Thanks to the readers who entered the contest for the Organic Zero erythritol packets! Andrea is the randomly generated winner. Here is why she eats sugar-free:
“I live sugar-free because my life depends on it. Both of my parents died from diabetes complications and I do not want to go down the same path. We are so fortunate that there are now so many alternatives to sugar such as the product you are promoting. When I was growing up, there was just saccharin which did dnot taste very good. Thank you for your excellent information.”
And now for a surprise second winner! I ordered some vanilla beans on ebay, and have an extra bundle to give away. Rachel can have these vanilla beans if she would like them! The beans can be used as a sugar-free flavoring for baked goods, custard, ice cream, and to make vanilla extract. Here is why Rachel eats sugar-free:
I eat sugar-free because it’s what my body wants. How do I know this? Sugar and carbs were ruining my life. I had no idea why I constantly craved sugar and processed carbs, and my obsession quickly turned into an eating disorder. I had no control over my cravings…my body wanted more and more and I became a slave to it. I’d binge on sugary, carb-loaded foods and then feel horrible about it and go to great lengths to undo my binges (which I will not describe in detail here). I also suffered from wild mood swings, irritability and fatigue, all of which everyone (including my doctors!) attributed to PMDD.
But I knew it was more than that. All of the treatments I tried for PMDD symptoms had failed. Eventually, completely exhausted, and my body ravaged from my bingeing cycles, I began to do desperate research into blood sugar and its effects on the body. I was shocked to find out that SO many of the symptoms I suffered from, especially the constant sugar and carb cravings, could be due to extremely unstable blood sugar levels!
I immediately stopped eating all sugar and carbs, and have never felt better. I almost never suffer from cravings anymore, I have stopped my destructive bingeing cycles, and am no longer controlled by food. My emotions and moods have leveled, and I have an energy I never knew existed…one that occurs naturally, not feuled by carbs!
I’m not really writing this for your contest, but mostly to tell you that your blog has been a godsend for new sugar- and carb-free eaters like me. I was beginning to accept that I would never be able to enjoy some of my favorite foods again, but your recipes have given me the ability to do that, while still staying within the confines of my diet and without hurting my body.
Thank you so much! I don’t know where you find the time to cook and blog like you do, but I pray that you never stop.
Check out of the rest of the comments from readers about why they eat sugar-free. I really enjoyed reading all of your stories, and seeing how this way of eating is helping people with so many health issues.
Do you crave fresh fruit in this summer heat?
I do, and tend to satisfy that desire with stevia-sweetened lemonade instead of “Nature’s Candy.” Some days though, you just gotta indulge in those natural sugars, so here’s how to on your low carb sugar-free lifestyle. Pair the fruit with fat! It dilutes the sugar carbs, making you satisfied with a smaller portion. It also stops your blood sugar from fluctuating wildly and making you hungry an hour after your fruit snack. Besides, fat makes everything tastes better, especially if it comes in the form of organic heavy cream. It’s a divine combination of flavors that inspired countless songs and many different types of desserts.
This strawberry mousse will be the first dessert in a series of easy, quick low carb desserts that require minimal effort, yet will still impress that surprise company coming over for dinner! Besides, who wants to make a big mess in a hot kitchen in this weather? This naturally gluten-free, egg-free mousse can also be made dairy-free with the use of full fat coconut milk! It can be made sugar-free using a combination of stevia and powdered erythritol, but any zero calorie sweetener would work well here. I tried this dessert with Splenda as well, because I have decided to include a measurement for it alongside my preferred natural sweeteners from now on. Although I don’t prefer the taste and chemical nature of Splenda for personal use, it is used by so many diabetics and other carb watchers who need to eat a low insulin producing diet to live. Most importantly, there little empirical evidence showing adverse side effects from its use. If by creating an option for sweetening with Splenda in my recipes, I can broaden the appeal of these healthful low carb treats, I am willing to do so. Keep in mind that combining sugar-free sweeteners yields the best taste, and allows you to use less of them overall. Use the sweetening option that works for your lifestyle, beliefs, budgetary constraints, and health concerns.
This mousse might work with honey as well, but I didn’t try making it like that since I am attempting to limit consumption of all forms of sugar. I’d start with a 2-3 tablespoons of honey, cooked with the strawberries, if you’d like to go this route.
Makes 5 servings
8 ounces fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled and sliced
1/4 cup erythritol, powdered, plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1/2 cup Splenda plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract (or 1/4 cup more Splenda)
2-3 tablespoons honey plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon zest from an organic lemon
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup organic heavy cream
Sprinkle the gelatin over the tablespoon of water in a small bowl, and set aside to soften. Puree the strawberries with the zest, the juice, and the salt. Heat the puree in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring together the strawberries and sweetener just until hot. Add gelatin and stir until melted. Let mixture cool. Beat the cream to soft peaks, and beat in vanilla and stevia. Gently fold strawberry mixture into cream. Pour into serving cups and chill for two hours.
For a stiff, pipeable mousse (like you see in the photos), follow these directions after soaking the gelatin:
Place the strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat, and add the sweetener (erythritol, Splenda, or honey–don’t add the stevia yet) and water and cook, breaking up with your spatula. Stir around the pan gently until the sweetener has dissolved. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the strawberries have slightly thickened. Add the gelatin to the pan, and stir until it is completely melted. Puree in a blender (I used my Magic Bullet) or food processor. Let cool to room temperature. Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks with a hand mixer, and beat in vanilla and stevia. Once the strawberries are cooled, carefully fold the whipped cream into the fruit puree. Pipe mixture into serving bowls, and chill for at least an hour. I used an 8″ Wilton piping bag with the largest tip I could find at Michael’s craft store. The tip was $1.99 and the piping bag was $1.99.
~6.2g net carbs per 1/5th of a recipe using ½ cup Splenda w/stevia
~4g net carbs per 1/5th of a recipe using erythritol/stevia
Since y’all enjoyed the chocolate cake (made with beans!) so much, I’m going to create more desserts that don’t rely heavily on almond flour a.k.a. powdered gold for low carb bakers! Does this sound like a good plan? Leave some feedback and let me know what you think.
These moist little cake bites contain all of the decadence of a classic Southern coconut cake, with none of the highly refined ingredients that make the original only an occasional treat. You could eat these sugar-free gluten-free low carb (dairy-free!) treats every day if you wanted, getting the benefits of coconut, almonds, and eggs without the grains and sugar to spike your insulin. Us low carbers can enjoy saturated fat laden coconut products precisely because we maintain a diet free of foods that release a lot of insulin. The same goes for butter, cheese, cream, bacon… basically, everything delicious in life! That is what makes this healthy lifestyle so luxurious. Embracing it for the long term is not difficult if you focus on what you CAN have!
If a low insulin diet is healthy, then what about so-called “natural sweeteners”? If you believe that saturated fat is part of a healthy paleolithic style diet, then you should also recognize the dangers that concentrated sweeteners in any form, natural or not, pose. When combined with saturated fat, high levels of carbohydrates–found in maple syrup, evaporated cane juice (Sucanat), agave, honey, brown rice syrup, molasses, etc.–release insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage. This insulin response can lead to insulin resistance down the line, which is associated with a host of problems, including elevated triglycerides, heart disease, and diabetes.
A higher carb, lower fat diet can also be healthy, if you’re committed to it. Overall caloric restriction has shown similar benefits to a low carb diet. Find the way of eating that suits your lifestyle, and go with it!
With my recipes, it’s all about insulin. That’s my justification for using erythritol, xylitol, and even artificial sweeteners once in a blue moon at Starbucks. And for giving guidelines for using various noncaloric sweeteners in these recipes. Not everyone agrees on these points, and that is okay! That’s what so wonderful about the blogosphere–there are recipes for all dietary plans. Just do your research before accepting “natural” options automatically as the best for your body.
For more information about this, see Good Calories, Bad Calories. Check out the Google Books preview here. Taubes is apparently coming out with a version of this tome for mass public consumption. It’s a very large, dry compendium of research, which needs to be simplified for easier reading. It is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to eat a diet based on past and current nutrition research. I’m not any sort of healthcare professional–just a student and an avid reader.
And finally, the recipe! It’s a moist, tender cake, with a loose crumb. You could definitely amp up the coconut flavor with coconut extract used for half of the vanilla. Bake it into a layer for a coconut layer cake! My cream cheese frosting flavored with a bit of coconut extract would be perfect for it.
Grain-Free Coconut Cupcakes
Makes 20 mini cupcakes
2 tablespoons organic coconut oil OR unsalted butter
1/4 cup blanched almond flour, packed
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (may replace 1 tsp with coconut extract)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, ground to a meal
1 tablespoon sifted coconut flour (sub with 2 tablespoons brown rice flour or 1 tablespoon protein powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup erythritol OR 1/4 cup honey OR 1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a Magic Bullet or food processor, grind shredded coconut into a fine, powdery meal. Scoop almond flour into measuring cup, and pack it in firmly with your hands, like you’re measuring brown sugar. Sweep it level. Add to coconut and the rest of the dry ingredients. Melt butter, and beat in eggs, vanilla extract, and coconut milk. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and beat together for a couple of minutes. Line a mini muffin pan with mini muffin papers, and spray with extra virgin olive oil spray. Alternatively, grease mini muffin wells very well with coconut oil. Pour batter almost to the top of mini muffin cups. Rap muffin tin gently on the counter to pop air bubbles. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until springy and firm to the touch. You might have to bake these longer since my oven in this apartment runs hot. Remove cakes from muffin tins as soon as they are cool to the touch, and cool on a wire rack. Dip cakes into glaze. Serve at room temperature.
Coconut Milk Glaze
Whisk together coconut milk, and sift in coconut flour. Whisk in coconut flour until no lumps remain, then add a pinch of salt, and sweeteners. Taste and adjust sweetness level if necessary. Dip cakes into glaze and sprinkle with unsweetened coconut.
~3.5g net carbs for the whole batch of glaze
First things first: I am still working on the perfect sugar-free gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tested a fourth batch today, but it was a bit crumbly. The flavor is spot on, though. They’ve come a long way from the hockey pucks I was making when I first started this journey a year ago. Re-creating processed foods out of all natural ingredients takes some trial and error, but it is so worth it when you get it right. For me, anyway. Sticking to a whole foods plan can get monotonous if you don’t mix things up! Interestingly enough, I eat pretty much the same thing every day except when a specific craving hits me. I think we all have a routine that we stick to, food-wise. My biology professor said we do 99% of our actions without thinking. That other one percent of the time I spend in my kitchen, with a full sink of dirty dishes as evidence!
Do you remember creamsicles? They’re still around, and they even make ‘em sugar-free for us health-conscious folk. Unfortunately, the pre-packaged treats are laden with sugar alcohols (the scary kind with unpleasant side effects) and artificial sweeteners, so I stick to one mini creamsicle a couple times a week. They make up the only Splenda intake in my diet, so I think my brain is safe from whatever as yet unknown side effects the sucralose molecule is inflicting on us. We are all human guinea pigs with this stuff!
Back to creamsicles. The pairing of vanilla and orange is so fragrant and complementary, with the tang of the citrus balancing out the cloying sweetness that vanilla can impart. These moist, dense cupcakes showcase the full spectrum of the fruit’s bright flavor, containing one whole orange pureed in the batter. The health benefits of oranges are concentrated in the peel, which contain prebiotic oligosaccharides which promote intestinal health. With 13 grams effective carbs per orange, you can eat 1/2 at a time as a healthy snack. Furthermore, the flavonoids have been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Psh, like you need more reasons to try these cupcakes.
Healthy Creamsicle Cupcakes
adapted from this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman
Makes 20 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups almond meal, ground fine
Sweetener, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use both of the following:
-1 cup erythritol or xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract (I use NuNaturals)
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 medium thin-skinned organic oranges (yielding 1 1/4 cups fruit puree)
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Wash oranges well and boil for 20 minutes in a microwave safe dish with a cover until fork tender. Wait until oranges are cooled, then slice them (but do NOT peel them) into sections and remove seeds. Puree in food processor until smooth. Measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of the puree and reserve the rest for a glaze to go with the cream cheese icing.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Beat eggs and sugar substitute until batter is thick and golden. Beat in vanilla extract. Stir in fruit puree, almond meal, baking powder, and sea salt. Pour into buttered silicone muffin cups, paper tins (filled at least 3/4 way full), or a bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes or until slightly browned. Do NOT overbake. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Place in tupperware container with a lid when the cupcakes are lukewarm to the touch.
~2.5 grams net carbs per cupcake!
reserved orange puree
sweeteners, to taste
Stir lemon juice into orange puree until soupy. Add sweeteners to taste. Spread or drizzle on top of cream cheese icing.
And now for the best part. I had to swat my friend’s finger out of the bowl numerous times (but I let her lick the spatula).
Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes more than enough cream cheese for twelve cupcakes
8 oz cream cheese
5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
sweetener, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use both of the following:
-1 or 2 tablespoons powdered erythritol or xylitol
-stevia, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring butter to room temperature by leaving out on the counter for 20 minutes or nuking for 10 seconds. Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract together until Smooth. Add sweeteners to taste. Spread on cooled cupcakes or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for later use. Just bring to room temperature and beat until creamy before use.