WHAT SUGAR DOES TO THE HUMAN BODY

The truth is that sugar is a drug and you can addicted to it.

By now you know  that sugar is not good for you,yet every time you seem to try to go cold turkey and stay off it you keep coming back unable to let go off what can only be described as an addiction.You cannot have tea or coffee without it and you prefer calling your addiction a sweet tooth.

But do you have a sweet tooth or what exactly is it about sugar that makes life so much sweeter (pun intended) ?

Yet everywhere we look there is something sugary and sweet calling out to us and tea,coffee does not really taste the same without a teaspoon or two or maybe three of sugar.

We cannot tell exactly why tea in our sugar or tea hits such a sweet spot and many people swear that they cannot take tea without sugar .If you have a cup in the morning another at 10 am and another at 4 pm and with each cup you take about 2 teaspoons of sugar that equals to about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar,depending on how much you put in per cup/mug.

If you are a woman a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar daily  is recommended.

Now imagine you take a soda during the day,it is hot ,then you decide to take with you a fruit smoothie of about 4 different fruits as you drive to work,meet a friend for coffee after work and you each order for a slice of the moist carrot cake you were  told  is fresh from the oven,how many teaspoons of sugar do you think that will total to

It will equal to a  lot of teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar occurring naturally in food are  an energy source for the body’s cells .When we consume carbohydrates they get broken down by the enzyme carbohydrase which breaks down the starch in foods into sugars.

It is not just carbohydrates that contain sugar ,fruits  also contain sugar made up of two simple sugars sucrose and fructose.It is why making a habit of drinking fruit smoothies made up of 3-4 fruits daily is not a good idea while trying to mange your wait is not a good idea as in the final end it will get converted to sugar and any extra sugar you do not use your body stores it in the form of fat.

“It is better to eat your fruit rather than drink it.”

When sugars are added to food it is because they play an important role ,they add texture taste and color to baked food products .Sugar is added to yoghurt,to tomato paste and sauce for added as well to  balance flavor, and to o dried fruits as a preservative,to bread  act as an energy source for yeast as well as in tea coffee to add taste to these drinks.

Naturally occurring sugars are beneficial to your body,it is the added sugars that pose are not good.The American Heart Association recommends that you get your sugars from complex carbohydrates starchy  vegetables,whole grain breads, and other cereals because these foods take longer to digest and the release of sugar into your blood gives steadier sugar levels as they take longer to digest.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and not more than 9 teaspoons for men daily.That is about 100 calories and 150 calories respectively for women and men respectively.

Sugar does play a role  in a healthy diet ,it is the the source of sugar and the over consumption of sugars from other sources that pose a problem to your health.When you over  consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks  your body experiences rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels.The rapid rises and falls of your blood sugars drives your pancreas crazy!

Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin which is released from your pancreas.Insulin is a hormone that prompts your body cells to absorb sugar that the cells need to use  for their cell functions and the excess then gets stored as fat.When your blood sugar falls the pancreas prompts the release of the hormone glucagon that has the liver releasing the stored sugar for use by the body cells.

We live at a time when there has been an increase in the number of people living with Type 2 Diabetes and the onset of diabetes in Type 2 keeps going lower.A major cause of these could be the foods we are taking in,especially  foods high in  added sugars.Type 2 develops over a period of time  when the body is unable to use the  insulin it producees in the correct way.The body then becomes unable to respond to the insulin it produces and this prompts the pancreas to release more  insulin.This over production of insulin wears the insulin producing cells out and eventually the body stops responding to the insulin it produces and that is when Type 2 Diabetes is diagonised.

Type 2 diabetes at the outset can be managed with a healthy diet and physical activity but with time one will need to take tablets and maybe have insulin injections as well.

The reason why the over  consumption of sugary foods is discouraged is mainly because sugar plays havoc with your body’s metabolism. Occasional indulgence in a cookie or a slice of cake is okay but it should not become a daily habit.Management of your weight is  important as excess weight makes your body unresponsive to insulin which will lead to over production of insulin and eventually your pancreas will lose  its insulin producing cells which will lead to pre diabetes,then diabetes type 2 as your body loses the capacity to be able to produce and respond to insulin which is needed to regulate your blood sugar levels.

While it is very easy to avoid soda,cake,cookies,ice cream and other foods where it is obvious sugar has been added,there are other places where we have hidden sugars.

A good habit to start practicing is reading food labels ,as sugar gets hidden in commercially produced foods and the names used may confuse most people .Sugar in the food you buy from the store will be hiding with names like corn syrup,fructose,dextrose,maple syrup,fruit concentrate,caramel,molasses and many other titles.

Having struggled with kicking off sugar in my teens,I finally did so in my early twenties and I know how hard it can be to keep off sugar . Sugar is actually a “drug” and its consumption from other sources other than the naturally occurring ones releases the feel good hormone dopamine into your brain making you cry out more,more ,more.It is why it is so hard to give up sugar because we have already created neural pathways for this  pleasure habit and the reason why it becomes hard to give up. Just like learning a new skill is hard,we have to  create new neural pathways in place of the old ones by replacing our cravings for sugar with healthy ones like eating more fruits,nuts,drinking more water and taking pleasure from these healthier habits.

It can be done,and you can take your tea without sugar and enjoy it,have your coffee without sugar and thoroughly enjoy it and yes even your cereals do not need the sugar as well and the plain yoghurt actually tastes better when you add  fruits real fruits to it.

If you found this  article useful or  helpful,please let us know in the comments section .

HOW TO PREPARE HEALTHY SNACKS FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Snacking for children

A woman wields the  greatest  power over her household as she determines what gets eaten in her house ,she determines how healthy her family will be and most of us forget the power we have.You solely can  set the course over what kind of eating habits your children will carry with them through out their lives and well into adulthood.

As a woman many times I have found myself  asking this very simple question- ” why am I  here?” .

I don’t know if many others struggle with the same question ?This   feeling  that even though I may be doing very well in my career,business,relationships….I am not yet quite there.

It feels like we are in some kind of waiting room,you know like the one at the docotrs where you have to wait out your turn?

Hospital waiting rooms and waiting rooms of any kind are interesting places to get to see what people do when they have nothing to do but wait their turn.

Some are busy on their phones,reading newspapers ,magazine or a book or just people watching.

When you have children and have to take your children to the paedetrician,it is a great time to meet other mother,fathers as well though they are pretty rare.As a nutritionist it is also a time to see the kind of snacks children carry with them.Snacks are a great way to keep children  busy,their  very short attentions spans (15 minutes with my kids)means that they get bored pretty fast.They have very creative ways of keeping you busy as a parent with their trips to the dispenser pouring out cup after cup of water or making repeated trips to the bathroom to wash their hands.

Snack time is an opportunity parents can use to teach children to pick the healthy option rather than the one that looks tempting.Whether it is a hospital visit or packing snacks for school ,whatever snacks we put into their hands should more often than not be a choice that feeds their bodies and their taste buds as well.

Snack time is an opportunity to meet our nutritional requirements and growing children require more micro nutrients which are the vitamins and minerals than adults do.Giving them  a choice of fruits,nuts as well as vegetables is a healthy way of meeting their nutritional needs.

The trick to getting children eat more vegetables and fruits is to present it in a very attractive manner.

After the last post on the building blocks of your child’s nutrition some readers asked if I could give some ideas on healthy snacks they could give to their children .

Just before I share the suggestions I have  prepared I thought I should say some things to every woman who is doing her best to raise her children to eat better and have healthier habits.

A woman yields the  greatest  power over her household as she determine what get eaten and most do not  know it.You are the one that sets the course over what kind of eating habits your children will carry with them through out their lives.

A woman has the power to determine the kind of lifestyle her children,grand children and future great grand children will live.

A woman determines what ends up on the plates of her children,by the choice of the kind of foods she chooses to wean her child on, she is developing her child’s taste buds for healthy food .

The reason why we are told to wean children on a variety of natural foods is to develop their taste for nature’s goodness and not food from little  jars or boxes that is filled with a lot of sugar,salt and other additives and preservatives.

As much as possible try and develop healthy eating habits in your children as early as you can.

And even when you may have missed the opportunity earlier on,as long as they live under your roof you still have the power to change the course of their eating habits.

Children who develop healthy eating habits from an early age have fewer incidences of disease and hospital visits.They are more likely to perform better in school as well as socially.

You may want to read a post I did on why you should be reading food labels as well.

The foods that are great and healthy alternatives are foods you can pick from your local kiosk or grocery shop and when it comes to fruits,the best choices are the fruits in season,these offer you a fresh as well as cheaper alternative than those that are out of season.

1.Fruits

Fruits are best eaten  whole not blended.

Blending a few fruits for juice may seem healthy on the surface but fruits contain fructose a sugar and drinking too much fruit juice means  children while enjoying nature’s goodness in a glass of juice are also taking in too much sugar.

2-3 fruits daily are enough to meet a child’s dietary requirements .

Instead of blending 2-3 fruits to make fruit juice have your children eat the fruit whole,if it is an orange,slice it and let them have the orange.If an apple let them crunch their teeth  through the skin of the apple or let them peel the banana .Peeling bananas is a good way to develop your child’s fine motor skills as well.

As we live in the tropics,Kenya is never out of fruits,we enjoy a wide variety of fruits all year round,be sure to have your child eat at least 2 in a day by packing them as a snack for school and having another as an after school snack.

3.Salads

Salads are a great way for getting your children to meet their dietary requirements for  vitamins and minerals .

Making salads is a fun and easy way to get children to eat more of their vegetables.

Better still is if you use your own dressing,forget the one you buy from the supermarket that is loaded with preservatives,sugar and salt.Home made salad dressing are easy and tasty.

Try making them with some olive oil,freshly squeezed lemon juice ,black pepper,pinch of salt ,honey and use that dressing to toss your grated cabbage and carrot,or lettuce tomatoes and carrots.

Salads can be served for dinner or over the weekend and are a great way to get kids involved in preparing healthy meals ,lessons that they will definitely carry with them through adult hood and when they bring up their own children as well.

4.Nuts and seeds

Before you start giving your children nuts and seeds,ensure they do not have any nut allergies.

Cashew nuts,macadamia nuts are   favorites with most children , we also have peanuts(some children have peanut allergies)  we also have almonds,hazel nuts that are not produced locally and cost more but are also healthy choices and are stocked in a variety of stores.

Before packing nuts and seeds as a snack for children ensure they are past the age of 4 years and can comfortably eat them in your presence as they are a choking hazard for younger children.

There are also nut butters available and these nut butters can be used on bread,on sandwiches as well and are healthier than margarine as well as most commercially produced fruit jams.

5.Dried fruits

Dried fruits like sultanas,dates  and raisins are also good but not too much though as sugar is used as a preservative to lengthen their shelf life.These you can mix in with your favourite nuts to create some variety or added to breads you make at home and to cakes as well.

Salads can be jazzed up with some nuts,dried fruits and seeds like sesame seeds as well.

6.Sandwiches

Everybody loves bread(at least I thought so until we started thinking gluten was evil)

You may want to read :WHY YOU MAY NOT REALLY BE ALLERGIC TO GLUTEN.

You can make sandwiches from left over chicken and add tomatoes and with a simple simple dressing of olive oil and lemon you will have  a really delicious sandwich.You can add some crunch to it by first grilling the bread,rubbing some garlic clove on it and what you will end up with your children will keep asking for every time you have left over chicken.

One of my favorites as well as my kids is placing a slice of bread on a plate and layering it with thinly sliced avocado pieces  ,slices of  tomatoes  and topping it with a slice of bread then slicing the bread  diagonally into 4 cute triangular pieces.

You can come up with as many sandwich varieties as you like depending on what your family likes and as long as it is a healthy.Make your sandwiches  irresistible  by cutting them into fancy shapes using cookie cutters,your children will love them.

The secret to  getting it right with  sandwiches is to buy sandwich bread which is denser in order to hold the filling(s )and pick a healthy filling as well.

Fillings for sandwiches can be anything from fruits like avocado,tomato  to salads like guacamole or left over roast beef,chicken,turkey or tuna.

6.Making your own fruit yoghurts

A lot of the fruit yoghurts available in the market have a lot of sugar in them,a great idea is to buy  plain yoghurt and it with a fruit of your choice and pack it for your child  which they can have  as a mid morning or after school snack when they come back home.

Fruits that will give you a really great flavor when blended with yoghurt are strawberries,bananas,avocado,blueberries and just  one fruit per serving of yoghurt at a time .

A few years back I bought a popsicle maker and would often make popsicles with fruit yoghurt. The kids loved it especially when the weather was hot.

You may want to read :BENEFITS OF YOGHURT

A great way to ensure you do not have to push your children to choose healthy snack options is to always have a fruit bowl in the house,make sure its filled with fruits like bananas,oranges,apples ,grapes and by keeping a jar of nuts and seeds as well so that when the hunger pangs strike then they know where they can refill from.

If this post helpful,we would love to hear from you.It is readers like Wambui and everyone else who sends in their questions that keep us writing.

We may not always get it right all the time but when we can get it right 75% of the time when we pick a fruit over a packet of crisps then we are doing the right thing.

See you in the comments section and thank you Wambui!

CUSTARD APPLE

How many times have you passed by this fruit at your local market and wondered WTH it was?

Pile of custard apples together with red dragon fruit from 123rf.com

The custard apple is a very sweet fruit as a result of the naturally occuring sugars it carries.

It is very rich in Vitamin B1 and B2(Thiamin and Riboflavin)

It is also a good source of vitamin C,magnesium and potassium.

It ripens pretty fast once mature and its pulp can be blended with other fruits  to make shakes or with milk.

You need to sieve the pulp first to get rid of the seeds.

Its best to buy them when they arent ripe yet and store them in a cool dry place.

Follow this link that has recipes from the Australian Custard Growers Association on how to use the fruit for various dessert dishes.

Once ripe the outer flesh softens and gives slightly when pressed but you need to be careful it doesnt get too ripe which then turns the pulp inside  to a mushy consistency.

The flesh inside is white/off white and that’s what you want to eat, it is simply delicious!

“NAUGHTY” STRAWBERRY SEMIFREDDO WITH SHAVED CHOCOLATE

Once upon a time I made cakes.

My favourite  was a chocolate cake covered with vanilla whipped cream and dressed up with desiccated coconut and I would liberally put strawberries or almonds all over it.

It was a hit.

I was always left with  whipped cream after and I would ask myself what to do with it.

And here is something that’s better than ice cream that I would make.

I call it my naughty dessert because it has lots of cream and chocolate that you should not be eating all the time only sometimes.

Ingredients

1  cup whipping cream

1 cup fresh strawberries

1/2 cup  cooking chocolate shavings/chocolate syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment

Glass bowl

metal whisk

2 chilled champagne glasses

Preparation

1.First chill the bowl,cream  and whisk separately  in your freezer for 20 minutes.

2.Take them out and pour the whipping cream into the bowl and roll up your sleeves and whip .

Whipping allows air to be incorporated into the cream creating little bubbles of air that helps foam it up.

3.Whip for 5-10 minutes till the cream thickens and when you lift the whisk it forms soft peaks.

You will know this when after whisk is lifted. the peaks fall .back into the bowl.

4.Add the vanilla essence and whip again more slowly this time,you will see the cream thicken.Be careful not too whip too much as you may end up with butter.

This takes a shorter time and you are ready to use cream when stiff peaks form.

5.Get your chilled glasses and using a clean spoon ,put 2 tablespoons of the mixture,then chocolate shavings  and top with halved strawberries.

6.Repeat this layering with the cream and strawberries, finishing off with a whipped cream layer,pop a whole strawberry to garnish and use shaved cooking chocolate to garnish.

Enjoy!

 

 

COCONUT WATER AND MANGO COOLER

A semifreddo is a partially frozen  fruit drink that can be turned into a dessert.

Semifreddos can be made from fruit juice,ice cream,cake,custard or whipped cream.

They are the perfect coolers to the hot days that January is infamous for here in Kenya.

You can find a strawberry and shaved chocolate semifreddo here.

Use this recipe here for the coconut and mango fruit mix,  double the ingredients and you have a perfect drink to keep you rehydrated this January.

The drink can be sweetened using a simple syrup.

You can use your favourite fresh fruit juice,pour it into a freeze proof container and pop it into your freezer.

Keep checking every 2 hours  and if mixture looks like it is about to freeze,scrape it with a fork till it’s a crystallised slush.

Do this  2-3 times till you are left with crystallised bits of the juice without any liquid left in the container.

Scoop  this into a chilled champagne or wine glass and top with some more of the fresh fruit juice and enjoy.

CARROTS AND MORE……..

One of my sisters ,who shall remain unnamed decided she wanted to run away.

And the only thing she carried was a carrot and her favourite dress.

A carrot! I still wonder how she thought she would survive on a carrot for who knows how long, till she got hungry and came back home.

Luckily we found her just as she turned the corner after our house.

Like most children she loved carrots and this root vegetables is a go to snack anytime.

If you store them in a plastic bag unwashed,and keep in the coolest part of of your fridge,this way   they can keep fresh for weeks.

Remember to wash them  before use.

They are  a rich source of beta carotene which gives them their yellow color,beta carotene once it gets  into  the body is turned into Vitamin A.

Carrots are rich in Vitamins C,B,D,E and K.They also contain minerals like potassium,manganese,calcium,phosphorus and sodium.

So how can you make more use of carrots.

1.Grated or cubed,make sure carrots are a staple in all your meat and vegetable dishes,Whether they be stews or salads.

Start off with this carrot cake inspired salad

2. Make carrot juice and blend it with other fruit drinks like fresh apples/beetroot and orange juice.

3.Use grated or julienned carrots to garnish dishes in which you have used carrots.

4.Carrots also add a wonderful accent to things like soup,include them when making items like this ox tail soup

5.Blend carrot juice with some thick yoghurt and some pieces of pineapple/beetroot or any fruit of your liking and you have a drink that is a powerhouse of nutrients.

What other carrot uses can you come up with?

SOUR MILK(MALA) AND YOGHURT BENEFITS

Kenyans are not huge fans of cheese but we love our sour milk and for those from the Rift Valley there is Mursik  which is fermented milk that is flavoured with an indigenous tree that has been charred in wood fire,it is then stored in a special holding gourd for its flavour to develop.

I love unsweetened Mursik .

It must be the reason behind the prowess of our long distance runners,majority f whom come from the Rift Valley and especially the Kalenjin community ,where this is an after dinner,lunch and anytime refreshment.

It is such  a delicacy in this community that it is served at weddings and when our athletes return from conquering the world athletic tracks,a gourd of refreshing mursik awaits them at the airport.

Sour milk benefits are similar to those derived from yoghurt,though their consistencies differ.

Both are products of treating milk with live cultures and result in products where the milk protein lactose is broken down into a simple sugar called lactase that people who are lactose intolerant can digest.

Benefits of including more yoghurt and sour milk in your diet include the fact that these two dairy products contain more protein and calcium than regular milk .

The live cultures in these foods also aid in digestion.

I  steer away from artificially flavoured yoghurt as it have too much sugar,you are better off buying the plain yoghurt and flavouring with your preferred fruit.

Just in-case you may be wondering what to do with these two dairy products,here are 5 ways to do it.

1.Instead of using mayonnaise for all your salad dressings,substitute half of it with a thick natural yoghurt.

2.Use sour milk/plain yoghurt to replace the water when making your pastries like doughnuts,pizza,samosas,chapatis even cakes.

When making cakes using sour milk/yoghurt,replace some of  the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda

3.Use a yoghurt base for your fruit salads,just a few spoons in the bottom of your salad bowl then top with your preferred fruit slices and an extra spoonful for garnish would not hurt either.

4.Make your own fruit shakes from non flavoured yoghurt by blending a glass of these milk products with your favourite fruits.

5.For women make yoghurt/sour milk  part of your diet,not only does it help protect against osteoporosis but the active cultures in these drinks offer some protection against yeast infections

MANGO AND BEETROOT LASSI!

Lassi’s are home to India as much as tea is and they are made from blending yoghurt with fruits preferably tropical fruits like mangos or pineapples.

I first got a recipe for this from Aarti’s show which you can find here.
I decided to make it my own by tweaking my red hot mango fruit drink and instead of the water i added natural unsweetend yoghurt.

Try it!

Ingredients

1 ripe mango

1 glass of  natural yoghurt

Juice from a fresh lime/lemon,fresh

1/2  a medium sized beetroot sliced into quarters.

1/2 red chilli powder.

Some drinking water

Ice cubes

 

Method

1.Peel mangoes and slice off the flesh aound the seed then cut it into cubes .

2Put these in ablender,then add the quartered beetroot,juice from the lemon(it prevents the beetroot from turning color).

3.Add some honey or syrup for taste,2 pinches of red chilli powder  and yoghurt   to make it easier to blend the mixture and pulse for 3-5 minutes  till you get a smooth consistency

Add more yoghurt/water   till you get the desired thickness.

4.Get 2 tall drinking glass,put some ice cubes and pour the drink.

RED “HOT” MANGO FRUIT SMOOTHIE

Nothing screams December is here, better than mangos…in Kenya atleast.

Mangoes are everywhere you turn,in fruit stalls, in wheel barrows being pushed by street vendors,you see them in all shapes and sizes and colors everywhere you look.

And they come cheap.

They remind me of the lond December holidays i had as a kid and we would go back to Nairobi with a sack ful of mangoes for our neighbours.

And no fruit vendor worth his salt would sell mangoes without some chilli powder mixed in with salt to accompany these delicous fruit.

Mangoes are a great source of Vitamin C,dietary fibre ,folate and Vitamin B6.

Mangoes are some of the most commonlly cultivated fruits in the tropics and they originated from India then spread to the rest of the world.

In addition to being eaten on their own as a fruit,they can be turned into smoothies,eaten in salads,chutneys and as garnishing on ice cream.

There are even dried mango strips sold in some specialty stores and thye are delicious and great for kids to snack on,definetely better than potato crisps.

Ingredients

2 ripe mangoes

1 glass of  drinking water

Juice from a fresh lime/lemon,fresh

1/2  a medium sized beetroot sliced into quarters.

1-2 pinches red chilli powder.

Ice cubes

Method

1.Peel mangoes and slice off the flesh aound the seed then cut it into cubes .

2Put these in ablender,then add the quartered beetroot,juice from the lemon(it prevents the beetroot from turning color).

3.Add some honey or syrup for taste,2 pinches of red chilli powder  and water  to make it easier to blend the mixture and pulse for 3-5 minutes .

Add more water till you get the desired consistency.

4.Get 2 tall drinking glass,put some ice cubes and pour the drink.

COCONUT AND MANGO FRUIT MIX

You cannot mention the Kenyan coast without talking about the coconut.

I remember when my dad would go on one of his many field trips as a film producer if he ended up at the coast,he had better bring home coconuts and mangoes or maembe dodo,the oval-shaped mangoes so emblematic of the coast

Nostalgia just had to creep through in this recipe where I use  mango ,coconut and pineapple drink ..

But the star of the show should really be coconut water.

There is even an alcoholic drink at the Kenyan coast that goes by the name of mnazi,made from coconut water.

Apparentlycoconut water  is a great anti aging drink but it also has other nutritional benefits, it has no calories but is a great source of potassium,better than bananas apparently.

And is a great rehydration drink in the heat so common at the coast.

More about coconut water.

Glass of coconut water

Now here is what you need for this drink ,which would be great with a shot or two of something that is not water.

Ingredients

Coconut water from 1 coconut

1 ripe mango

1/2 cup diced pineapple

Juice from 2 limes

Some drinking water

 

Method

1.First peel mango and remove the flesh ,dicing it and  putting it into a clean bowl till you are left with the seed.

2.Split coconut and drain the water into a glass.

3.Squeeze the juice from two limes.

4.In a blender put in the coconut water and diced mango pieces.

5.If you want you may want to add a tablespoon of honey to sweeten  but the drink is fine as it is.

6.Blend the fruits to your desired consistency adding water if it gets too thick.

7.Get a tall drinking glass and if you have an extra lemon slice it in half and use one half and pass it round the rim of the glass flesh side down.

You want to dampen the rim so that the sugar sticks.

8.Place the glass rim side down onto the bowl of sugar,you now have sugar crystals round the rim.

9.Put some ice cubesthe diced pineapple pieces into the glass,  then pour the blended juice.

10.Garnish with a slice of thinly sliced lemon and a colored straw

You are off to the tropics,just make make sure you have a handful of cashewnuts to complete the picture!