I love making decadent surgery extravaganzas for my family to enjoy! In an attempt to be more health conscious I have been limiting them to special occasions. My hot button this week is ADDED sugar. While it could be up for debate in my household, sugar is public enemy number one! With a history of obesity and diabetes in our family, one would think we would run from the stuff like our hair was on fire and we needed to get to water to put it out but it’s an ongoing struggle.
As of late I have become the label police. The last time I was in the grocery store it seemed like everything that I picked up had sugar added in the list of ingredients and that in some cases the additions were unnecessary. Sometimes we start off with the best intentions of eating cleaner and healthier diets only to find out the reason we still have cravings for the sweet stuff is because we are still feeding the addiction and we don’t even know it. Sugar is a like a drug!
In the various online groups that I follow, the number one thing that I read is “I want something sweet” or “I have to have sugar” or “I fell off the wagon and ate an entire box of cookies.” I could go on and on… We have grown so accustomed to having it in our diets that we have become a nation filled with excess sweetened foods and beverages. This has led to weight gain, blood sugar problems, and an increased risk for heart disease, among other dangerous conditions.
Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. However, problems occur when you consume too much added sugar — that is, sugar that food manufacturers add to products to increase flavor or extend shelf life.
In the American diet, obvious top sources of sugar are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. But added sugar is also present in items that you may not think of as sweetened, like soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup. On any given day the average person could be consuming approximately 15 teaspoons of added sugar. The result: we consume way too much added sugar.
It’s All in the Name
Sugar is the general name given to the short-chain carbs that give your food a sweet taste. However, sugar has many different forms and names. You may recognize some of these names, such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Others are harder to identify. Because food companies often use sugars with unusual names, this ingredient can be difficult to spot on labels.
Other Names for Sugar
Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Buttered sugar, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Caster sugar, Coconut sugar, Corn sweetener, Crystalline fructose, Date sugar, Dextran, malt powder, Ethyl maltol, Fruit juice concentrate, Golden sugar, Invert sugar, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Muscovado sugar, Panela, Palm sugar, Organic raw sugar, Rapadura sugar, Evaporated cane juice, Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
Sugar is also added to foods in the form of syrups. Syrups are usually thick liquids made from large quantities of sugar dissolved in water. They are found in a wide variety of foods but most often in cold drinks or other liquids.
Common syrups to look out for on food labels include Agave nectar, Carob syrup, Golden syrup, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Malt syrup, Maple syrup, Molasses, Oat syrup, Rice bran syrup, and Rice syrup.
Sugar has many different names and forms, which can make it difficult to spot on food labels. Ingredients are listed by weight on packaged foods, with the main ingredients listed first. The more of one item, the higher up on the list it appears. Food manufacturers often take advantage of this. To make their products appear healthier, some use smaller amounts of three or four types of sugar in a single product. These sugars then appear further down on the ingredients list, making a product look low in sugar — when sugar is one of its main ingredients. For example, some protein bars — while considered healthy — are very high in added sugar. There may be as much as 7.5 teaspoons of added sugar in a single bar. When you read food labels, look out for multiple types of sugar.
Adding sugar to foods you would least expect is common. Its common sense that a piece of cake or a candy bar probably harbors a lot of sugar. Still, some food manufacturers pour sugar into foods that aren’t always considered sweet. Examples include breakfast cereals, spaghetti sauce, and yogurt. Some yogurt cups can contain as many as 6 teaspoons of sugar. This is crazy considering most servings are less than a cup! That is why I started making my own Greek Yogurt otherwise known as the creamy Crack.
Even whole-grain breakfast bars, which may seem like a healthy choice, can pack up to 4 teaspoons of sugar. As many people don’t realize that these foods have added sugar, they’re unaware of how much they’re consuming. If you’re buying packaged or processed foods, make sure you read the label and check the sugar content — even if you think the food is healthy.
Don’t be fooled by sweeteners that are labeled “healthy”. Food companies also make some of their products appear benign by swapping sugar for an alternative sweetener that’s considered healthy. These unrefined sweeteners are usually made from the sap, fruit, flowers, or seeds of plants. Agave nectar is one example. Products with these sweeteners often feature labels like “contains no refined sugar” or “refined sugar-free.” This simply means that they don’t contain white sugar. These sugars can appear healthier, since some may have a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) score than regular sugar and provide a few nutrients. However, the amount of nutrients these sugars provide is usually very low. What’s more, unrefined sugar is still added sugar. Currently, no evidence suggests that it’s beneficial to swap one form of sugar for another, particularly if you’re still eating too much overall.
Common high-sugar sweeteners that are often labeled as healthy include Agave syrup, Birch syrup, Coconut sugar, Honey, Maple syrup, Raw sugar, Cane sugar and Sugar beet syrup. Food manufacturers sometimes replace white table sugar with unrefined products. While this can make the product appear healthier, unrefined sugar is still sugar.
Certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, contain naturally occurring sugars. Unlike added sugar, these usually aren’t a health concern. This is because naturally occurring sugars are generally difficult to eat in large amounts. Although some fruits contain high amounts of naturally occurring sugar, their fiber and antioxidant contents mitigate the rise in blood sugar. Fiber in fruits and vegetables is also quite filling, making these foods harder to overeat. Additionally, whole foods provide many beneficial nutrients that can reduce your risk of disease.
For example, one cup (240 ml) of milk contains 3 teaspoons (13 grams) of sugar. Yet, you also get 8 grams of protein and around 25% of your daily requirements for calcium and vitamin D.
The same size serving of Coke contains nearly twice the amount of sugar and no other nutrients.
Keep in mind that food labels don’t distinguish between natural and added sugars. Instead, they list all of the sugars as a single amount. This makes it tricky to identify how much sugar is found naturally in your food and how much is added. However, if you’re eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods — as opposed to packaged or processed items — most of the sugars you’ll consume will be natural.
In an attempt to eliminate as much sugar as possible, I make nearly everything from scratch. Following a mostly Keto way of eating involves cutting back on high-carb foods like starches, desserts and processed snacks. This is essential to reaching a metabolic state called ketosis, which causes your body to begin breaking down fat stores instead of carbs to produce energy. Ketosis also requires reducing sugar consumption, which can make it challenging to sweeten beverages, baked goods, sauces and dressings.
Fortunately, there are various low-carb sweeteners that I have come to enjoy. Here are my go to sweeteners. Each one serves a different purpose when I’m cooking.
Monk Fruit Sweetener – is a no-carb, no-sugar, no-calorie sweetener. It is about 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar and is sold by brands such as Monk Fruit in the Raw and Lacanto. I use it mixed with Erythritol for most of my baking.
Stevia – is another no-carb, no-sugar, no-calorie sweetener. It is about 50 to 350(!) times sweeter than sugar. I have tried several brands but I prefer the SweetLeaf brand. I also prefer the liquid form. The powder form, I feel, has a funny taste to it.
Erythritol – Slightly different from stevia and monk fruit, erythritol is technically a sugar alcohol, which means your body doesn’t fully absorb it. (This is why some sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress, though erythritol is said to be among the least bothersome of the sugar alcohols.) Erythritol has zero calories, and is about 70% to 80% as sweet as sugar. It does have 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon, but zero net carbs, so it doesn’t count towards your daily carb allowance on keto. Mixed with monk fruit, it is tolerable and doesn’t cause that weird cooling sensation in my mouth.
Sucralose – is an artificial sweetener that is not metabolized, meaning it passes through your body undigested and thus doesn’t provide calories or carbs. Unlike other types of sweeteners, sucralose is not a suitable substitute for sugar in recipes that require baking. I use sucralose as a low-carb way to sweeten my coffee drinks or foods like yogurt.
Converting traditional favorites to low carb sugar free and gluten free recipes can sometimes be challenging. Today’s recipe is a twist on an old favorite; vanilla pound cake.
The origins of pound cake lie in Northern Europe and date back to the early 18th century. Initially, the pound cake weighed four pounds; that rules out the possibility of it being named after its weight. The ingredients in the cake, however, were measured up to one pound. This is how it was traditionally made – a pound each of these four ingredients – butter, flour, sugar and eggs. The name pound cake has stuck around ever since.
Due to the traditional measurements of ingredients used in this cake, the size is such that it becomes possible to serve multiple families at a go. The modern day families, however, prefer a lighter and smaller cake and, therefore, the original recipe has been modified overtime as per the requirements. Today, people use smaller quantities of each ingredient, but maintain the 1:1:1:1 ratio.
Pound cake is quite well known in France and is called ‘quarte-quarts’, or ‘four quarters’, a quarter referring to a pound. The Caribbean part of the world that speaks French add Rum to the cake for Christmas Eve along with mashed bananas. The Venezuelan and Colombian version of the Pound cake is called ponque which is a Spanish phonetic approximation of the term. It is essentially a wine drenched cake with cream/sugar coating. The Mexican version is called panque and it follows the traditional recipe – a pound each of butter, flour, sugar and egg.
Here is my sugar-free, gluten-free version on the old classic for those watching their waistlines, sugars and carbs. Just in time for EASTER!
Keepin it fresh!
Vanilla Pound Cake
- April 17, 2019
- 1 hr 20 min
- 190 Cals/Serving
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- 2 1/2 cups Almond Flour
- 1/4 cup Coconut Flour
- 1/4 cup unflavored Whey Protein powder
- 1 Tbs. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup butter Softened
- 1 cup Monkfruit Sweetener Granular
- 5 large Eggs room temperature.
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1 to 2 Tbs. Monkfruit Confectioner's Sweetener
- Step 1
- Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a tube cake pan VERY well and then dust with a almond flour.
- Step 2
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, whey protein, baking powder, and salt.
- Step 3
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sweetener together until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat in the almond flour mixture and then beat in the whipping cream and water until well combined.
- Step 4
- Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and the cake is firm to the touch. A tester inserted in the center should come out clean.
- Step 5
- Gently loosen the sides with a knife or thin rubber spatula, then flip out onto a serving platter. Dust with powdered sweetener.
- Step 6
- Serve with fresh berries and whipping cream.
- Step 7
- Recipe Note: You could easily change the flavor of this cake by exchanging the vanilla extract to a flavoring of your choice. This cake could be used as a base for a berry trifle, or a strawberry shortcake.