By Kristen Birch
Read part one here
My not-so-secret love affair with sugar began all too long ago. It was implanted in me when I was born into the Birch family. One would expect a house full of sugar addicts to be the biggest porkers in the neighbourhood, but we were all blessed with the enviable “fast metabolism”. The only conclusion that the chubby girl could come to when comparing her weight to ours.
“How are you so skinny if you eat so much chocolate?” – I would hear it time and time again. I’d shrug my shoulders, blame it on my genes, or begin my practised answer about how I pig out on sugar, but eat healthier foods for my three meals.
I would say, as a family, we are pretty well-behaved where it counts. After all, aren’t carbs the ones to blame when it comes to putting on weight? I’ve never been one for rice or potatoes and I have basically given up bread since school days where my mom would make us a peanut butter sandwich for break time. I figured, if I am not fat, why should I stop eating sugary foods? All that mattered to me was what I looked like on the outside.
The first time that I started thinking more about the internal side of things was when I had a reaction to fried food. A Big Mac was probably involved. I gorged down the delicacy, thinking it to be magnificent, probably more because my parents only allowed us to eat it on such rare occasions, and not because of its mediocre taste. We had not even left the drive-through, when my stomach expanded to that of a pregnant woman in her third trimester. Sharp pains ran down my back and I suddenly needed to go to the loo. Like, right that second.
It was my first introduction to irritable bowel syndrome. Later on, I was told that I was lactose intolerant. So, all I had to avoid were grains, oils and dairy. In all honesty, the only part of my diet that changed was that I forced myself to eat less fast-food and never touched anything deep-fried. But someone telling me that the only way to avoid the cramps and gassiness was to avoid the chocolate was just not going to suit my sweet tooth. So, I tolerated it.
Sooner than later, I accidentally ate a few fried foods that surprisingly came with no negative reactions. All white grains are still a no-no, but if it was grilled in a bit of olive or coconut oil, I could eat it. I would eat my dinner; feel fine and then pig out on my dessert, until I was not fine. I knew it was the sugar, I just would never allow myself to admit it.
Then the bleeding began. At first, it was just a few spots, but then it increased. I ended up having a colonoscopy, an extremely painful experience. The doctor called it a ‘floppy’ colon which resulted in many food sensitivities. I reduced the grains further and lay off the milk, processed oil and trimmings.
I then came to university where I was given the freedom of buying chocolate anytime that I wanted it. The consequences worsened. Soon I was having withdrawal symptoms on a daily basis. Headaches in between treats. When I was without sugar, I was grumpy.
Within a few years, my dad was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, and that is where the light bulb in my head began flickering. Dad was super fit, happy, a non-smoker. But his diet…well, he really did have a thing for koeksisters. Soon after, Noakes brought his book out and every journalist was lining up to interview him. As a family, we sat around the television one evening and heard the following statement come out of Noakes’s mouth: “sugar feeds cancer”. Now I know that Noakes has received a lot of flak for some of the things that he says, but that statement gave me one hell of a shock.
I have absolutely no idea if my dad’s sugar addiction had anything to do with him being diagnosed with cancer and I am very wary of this Banting diet, but I have Noakes to thank for reminding me how detrimental sugar can be to the body when it is consumed in excessive amounts.
So, my journey to find the most delectable, sugar and gluten-free brownie began. Brownies are my absolute favourite dessert. I could not live without them. My first sugar-free dish was a date-sweetened brownie. And, they were awful. The biggest lesson that I have learned so far throughout my expedition is that when it comes to sugar-free baking, nothing can be substituted. Stick to the recipe, or prepare for failure. The websites make it look so absolutely easy, but below I give you the truly honest attempts of sugar-free baking. Eventually, I did find my delectable brownie, but it took many catastophes before getting there. I tried out all sorts of things after the first brownie failure, thinking that perhaps brownies without sugar were just not going to be a possible feat. But I did it.
So, here they are.
Bake. If you dare.
Please note: I do not follow a Banting or Paleo diet, just sugar and gluten free. Also, honey is still a sugar, fruit contains sugar. Just because you aren’t eating five brownies a day does not mean you can eat five sugar-free brownies a day. Everything in moderation, that is what I have learned.
1) The date-sweetened brownie.
Rating: 1/5. They were awful. But I ate every single one, to curb the sugar addiction.
Lesson I learned: If you want to use dates, you need a food processor, else you get chunks of chewy date in your meant-to-be chocolatey brownie. Never substitute chickpea flour for coconut flour. Ever.
2) Chickpea flat bread.
What else was I meant to do with all that leftover chickpea flour?
Rating: 3/5. I’d make it again. Very nice with soup.
3) Avo fudge
Sounds crazy right? But strangely tasty. Does taste like avo though so don’t expect some miraculous change. Make sure the avo layer is nice and thin like you see in the picture, else it freezes too hard and is too much avo at once.
Rating: 3/5 But they have to have the chocolate layer!
4) Strawberry fudge
So, this was a catastrophe. I substituted coconut butter for coconut oil and the things looked and tasted disgusting. So, I added peanut butter, processed, and refroze. Ooooh was that gross. I haven’t attempted the proper recipe, but I’ve wasted enough juicy strawberries that I can handle.
Rating: 0/5 Maybe you will be more successful, because they look divine in the recipe pics.
5) Black bean chocolate truffles
Ummm these taste like beans…and who wants beans for dessert?
Rating: 2/5 Not terrible, I’d eat one if I was desperate. Black beans are just so stinky though.
6) Single-serving mug cake
Rating: 2/5 It looked good, but the stevia/xylitol makes it taste sort of granuly and it is not sweet at all.
7) Chickpea chocolate cupcakes
Rating: 0/5 Absolutely awful and I followed this recipe to a tee!!
Lesson I learned: Once again, chickpeas do not make for s good baking ingredient. These were so bad, I left them on the pavement outside our house.
8) Sugar-free chocolate
Alternatives to this recipe are all over the internet. I don’t measure the ingredients out, just use at my own discretion.
Rating: 4/5 Finally a winner. I have added coconut, almonds and even orange rind to this recipe and poured them into ice cube trays when I could not find my mould. They are super good!
9) Peanut butter cookies
Rating: 5/5 Another winner!!! I love these! These are sooooo easy and super delicious! Remember that they will be slightly gooey when taking out of oven. They harden as they cool.
10) THE WINNER!!! I FOUND MY BROWNIE!! Coconut flour chocolatey brownies
Rating: 6/5 I forgot to take a pic so this is one from the link. I probably got distracted because they were sooooo gooood!!