Corn Bread Redux

My first memory of cornbread probably happened at a Marie Callenders. Not that my mom or grandma did not bake cornbread, but we purposely went to Marie Callenders for their chili and cornbread, well at least the adults did. I probably ordered a hamburger. As an adult I grew to love sweet cornbread, but always found every recipe on the crumbly side, particularly the Jiffy boxed mix variety. In my attempt to eat more organically I don’t buy much in the way of boxed mixes anymore. However, I wanted some cornbread as a side for my bison chili, so I googled healthy recipe and voila I found one, which I tweaked from here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/01/18/totally-addictive-cornbread/

cornbread

I should preface this with the fact that my husband has an aversion to “healthy” food, so I did not tell him, and he ate four large squares. It was a hit.

Cornbread Redux

(gluten-free!)

  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk.)
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups fine or medium cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder(the original calls for 2 T-apparenlty I missed it, so it did not rise to the top of the pan.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar or cane sugar (You can omit, if you want to reduce your sugar intake further)
  • 1 and 1/2 packets sweet leaf (stevia) (or 2 more tbsp sugar) Stevia has zero sugar on GI scale
  • 8 oz frozen corn defrosted
  • 2 Tbsp coconut or canola/veg oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce

Mix the vinegar with the milk, and set aside. Combine dry ingredients and mix very well. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, applesauce, corn (pulverized if you wish), and milk-vinegar. Then pour the wet into dry and mix until just mixed. Pour into a greased 8×8 dish and cook at 420 F (preheated) for about 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before trying to cut, or it will crumble.

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I subbed coconut palm sugar for cane sugar for a better glycemic index and less sweet taste; it also made the mixture darker, but not the end product. We spread Earth’s Balance and some organic honey on ours. It was every bit as good as Marie’s and even better the husband is none the wiser (insert conniving laugh here.)

nutrition facts:  (Based on original recipe)

  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 2.5g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbs: 18g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Trashing Toxins

biohazard_toxic_green_by_space_project712-d63t1ffI think everyone has a demarcation in their life- a place they can point to and say, this is the year, I made some changes– ( a kind of that was then and this was now moment) and it has “made all the difference.” Like Frost maybe you seem indifferent but you know that “choice” was a game changer. For me, the moment that spurred change was last year which was fraught with undue stress and my response to it, which was undoubtedly a meltdown of epic proportions. I had too much on my plate at work without going in into too many of the lurid details, and  I conducted my life as usual and found myself in a very bad place, because I should have made changes in my life to accommodate the hefty schedule, but being a type A personality I could not let anything go and I suffered the consequences, but I learned a valuable lesson in the process.

I was living a life replete with toxins: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Taking the full summer off for the first time in years, with no summer school, no conferences, no seminars I was able to reflect and begin detoxing my life of harmful poisons and I’m going to share with you, so if you should ever find yourself in a similar place, just know you’re not alone.

So you have probably heard the saying that in order to get rid of a bad habit you have to replace it with a good one. I feel this saying also applies to ridding our bodies of harmful substances that if we are going to purge something bad, that we need to feed our body with something nourishing.

danger_sign1Let me lead with the physical toxins I was putting in my body (since this is the most obvious) as a means to stay awake and alert to get through hours of grading. I was consuming one-two energy drinks a day and usually chasing my morning Monster with a cup of Starbucks coffee. In the evening I had a diet coke or another energy drink. If  anybody has ever imbibed too much caffeine they recognize the dangerous side effects, not to mention the harmful chemicals. Sometimes my heart would palpitate so hard, I felt it might just beat out of my chest, I was easily agitated, often dehydrated,  and  on occasion I experienced numbness or tingling in my hands or feet. If you drink massive amounts of caffeine you recognize these symptoms. Caffeine was my vice; for others it’s alcohol or nicotine, or maybe even prescription drugs.

I can’t say that I have completely kicked my caffeine habit, since I have been drinking iced coffee in the a.m., thanks to Thug Kitchen and their awesome iced coffee recipe: http://thugkitchen.com/post/56332922966/i-know-you-need-caffeine-sometimes-but-dont-even, but one cup seems to be enough, and many of the side effects went away and bonus: I’m saving a butt-load of $$$. I drink more water and sleep when I’m tired. I bring home the grading I can manage reasonably, and the rest is left for the next day. I will probably never escape my type-A personality, because it’s part of who I am ( I still get up at 3:30 to work out) and inherited honestly from my father, but I’m learning how to harness it in a healthy way.

Over the summer I realized I was probably spending too much time on social networking sites like Facebook. You know that saying that the two things you should not broach at a dinner party (religion and politics) well that saying applies to almost every other social setting, IMHO.  If you’re like me you know people (many) who either do not understand or don’t care about the rules of social etiquette. Have I broken this rule, sure once or twice perhaps, but if it’s constant and frequent it’s inflammatory and meant to elicit  a visceral response. We all have so much emotional stuff we’re carrying around that weighs on us and this is just one more thing and the problem is, not that I don’t mind a lively “informed” debate, but most of the dialog, if we can call it that ends with ad hominem–personal attacks. By adulthood, most people’s religious and political belief systems are so deeply entrenched in their upbringing and personal experiences that they are not going to change their mind unless it comes from some life altering experience or sought out on their own. It’s a tremendous waste of time and energy and I for one am tired of the emotional drain.

I decided to just block news feeds, so I couldn’t see what certain people were posting. I figure if I can’t see them, then I don’t feel the need to respond in kind. With all my extra time and now happier, healthier self I started this blog to use that pent up energy and emotion in a positive way and do something I love: write. Life is  far too brief to stew over other peoples’ opinions and actions. This world is filled with people with varying opinions and perspectives. How could it not be? We can’t control how other people feel. I have friends, who most certainly do not share my religious and political viewpoints, some of them I have a clear idea, some I don’t know, but I love them all for different reasons, and they all make me a better person somehow.

The last thing I’m trying to rid myself of is the most difficult, and probably developed pragmatically from a crazy, frenetic life filled with kids, work, and school. I’m trying to stop living a life just going through the motions, and merely moving from one task to the next. My dad always used to say, “slow down and smell the roses.” I kind of think that message was also self talk for him because he has as much difficulty as I do just slowing down.

paris 2

I thought that if I slowed down I would not be able to check off every item on my “To Do” (hello type-A, rearing its ugly head again) list. I now realize the world will not stop spinning on its axis if we don’t have milk in the house for a day or if students don’t get their essays back immediately. Moreover,  I’m finding that being more mindful and intentional in my actions is allowing me to enjoy the little things I might have overlooked in the past.  I think as women we often become so caught up raising children,  running households and perhaps moving forward in our careers that we forget about nurturing and nourishing ourselves and our relationships with family and friends.

I know ultimately I am a work in progress and can only hope to be better than than the previous versions of myself  that’s all any of us can hope to be.

Sugar: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Part Two

I have been so confused by the myriad of sugar alternatives available on the market and how to decide what is  best, but I think much depends on a). usage b). glycemic index c).taste, and d). processing.

First off a few words on the glycemic index, since I touched on it briefly in my last post. The glycemic index is a comparative measurement of the amount of glucose released by a particular food over a 2-3 hour period. Foods that rapidly release glucose rate high on the glycemic index (GI). Foods that slowly release glucose are low on the glycemic index. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your glucose level low, so it is slowly released. High glucose levels lead to diabetes and other health issues. Just to give you an idea, a best practice is to keep your total glycemic load under 100 per day (Foodie for Healing)

artificial-sweeteners

First off this list is not meant to  all inclusive, as there are some sweeteners amiss, so that I could focus on the most popular.

HFCS-high fructose corn syrup and sugar/sucrose have GIs at 68 and 65 respectively which doesn’t seem all that bad when we’re looking at all of these sweeteners in relation to glucose at !00, but they are highly processed and stripped of all nutrients and HFCS has been one of the contributing factors of obesity in the country since its in nearly all processed foods found on supermarket shelves today, including soft drinks.

Glucose or White bread: Everything else is in relation to this. GI: 100

Artificial Sweeteners like, Nutri-sweet, Equal, Splenda, and aspartame:These  alternative sweeteners are chemically processed, toxic, and should be avoided. They’ve been known to cause brain tumors in lab rats and have short term side effects such as nausea, migraines, excessive sweating, and heart palpitations. GI: N/A

Agave Syrup: Although it has been the super star of the hour and touted as a great low GI alternative for diabetics and now can even be found at Costco,  the natural label is deceiving.  Agave syrup derives from a cactus like plant from Mexico. In it’s purest form agave is clear, but after processing is likened to maple syrup or even HFCS.  Because most agave comes from Mexico, there’s not much in the way of quality control, and  there are about 60 calories per tablespoon in comparison to 40  in regular table sugar. GI: 15-30

Stevia: Like agave, stevia has enjoyed some super star status of its own, particularly for diabetics, and has been marketed as a natural sweetener, but it’s not.  Stevia has actually been banned by the FDA. The two major name brands of the (isolated extract called rebaudioside-A (Reb-A)-not actually stevia) are Truvia and Pure Via, manufactured by Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola respectively. Red flag Anyone? Pure Stevia as derived from the plant and ground up looks nothing like sugar. The manufacturers process the extract by using additives like  erythritol, isomaltulose, and cellulose powder.  GI: 0

raw honey

Honey: Like many foods in it’s natural states, raw, unprocessed honey is considerably healthy and maybe even believed to be a superfood by some alternative health care practitioners; however most honey available  on the supermarket shelves, the golden clear like liquid like syrup is processed. Commercial (processed) honey is heated to 150-160 degrees thereby robbing it of any and all beneficial nutrients.  Raw, unpasteurized honey is labeled as such, murky  and thick in the jar and may  even contain some of the comb. raw honey GI:30, processed honey GI: 75.

Turbinado: This is also known as raw sugar although it’s less refined, it’s still refined and is slightly better for you than cane sugar: GI: 65

Date Sugar/Dates: The reason I combined these two although the sugar is processed is because they have the same GI number; however the sugar is processed, so it’s not gluten free. Dates are high in fiber and minerals, so there are some benefits to this sweetener; however it remains pasty and therefore doesn’t dissolve in liquids, so it’s great for not baked sweet treats and tarts. GI: 62

Coconut Palm Sugar:neither as sweet or fine as cane sugar and possesses larger granules that don’t seem to dissolve as nicely as sugar in beverages. Derives from the sap of the coconut blossom. This sap is low glycemic, diabetic-friendly, contains 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH. Raw coconut palm sugar is minimally evaporated at low temperatures for 90 minutes to remove excess moisture and allow for crystallization. Sap nectar is only 16% sucrose. (Foodie For Healing). GI: 35

Sugar Alcohols: Sorbitol, Mannitol, Xylitol, Lactitol. These occur naturally in plants, but are usually manufactured from sugars and starches. Sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugars because they are not completely absorbed by the body. They can ferment in the intestines and cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. This is sometimes the result of chewing too much sugar free gum. (Foodie for health). Xylitol GI: 7

I am still experimenting with sweeteners to find what I like in each situation, but I am finding that in baking  I like coconut palm sugar to replace  half the cane sugar if not all.  I do still like stevia (reb A) aka Truvia in my tea, coffee etc. in trace amounts, because the jury is still out on that, so I would like to avoid it in large amounts. For sticky sweet raw baked goods like protein bars or my date tarts I like to ground dates in the food processor.  I’m looking to experiment with raw honey in the future. Whatever you decide remember the less processed the better. Your sweetener will have more nutritional benefits if the nutrients have not been leeched out with heat or harmful chemical additives. And. lastly consider the GI index, although that measure is not the end all be all; it’s definitely an important factor and of course you should still be consuming sugar/sweeteners in moderation.

bellySo why does any of this matter? Well, if you are like me and lots of people (particularly those of a certain age) you carry your excess weight around the middle.  Freeing yourself of this extra “baggage” is really quite simple.  According to Colorado State University, excess sugar consumption is not something our ancestors worried about because “about 200 years ago, daily consumption of sugar was under 15 grams—research has shown that before the Industrial Revolution, that’s about how much the average person ate.  [sure they had to deal with tuberculosis and other illnesses, but obesity wasn’t one of them.] Compared to today, the average American consumes more than 47 teaspoons of sugar each day  that’s about 189 grams a day,” that’s over thirteen times the amount of sugar.

Our bodies don’t know what to do with all this excess sugar. (Now bear with me here, because I’m not a biology major, so this will be broken down in the most simplified  biochemical terms.) After we eat something sweet or very carb heavy like white bread or pasta our blood sugar spikes and the body reacts by quickly sending out insulin through the bloodstream to bring levels back to normal. When those locations are full the excess is stored in adipose tissue in the buttocks, abdomen, thighs etc.  Where you store the excess fat depends upon genetics, but most people carry it in their middles, so much so that abdominal circumference is often an indicator of insulin resistance. This means that fluctuating blood sugar levels can lead to insulin level resistance, which causes the pancreas to flood the bloodstream with more and more insulin. The result is either greater fat storage and hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If low blood sugar is resultant then hunger signals are sent to the brain. Michele Ruttkiewicz, a certified nutritionist explains that ” we may feel hungry again so soon after eating a meal rich in easily absorbable carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, sweets and pastries). By routinely choosing to consume these foods we perpetuate the cycle of elevated blood sugar, increased insulin, abdominal fat storage, hypoglycemia and hunger.”

So you can see how a diet high in refined sugar and carbohydrates leads to a vicious cycle. The more we eat, the more we want, without ever getting completely satiated. I know I’ve been a victim to this most of my life . I managed to combat it mostly, until I reacher my forties, through exercise, but when my metabolism slowed and hormones kicked in I quickly realized I needed a paradigm shift.

So as to not extend this already lengthy post any further,  I will save some tricks I learned (to kick those sugar cravings to the curb) for another post. Until later. . . . .it’s been SWEET.

lollipops

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or certified nutritionist, so always consult your physician for expert health advice.

Sugar: The Good, the bad, and, the ugly: Part One

sugar-lips

How much sugar should people consume a day?

If you think you are consuming too much sugar (a sugar addict) I recommend  you try  a nutrition app like MyFitnessPal to track your meals for a couple days to gauge your sugar intake. My recommended daily intake is 32 grams.

diary_large-82d7e1e580ce038160f0d3deac937390

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises adults who eat a 2,000-calorie diet to limit sugar intake to about 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. Using this number as a guide no more than 8% of our daily intake should come from sugar. To give you an idea, Chobani’s Strawberry Greek Yogurt has 19 grams of sugar, 50% of your daily allowance, a Cliff bar has 21 grams again a little over 50% compared to Snicker’s at 30 grams 3/4 of your daily intake and a regular  12 oz can of Coca Cola contains a whopping 39 grams, just under 100% of your daily intake—–for one can!

americans-ingest-17-million-tons-or-108-pounds-per-person-of-sugar-each-year-from-coca-cola-alone

Why is this important?

If you are consuming too many of these foods (read Westernized diet and HFCS) that contain an excess of sugar it will trigger a spike in your blood sugar levels, your pancreas will be over-stimulated and release large amounts of insulin.  As a result, this excess insulin rapidly mops up the excess sugar in your bloodstream causing your blood sugar levels to dip quickly below normal, causing you to feel hungry once again. This process leads to a vicious cycle where the body requires more and more, yet is never fully satiated, hence creating a dependence and eventually a possible addiction. This may eventually lead to excess weight gain (more on this later,) certain kinds of cancer and, heart disease. This also causes the big surge in energy and the eventual crash.

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Alternatives:

I don’t recommend cutting sugar completely as you will only feel deprived; however,  try and be mindful of your cravings and find some healthy alternatives like fresh fruit–(I’m well aware this is  easier said than done.) Invest in some good quality cocoa powder, like Cellebaut or Valrhona and mix it in with some plain Greek yogurt, whey protein, a little nut butter, almond milk and Stevia–I got this great idea from http://muffin-topless.com/2012/06/22/decadent-chocolate-protein-pudding/

Smoothies with whey protein are also another great alternative as they provide additional lean protein and are usually quite sweet and you can find whey in various flavors like rich chocolate fudge and cookies and cream. The great thing I’ve found after a month or so of tracking and changing my habits, is that my cravings are slowly beginning to dissipate. It doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient.

picture below: processed foods

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Foods to avoid:

Although the following list may not contain sucrose aka  “sugar” in their ingredient list they may contain the following: corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, galactose, glucose, honey, hydrogenated starch, invert sugar maltose, lactose, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, polyols, raw sugar, sorghum, sorbitol, turbinado sugar, and xylitol, which convert into sugar in your bloodstream.

  • white bread, bagels, white potatoes, white rice, white pasta, tortillas, soda, processed package foods like cookies, potato chips crackers, snack cakes etc., fruit juice, most fruit addes yogurts, jams and jellies, and dried fruit like rasins and cranberries, and salad dressings and condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce,  and  beer and alcohol.

Foods you should be eating:

  • Vegetables, fruits (in moderation–apples contain about 19 grams of sugar,) whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread and tortillas, sweet potatoes, lean beef, poultry and fish like cod or tilapia, cereal–look for whole grain cereals that contain less than 10 grams of sugar–I like Barbara’s Puffins, only 5 grams, oatmeal, eggs, nuts,  nut butters,  beans and legumes, flax and chia seeds, lowfat milk, like almond or coconut also good, coconut, olive, and grapessed oil.

I decided to write about this topic because I think I am on my way to becoming a reformed sugar addict. I still drool when I see a Crumb’s cupcake and dream about my homemade peanut butter cups, but I’m finding some alternatives (sometimes iced coffee with cream and a little stevia does the trick) and trying to stay in tune with my body’s cravings instead of just hedonistically grabbing something and scarfing it down– but yeah that sometimes feels amazing, but only leads to guilt and another cardio session.

Where to begin:

1. Start tracking your sugar intake. You might be surprised at what you find and this will give you an idea of your typical daily intake.

2. Read food labels and pay close attention to the sugar grams and the percentage compared to calories.

3. Be mindful at parties with those fruity drinks; they often contain sugary syrups with lots of hidden sugar. An alternative: vodka, perrier, and a squeeze of lemon or lime.

4. Bring you’re own sweetener along with you for your tea and coffee. My sweetener of choice right now is Stevia, but there has been some recent, inconclusive developments on the glycemic index of this alternative sweetener–more on that later.

5. If you have a bad day–and you will–because you go over your daily intake, think about how you can do better the next day and just know you are on your way to beating your addiction.

My next post will cover how sugar converts into fat, (often in the belly region) some healthy alternatives to sugar and how they hold up in baking. Something worth noting is that this becomes markedly more important as we age, because of hormones (in women) and the slow down of metabolism.