Five Years Plus

{February 27, 2010}   How Sweet It Is

I pay attention to other people’s dietary preferences, especially when they are vital to their health. I know sugar lurks in ketchup and  gluten can hide in soy sauce and chocolate chips. Although I generally stay away from sugar and wheat products, I appreciate that I can occasionally enjoy a crunchy piece of whole wheat bread or savor the Valentine’s day chocolate covered strawberries without ill-effects.

When my sister Ann was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 39, I learned the difference between short and long-term insulin and made it a point to provide a sugar-free dessert when cooking for her. She lives on the other side of the continent and I don’t see her often. Recently I had the opportunity to more fully appreciate what she goes through  when a local friend was diagnosed. I have seen this friend conscientiously weighing her food and carving out her lunch break in the middle of a busy workday. I felt her disappointment when she became even more sensitive to the effects of carbohydrates after a three month “honeymoon” period.

I offered to make Ann sugar-free jam for Christmas. My favorite sugar substitute is stevia. I use it in cranberry sauce or rhubarb and when making sun tea or lemonade. However when I used it as the main sweetener in jam it received an overwhelming thumbs-down review. I don’t use any aspartame products because I think they are potentially harmful and the safety of Splenda is also questionable. I decided to try xylitol, a sugar alcohol found naturally in the fibers of certain fruits and vegetables. According to the package of xylitol I bought at our local health food store, “it resembles sugar in consistency and taste, but has a third fewer calories and is a great sugar alternative for diabetics.”

I went to the American Diabetes Association website to check out this assertion. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of information displayed there. The ADA is up to date on the understanding that it is not sugar per se that is problematic for someone with diabetes; it is the ingestion of the total amount of carbohydrate (bread, crackers, pasta, rice, juice, fruit etc.) that needs to be monitored. So my “sugar free” jam will still need to be eaten with awareness in small quantities.

I made the jam with fruit, lemon juice, xylitol (4 cups fruit to 1 cup xylitol), a little powdered stevia for an extra sweet boost and Pomona’s Universal Pectin, following the recipes on the package insert. This pectin doesn’t require sugar to gel so it can be used with sugar substitutes. Upon testing the finished product I found out that it might be difficult to eat only a small quantity! Made from frozen organic fruit and berries gathered by my own hands last summer (who knew that peaches grew in upstate New York?), this jam tastes amazing. “Will we get to keep some?” my husband asked.

I have given my jam creation names: A Breath of Summer (peach), Pie in a Jar (blueberry) and Sweet Bliss (strawberry)

Merry (belated) Christmas Ann.

Jam production - what fun!


Ann Hedley says:

It is so sweet of you to pay attention to other peoples dietary preferences . . . you’d be surprised, or maybe not, how few do. I’ve always appreciated your special desserts (and concern). I regularly eat at the cafe in our office building. To this day if I order roast chicken, the cafe owner will say “do you want sweet chili sauce on your chicken”. Also I feel honoured to be the inspiration for your latest blog . . . and anxiously await the wonderful looking gift to make its way across the continent, not to mention the border! w/love, Ann

Thomas says:

What a great blog you’ve started Gyata! Such a wonderful way of communicating with others. Love, Thomas

Xyltiol is a great sweetener, I’m doing 6 months of NO sugar starting March 1st (no fruit, sugar, agave, honey, alcohol etc) and stevia and xylitol are my best friends right now :p

Did you know xylitol actually prevents cavities? It’s a great substance 🙂

gyatazen says:

I’m interested that you are not eating fruit but would eat a processed food like xylitol. Can you explain?

Yeah! Fruit is high in sucrose and fructose and feeds all forms of fungus, yeast, bacterial and/or viral excesses. These are all intimately connected with unstable blood sugar. Xylitol, although quite processed, is still natural and has no detrimental effect on blood sugar (it doesn’t cause rapid ups and downs).

Although I am very healthy, one thing that was recommended for me after I returned from Hippocrates at the end of last summer was to a do a 0-simple-sugar diet for 6 months. I chose not to do that at that time as I was new to eating all raw and needed the support of fruit, honey etc.

At this point I feel drawn to trying the 6 months of no-sugar simply because I feel like I am in a place to do that with confidence having researched it quite a bit.

There is a program or diet known as the “Body Ecology Diet” which has very similar advice to this. It can be followed by anyone wanting to repopulate the beneficial flora throughout their body as well as anyone in a more serious state of illness where it’s more critical.

For myself, I am approaching it like a general “cleanse” which is bringing my inflammatory load down as well as eliminating the mild hypoglycemia I had before going to the Institute in the summer.

It’s been great so far! Come September I’ll be introducing small amounts of non-hybridized fruits which will probably be mostly berries and a bit of honey…

Lindsay says:

Gyata, Thank you for the sweet treat. It ~is~ so nice of you to pay attention to others dietary needs. You have spoiled me with so many edible delights, while looking out for my health at the same time. Thank you again. I will definately have to try the xylitol in some my own cooking.

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