thing is to just eat good simple food, prepared fresh in our own kitchens rather than the processed stuff which is full of the scary stuff. Keep it balanced with a palm sized piece of protein, good wholegrain carbs and lots of fresh veggies. Think about the good fats: omega 3 in oily fish or rapeseed oil rather than olive or vegetable oils, as rapeseed oil has about half the saturated fat found in olive oil and a fraction of that in palm oil. It’s a wonderful British product too.

And in terms of sugar, consider the alternatives. Honey is a wonderful thing and has so much more flavour and sweetness, as well as being incredibly trendy right now. There are a ton of fabulous honey products probably made in your very own region or from a rooftop or park near you, so search it out and experiment with it. Or, for my vegan friends (you know who you are) I want to make special mention of agave syrup which I first heard of through you when we looked for granola ingredients. Now it is in a supermarket near you and a lovely thing it is too. Don’t be put off by the fact it is made from the same plant that tequila is made. Instead embrace this wondrous product which is even sweeter than honey, full of flavour and originating back to the Aztecs. Those guys knew what they were doing.

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I am also experimenting with getting sweetness and flavour from fruit as these are wonderful natural alternatives, with apples, apple juice, prunes and many variations of citrus adding new dimensions into dishes as well as giving good fibre if you use the whole thing. My morning porridge is perfect with a handful of blueberries that I add before putting in the microwave so that they burst into the dish to make a juicy blueberry syrup in every mouthful without the need for any added sugar.

Finally, special mention should go to Stevia, which once again originates from South America. This is made from the leaves of the Stevia plant and is 25 times sweeter than sugar, but with no carbs and no calories. Why wouldn’t you? especially if you are using those horrid sweeteners that we now know are so bad for you. Just like agave syrup, this is widely available in all supermarkets so switch today. You know you should.