~where foraging & naturopathy collide~
So What's the Deal With:
SUGAR. SF= Sugar-free
You all know about this one. While it is true that organic sugar raises blood sugar glucose slightly less than non-organic sugar, sugar is still sugar: it contains empty calories and we can do without the blood sugar spikes. Unfortunately, sugar is in a lot of packaged foods, even ones sold in health food stores. We've gone way past eating sugar during the holiday season and at the occasional birthday. It seems every day it's someone's birthday or treat-me-I-deserve-this day: honey in my morning muesli; sugar in my Starbuck's coffee hit mid-morning; molasses in my tempeh with salad lunch; agave in my nut and date bar afternoon power snack; and fruit-juice sweetened ketchup on my sweet potato fries with sugary mayo on my soy burger. Let's face it: sugar has become the new daily bread!
Unfortunately, other natural sweeteners such as anti-microbial honey, iron-rich blackstrap molasses and mineral-rich maple syrup offer about the same number of calories as sugar, plus they also spike blood glucose levels.
I use these in my recipes very occasionally. Because of honey's anti-microbial nature, I don't use honey in baked recipes. Although agave is touted to be fine for vegans (instead of honey), I find it to be nothing more than high fructose corn syrup and I don't use this sweetener at all in my recipes.
There are many alternative healthier sweeteners that I use. For no-bake yummy goodies, I like using dried fruits like dates, raisins, goji berries and apricots. Obviously, they are au naturel, with naturally occurring sugars. Other sweeteners that I use in no bake recipes include:
You can buy whole monk fruit from Asian markets. When you open the shell, you find this dried fruit with seeds inside. You grind this inside part into a powder (not the outer shell! put that in the compost) and use it in your recipe. It tastes like a cross between mocha and chocolate. In my experience, some of the fruits have a bitterness to them while others don't. I've used the whole fruit ground this way in my recipes more as a flavoring for a cocoa- like feel than as a sweetener.
However, you can buy pure monk fruit where they've processed out the bitter part here. I've used this monk fruit in combination with other sweeteners in no-bake goodies. Lakanto sells monk fruit paired with erythritol and stevia, which you can buy here. I've also seen monk fruit sold with maltodextrin, which is something you want to avoid if you're not into corn or following the SCD/SIBO diet. Since these sweeteners are rather pricey, I don't use them in baked recipes where large amounts are required.
For both no-bake and baked recipes, I use:
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, just like xylitol. Xylitol hasn't been shown to contribute to candida, however it can cause gas and bloating and it's recommended to start with small doses and gradually increase to large doses. Erythritol can also cause gas and bloating in my experience. FYI: both are high FODMAPs, so if you have digestive issues, your best bet is to experiment and see what works for you --- or go for stevia.
I've read some arguments against stevia in the SCD/SIBO world. But I still stand behind stevia. The stevia that you might find in stores sold as a white powder - in which the licorice-like aftertaste that stevia can have has been processed out - is not the real deal. The stevia that I know is a plant that is amazingly sweet. Not just sweet in taste, but she's a cute lil sweetie pie! I have her growing on my balcony outside during the summer months and she does really well growing indoors during the wintertime. I've been using her dried leaves to make a really strong tea that I steep overnight (called an infusion) and then using this sweet liquid in many recipes, such as oatmeal and baked recipes.
You can make also make a stevia glycerite using fresh or dried stevia leaves and glycerin. Or even a concentrated stevia liquid/syrup, what some might call a double decoction (a little trip on Google to find out how to do these things might be worth your while!).
There are some stevia products sold in stores that are just fine (not processed). I like going the au naturel route and using just the green leaves, which you can find here.
Since stevia doesn't contribute to candida or other bad bacteria in the gut, she's really an all around good sweetener to use. If you find that you aren't so keen on the licorice-like aftertaste (I've found that this taste depends on the particular batch of leaves I'm using), then pair stevia with one or more other sweeteners, such as xylitol, erythritol, glycerin or fruit juice.
In my experience, I have found that stevia in small doses, such as to sweeten tea, is fine, but stevia shines as an enhancer sweetener in recipes where more sweet taste is required. In my baked recipes, for example, I have used fruit juices paired with stevia or xylitol/erythritol with stevia. This has allowed me to use less fruit juice or sugar alcohol --- showcasing just how much of a sweetie stevia is by boosting the sweetness of her other sweet friends! (Yes, I'm "sweet" on stevia!). I have similarly used stevia with glycerin.
Glycerin (also known as glycerol, glycerine and vegetable glycerin) is a sweetener that I have rarely come across in recipes. Glycerin is often used externally in beauty products to soften the skin --- such as in my homemade deodorant recipe! But food grade glycerin is used to make medicine (called glycerites), usually for children, in which herbs are steeped in glycerin. It's also used as a humectant by the food industry to give moisture to foods. Although it's considered generally safe to use (GRAS), it is a sugar alcohol and it may cause digestive issues such as stomach upset and diarrhea. It's also derived from vegetable and/or animal fat and it has more calories than sugar (65 calories for 1 tbsp!).
On an interesting tidbit, I began using glycerin to sweeten my recipes after reading about it in "Wildman" Steve Brill's The Wild Vegan Cookbook... (highly recommended if you're into WILD recipes and foraging!). It's used just as honey is, although it won't raise your blood sugar as honey will. I use glycerin very successfully in both no-bake and baked recipes, usually paired with stevia to heighten glycerin's effect (it's considered about 60% as sweet as sugar).
I've also used glycerites, such as rose or lavender, to sweeten no bake goodies (and for scent too!), and I've even used "medicinal" glycerites such as grapefruit seed extract or echinacea in no bake recipes (with additional glycerin & stevia) to hide the medicine (great for kids and for us big adults too!). Look for such recipes in my ebooks (coming soon) or in the Go Wild, Be Free Desserts category.
A lot of soy is GMO (Genetically-Modified), which means that it's not a real food. Soy is everywhere: soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy milk and of course as tofu. It tends to be in a lot of foods as soy lecithin, where it's used as a thickener. Besides the GMO angle, soy beans themselves are one of the hardest beans to digest, which can make you wonder how we go about digesting soy products. The other thing about soy is that it interferes with thyroid functioning (which tends to be a factor in digestive issues).
Soy is much more digestible in its fermented form, such as GF miso, GF soy sauce and tempeh. I usually don't use soy in my recipes, but if I do, it will be in one of these three fermented forms, non-GMO of course. I've also used non-GMO soy lecithin in rare (but successful) instances to replace some of the fat in my chocolate recipes.
Cruelty to animals aside (which is a very real fact) there are many other ways to get in protein and amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) besides meat. As someone who is more interested in plant-based nutrition, I don't use meat in my recipes. Plant protein sources are many: chia seed, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and the big world of legumes are the ones that leap to mind. Of course, there's also the plant-based protein powders that are readily sold at health food stores, such as hemp, brown rice and pea protein. And then there are the greens: leafy greens like kale and spinach, grasses like barley and wheatgrass and algae like spirulina and chlorella. Do I use any of those ingredients in my recipes?! You bet your boots I do!
Some of my recipes have fat, some don't. I think the real issue is what type of fat is being used and if it of high quality. I usually don't cook with fat. The exceptions: if I happen to be doing something fried such as pancakes, a flatbread or refried rice, I will use coconut oil. Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is heat stable. I sometimes use coconut oil to grease pans for baking, although I have used parchment paper or unbleached muffin cups to make it FF.
I tend to favor using seeds over nuts in no-bake recipes, such as to make dips, spread and sweet treats, although I recommend that both seeds & nuts be soaked prior to use to release their enzyme inhibitors and make digestion easier. Seeds include chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp, sesame and sunflower. I tend to use nuts in no-bake (as opposed to baked) goodies, such as calcium-rich almonds, selenium-rich Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and pecans, but NOT PEANUTS. If nuts are an issue for you, look for the label NutF in my recipes. Coconut flour and shredded coconut are two other fatty products that I sometimes use.
When it comes to cooked recipes, there is generally no fat being used. Grain recipes, casseroles, and soups are all FF. If I do suggest a concentrated oil to be used in a recipe, such as for a salad dressing, for example, it is almost always an organic, first cold pressed, virgin or extra virgin, omega-3-rich oil, such as hemp, flax, borage, evening primrose or Udo's 3-6-9 oil --- an oil to be added after the dish has been cooked and where you can portion control the amount of oil used!
Yeast is what gives bread that high rise and fluffiness...and also contributes to candida. Yes, we all do have candida in our guts; the problem is when it gets out of control. And a lot of people have candida overgrowth.
Candida is a bad guy, a bad bacteria. It's a yeast. Yeasts like damp environments to thrive in, and candida is no exception. Its food? Sugar. And more yeast, of course---because then a real party can get started and candida can become systemic, affecting many parts of the body. Unfortunately, systemic candida is a real pain in the butt to kick to the curb. Obvious symptoms are chronic gas and bloating, but phlegmy lungs, vaginal yeast infections and cravings for sugar/carbs are some other signs.
It's rare to find a bread out there or recipe that doesn't have yeast. Sure, it's understandable: we want to have gluten-free breads just like gluten-filled breads; they're fluffy, airy and light. It's not necessary: we don't need to have breads that are just like the glutinous ones. We can have hearty breads, without the yeast, that are healthy, easy to make, and know exactly what ingredients are in there (i.e., no need for salt, eggs, dairy or sugar!). Yes, we can ditch the yeast and have our morning bagel too.
All of my baked good recipes, such as muffins, quick breads, cookies, crackers and flat breads are FREE of yeast. The only yeast that I use on occasion to give my recipes a cheesy feel is nutritional yeast. You should be aware that while nutritional yeast is not supposed to "feed" candida, many still react to it. Nutritional yeast has been labeled by some as a neurotoxin, so it's up to you whether you choose to use this ingredient or not. If nutritional yeast is used in a recipe, it won't have the designation YF.
The daily maximum for sodium as an important mineral in our diet is 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Table salt is a poor choice; high quality sea salt (such as Celtic or Himalayan) contains trace minerals which our bodies need. So yes, the minerals in sea salt are what we are after. However, salt (even sea salt) is found in almost all packaged foods. Consider that salt is also used as a preservative in many foods such as miso, soy sauce, condiments like mustard, mayo and ketchup, and even fermented foods like sauerkraut. We also forget about the sodium in baked goods: baking soda and baking powder. Baking powder is really baking soda + mace or cream of tartar. In short: it's easy to go over.
The big thing with excess salt is that it interferes with nutrient absorption, especially calcium. Calcium is a major mineral that looks after the cardiovascular, lymphatic and nervous system. Yes, bones too. It also plays a vital function in regulating the ph level of the blood. If calcium can't control the ph level, the body gets acidic. And an acidic body = health issues (like hypertension, lymphatic congestion and circulation issues).
In Chinese medicine, salt is associated with the kidney-adrenals. So when sodium is in excess of potassium (sodium is always supposed to be in balance with potassium), you can understand how adrenal issues crop up, fatigue being a common symptom. Other symptoms include lax muscles, poor reflexes and coordination, and edema (excess salt can create a lovely puffy look in anyone!).
My recipes are FREE of salt and baking powder/soda. I've made many a-muffin and quick bread without using baking soda or powder and been very pleased with the results! As noted before, I do use fermented soy products in some of my recipes, and since these ingredients do contain salt, they won't have the label NaF.
Whenever I want to create a salty feel in my recipes, I like to use celery which is naturally high in sodium, as well as mineral-rich seaweeds, including kelp, arame and nori. Other foods that are naturally high in sodium include:
Celery, Beets, Carrots, Bok Choy, Spinach, Broccoli, Bell Pepper, Pineapple & Honeydew Melon.