Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Candida Diet Basics: Sweeteners

Alright, folks. I realize that most of you aren't really interested in what I eat. I get that. But I love talking about food. I think about food all of the time, and have a reputation for my incredible snacking powers. So you have to bear with me as I write about food.

I've explained in other places a bit about my diet, but the main thing that matters for this post is that I have to avoid sugars. Even fruit and certain vegetables have to be eaten in moderation. So, in order to make desserts that I can eat, I have to seek out other options to add a little sweetness. 

Unlike some folks though, I'm not really able to use the full range of artificial sweeteners. They have various unhappy side-effects or strain the liver, or just act on my little anatomical eco-system in a way that spells trouble. So my options are pretty limited (but not bad).

The easy sweetener, that I think many people are more aware of these days is Stevia. Stevia's sweet chemical, steviol glycoside is incredibly sweet (up to 300x sweeter than sugar, per Wikipedia), so a little goes a long way. It tends to be my go-to sweetener for the most part. It has little to no effect on one's blood sugar, though I can't say I fully understand the chemistry at this point.

It comes in various forms: liquid (with or without an alcohol base), powder, tablets.  It also comes in a combo form, Stevia-FOS (fructooligosaccharide, which we'll come back to later), which balances out the taste to better resemble sugar. I've been using it for a while, so I've gotten used to it's taste. I'm not sure how to describe it anymore, but it has been known to have a bitter, licorice-like aftertaste to it that some do not like. I would say it hits my tongue in the back, around the sour and bitter regions, but I can't explain it better than that. It plays well with fruit, as some of the fruit sugars help balance it out. Great for smoothies, in my opinion.

There is some controversy about stevia, about which I would refer you to the internet. It's been used in Japan for a very long time, and I'm okay with its use despite others' caution about it.

So, now onto that fructooligosaccharide (FOS).  It's also known as inulin, and is a fruit sugar. (Inulin is a less refined option to straight FOS, from what the Wikipedia article says.)  It is too large for our systems to digest, but it is prebiotic. That means that it's good for all of our good bacteria in our guts because they can digest it. It also helps with our calcium absorption (such a goody-two-shoes)! 

As stated before, inulin is a good way to balance out stevia for sweetness, as it's only half as sweet as sugar on its own. I've used yacon syrup as a way to get a molasses flavoring to some dishes I've made, as there's no way to get syrup action out of the powders. At least, not that I know of. And molasses is closer to caramel flavoring than any of my other options, so I used it with my "flan".

Speaking of syrups, our final member of my sweet squad is vegetable glycerin. Quite frankly, I'm not too fond of the taste. It's a little overwhelming in a bubble gum sort of way. But Buddy likes it, which means more people probably like its flavor than stevia's flavor. I am not as familiar with the chemical justifications of why glycerin is a good sweetener, so you may as well just go here to get a sense of it. The reason I like glycerin is that it's hygroscopic, which essentially means it helps keep things moist. This comes in handy depending on what kind of dessert you're making. I used it for my recent foray into a more candida friendly cassava cake, on which I'll post later. It's not a bad flavor, but I actually used some inulin in conjunction with it to make it more palatable for me. It really all comes down to a matter of personal taste.

There you have it, friends. An explanation on what I use to get some sweet in my diet without reeking uncomfortable, frustrating consequences. I hope this summary will come in handy for you when I start making up more of my own recipes, so these food posts will be a little more engaging.

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