Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Dealing with stomach pain: Elimination method, FODMAP & tips to cope

Many people in todays society deal with stomach pain and discomfort, to certain degrees. Some people just get a little pain from time to time after overeating or maybe eating certain foods, while others can barely live a normal life due to their stomach issues.

In the past, I was the latter. I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and pain.

In this post I am giving you some tips on what you can do to figure out what causes your stomach issues via an elimination method. Though I do advise you to seek help from both a doctor and dietitian so that you don’t end up restricting your intake far too much and far too long so that you end up unhealthy or with nutrient deficiencies.

I have written a post about FODMAP and IBS, which you can read here.

Also a post about dealing with bloating HERE

As well as a post about eating a high fiber diet, which can often lead to cramps and digestive issues, HERE

When you are dealing with stomach pain or digestive issues it can easily lead to a very restrictive diet, either because you don’t want to eat something that triggers the pain, but you don’t know what causes the pain and therefore restrict everything you think might cause pain. Or you infact become scared of certain food because you don’t want the stomach pain and therefore cut it out and get scared to eat those foods.

FODMAP

When someone has IBS they are often recommended to try doing FODMAP with the help of a professional. FODMAP is not a longterm diet or way of eating, it is a way of eating for a (short) period of time to help figure out which foods that cause flareups and stomach issues and which foods you can tolerate.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars.
  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
  • Fructans: Found in many foods, including grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.

These carbohydrates/fibers don’t fully digest and some become nutrition for gut bacteria while others don’t digest at all and can therefore cause bloating, gas, cramps.

In some individuals, FODMAPs are poorly digested, so they end up reaching the colon. They draw water into the intestine and get fermented by hydrogen-producing gut bacteria.” (Healthline.com)

A low FODMAP diet means you eat very little or no foods which contain those carbohydrates/fibers. I.e limiting the amount of foods which can cause symptoms.

When following the FODMAP diet for a period of time you are very restricted in what you can eat, and even more so if you are vegan. (I had to try the FODMAP diet for 3 days during one of my university courses and I didn’t eat much those three days as I was so restricted in food choices.) But overtime you begin to reintroduce foods and eventually have a much more varied diet and will hopefully have figured out which foods you can tolerate and you may even figure out which foods you tolerate in smaller doses and which you can consume in larger doses. However along with FODMAP you also have to look over your lifestyle and the way you eat.

Sometimes the problem may not actually be the food, but it may be that you are very stressed, that you are anxious around food, that you don’t actually sit down to eat or you eat your food within 5 minutes while standing or on the go. All of these can cause stomach issues, but also foods such as gum, carbonated drinks, alcohol, certain sweeteners and caffeine can lead to gas, stomach issues and caffeine can heighten anxiety which can lead to stomach discomfort or pain.

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HOW YOU EAT:

So along with looking at what you eat, you also have to look at how you eat. Changing how you eat and even where you eat can make a big impact on your stomach issues. If you are eating in very stressful environments or you don’t have time to eat, then you can easily feel anxious and stressed or you don’t really enjoy or chew your food and all of that can lead to stomach discomfort. So making time to eat while resting and preferably sitting and in quiet environments can make a big difference.

As mentioned above, a FODMAP diet should be done with the help of a professional, otherwise it is easy that your diet becomes far too restrictive and that you don’t actually begin implementing certain foods again, instead you just stick to the “green” foods. It is also important to note, that everyone is different. Some people with IBS may be able to consume foods that are listed as red, while they get stomach pain while consuming certain foods that are green. So you do have to try

different foods and see what works for you.

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WRITE A FOOD DIARY

If you don’t have IBS, just stomach issues, the first thing you can do is to write a food diary for 2-3 weeks.

Write down what you eat, what time you eat, the environment/situation when you ate and even how you felt before/during/after, along with any symptoms you felt during or after the meal.

This will help you get a better overview of what and how you eat as well as tracking symptoms.

After 2-3 weeks it will give you better understanding and overview, compared to just a few days or one week of tracking. The important thing is to eat just as normal… don’t begin cutting out food or changing your diet. Write down everything, even the handful of nuts, the latte on the go or the piece of chocolate you eat standing in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook.

The diary may just be for you to analyse and get a better understanding of how/what you eat, but may even be useful if you do go to a doctor or dietitian for help.

Once you have written the food diary, begin to look over it. Are there certain meals with certain ingredients that cause symptoms or flareups? Are there certain situations that cause pain and discomfort… such as the rushed lunch during school/work, or maybe the dinner straight after training or the lunch you ate while super stressed?

Once you have found out which meals or situations cause the most flare ups it can be easier to make adjustments.

However, now is when the long process begins. The important thing is to not cut out everything at once…. Instead, you do it one by one. If you think that maybe garlic, onion, chickpeas and gluten cause stomach pain… then begin by just omitting garlic from your meals and diet for a week… see what happens and how you feel. Then the next week omit onion and add in garlic (depending on how you felt the previous week i.e symptoms or no symptoms). It is a long process of finding out what works.

You could of course group certain foods together such as all beans, all sweeteners, all foods with gluten, onion and garlic, all dairy products etc and then one week remove all the foods in one certain group, and slowly reintroduce them one by one. Because it may be that you are sensitive to chickpeas but not to blackbeans, or it may be that you can’t tolerate aspartame but you are fine with stevia.

I would also recommend that you do infact limit your caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, energy drinks) as well as not chewing gum or sugar free pastilles, as they can all cause stomach discomfort.

I do also want to note that many believe they are gluten intolerant and cut out all products with gluten, however many products that include gluten also include certain fibers that are hard to break down. So it may not be the gluten you are sensitive too, but the fibers.

Which is an important thing to note, fibers can cause stomach discomfort and pain. There are certain fibers that are hard to break down and cause gas and bloating. So limiting fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can be one step if you don’t want to do the whole elimination process. Though then you won’t be able to tell which foods cause pain or symptoms if you eliminate them all at once.

I also recommend that you keep your meals very simple, just 2-4 different ingredients. The more ingredients and foods you eat in a meal the harder it can be to digest as well as figure out what causes your pain or discomfort.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE STOMACH PAIN

There are certain foods that are more likely to give stomach discomfort and they are:

Beans and peas – this is due to their fiber content and that the fibers are hard to break down

Sweeteners – Many sweeteners aren’t broken down or absorbed in the body and therefore lead to gas and bloating

Carbonated beverages, sugarfree pastilles, gum – the bubbles in carbonated drinsk along with both caffeine and sweeteners, basically a triple whammy. With gum, when you chew you are swallowing air which can lead to gas and bloating, as well as gum usually having sweeteners (even if it’s only very small doses)

High fat meals – including creamy and/or, oily dishes. Typically fast food, dairy full fat (specifically cream) or certain takeout meals such as Chinese. Fat leads to feeling full quicker and is also harder to break down compared to carbohydrates. It can also often lead to heartburn. Many find that eating fat sources from avocado, nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t cause the same stomach issues.

Food with lactose or gluten – many cut out lactose and gluten thinking they are intolerant to them. Some may be, but as already mentioned. Many foods with gluten also include hard to break down fibers which may be the issue and not the gluten. With lactose, many can’t handle a lot of lactose or they don’t have enough lactase enzyme which breaks down the dairy. Though this isn’t so strange considering that dairy is actually for baby cows, and not for humans… or well, not in the huge amounts that many consume dairy products now a days.

Too much fruit – Fruit has a lot of fiber but also fruit sugar which can cause certain individuals discomfort if they eat too much of it. And by that I mean eating maybe 4-6 fruits in one go.

Note, just because i mention these foods doesn’t mean that YOU are sensitive to them. Everyone is individual and everyone reacts differently to different foods. You may be able to digest those in small amounts, ,aybe not at all or maybe they don’t trigger you at all.

When you are dealing with stomach pain, it is easy to get scared of food because oyu don’t want to deal with the stomach pain. But you can not completely restrict yourself, the best is to get proffessional care, but if you can’t because of reasons- Then remember to not completely cut out food and if you do cut out food youshould try to reintroduce it. Otherwise your diet can become very restrictive. Also be reintroducing it into your diet after not eating the food(s) for a while you can better understand what is causing stomach pain.

Also remember, if you do think you are sensitive to gluten and want to get it checked. Youahve to eat gluten to do the tests… so don’t cut out gluten and then get checked because the results won’t show any intolerance/allergies then.

Stomach issues and pain is complex. Many get the diagnosis IBS because doctors can’t find any other diagnosis that causes the pain. But IBS is about more than just food, as previously mentioned. Stomach issues aren’t always due to food, but due to other factors which also makes it hard to treat. It often requires changes in diet, lifestyle and way of eating.

It is incredibly debilitating to live with stomach pain, I did for several years. Many plans that were cancelled, many evenings I lay curled in a ball on my bed with extreme pain, many tears due to the discomfort and a lot of constant bloating. What helped me was to go vegan and start eating plantbased, but of course that also meant letting my body adapt to a higher fiber diet. I can still get stomach pain from certain foods, but I have learnt to figure out which foods cause me pain and also know that too much of certain food will give me discomfort… and then it is up to me to make the decision whether I want to eat the food and deal with the discomfort afterwards or to just skip the food or choose something else.

For stomach pain and nausea ginger or peppermint tea can help, as well as having something warm on your stomach.

If you are dealing with a lot of stomach pain, I highly recommend you go to both a doctor and a dietitian. Be persistent with your doctor so that you get all tests done, just to rule out any serious conditions. However, I do also recommend that you keep a food diary for 2-3 weeks, get an overview of your symptoms, how and what you eat and see if your symptoms may just be due to anxiety and stress and certain foods such as caffeine, sweeteners and high fiber.

(From personal experience I can also add that when I am very stressed and anxious, then I can get stomach pain and bloating even if I am eating the same as usual. So it is important to look at your stress and anxiety levels).

The best homemade hummus (&how to boil your own chickpeas)

A few weeks ago I was in Israel, together with VibeIsrael, where I got to try some of the amazing food that Israel has to offer. We were predominantly in Tel Aviv, which is known as one of the vegan capitals of the world, and I can say that there is a reason for that. If you want to know where we ate or are in need of some recommendations of places to eat at if you are in Tel Aviv, then i have a post coming up real soon with some tips and recommendations.

We only visited a few places, so of course I can’t say that all places are amazing for vegan food. However, we tried both gourmet food, fast food, market places, to go pizzas, brunch places and different restuarants which all made amazing food, so I can only say good things about the food.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that it is expensive in Tel Aviv, so even if it is an amazing place for plantbased food… you might want to come there ready to spend money as you will want to try all the amazing places.

While I was there I got very inspired with all the different foods. So many different spices that are used in the food, which I want to try incorporate into some of my future recipes. However, one standard food which could be found almost anywhere was hummus. And you know I love hummus….. it is a staple in my diet and meals. But now, after trying hummus in Israel, storebought hummus just isn’t the same… and I want my own homemade version to taste even better.

So I thought it was finally time to update my hummus recipe, also sharing tips on how to prepare dried chickpeas yourself so you can make a large batch of hummus for yourself.

Below, I will also share 2 other variations of hummus you can try.

The tahini I am using in the recipe comes from Al Araz, and I got the tahini while I was in Israel…. Which makes it feel a little more authenthic.

Tips when preparing your own chickpeas:

The first is to soak them for atleast 10-12 hours. This is important as raw chickpeas have lectins, so called anti nutrients, which you don’t want to consume and can be toxic for humans. So by soaking legumes you decrease the amount of anti nutrients they have and therefore make them edible. Bubbles and foam will begin to appear during the soaking time, so you can change the water after half the time If you like.

Tips, I usually soak mine before I go to bed and then boil in the morning. Or I soak them in the morning before I head to school and then in the evening when I am home again, they will have soaked for long enough.

You can add 1 tsp baking soda in the water when they are soaking, this helps them to soften up more, which is what you want when making hummus.

Before boiling the chickpeas, you need to pour away the water that they have soaked in and rinse for 2-3 minutes to make sure they are clean.

Fill a large pot with the chickpeas and pour over water that covers the chickpeas and a little more. Bring to the stove and bring to a boil. Allow the chickpeas to boil for about 5-10 minutes, before lowering the heat to medium and covering the pot with a lid and allowing to simmer for 60-90 minutes. Note, a foam may form when the chickpeas are boiling which you should remove.

Tip, after about 40-50 minutes, add half a tbsp baking soda. This will soften the chickpeas. You can also add some onion to the water to give the chickpeas an onion flavour.

Also note, if you remove the “skin” from the chickpeas once they are cooked it will give much smoother and leaner hummus. This may take some time to do. But you can place the chickpeas in a plastic bag and sort of “roll” the chickpeas on a hard surface and that can help to loosen the skins off the chickpeas… but it is a time consuming process, but it is worth it.

Key ingredients when making a good hummus:

Good quality olive oil, which of course may not be easy to find. Fresh garlic. Good quality tahini, use the runny kind. Fresh lemon juice. Salt and pepper.

Spices: Ground cumin, coriander, sumac

And of course… what mixer you use is important. If you don’t use a high quality mixer it won’t be as smooth. My mixer isn’t as high quality as i may like, hence why my hummus isn’t 100% smooth. But nonetheless it is tasty.

Note: No, I am not saying hummus is an Israeli food, it is a middle eastern food. Certain food may originiate in certain countries, however it does not necessarily belong to a certain country either. And I am aware that the food in Israel is a mixture from different cultures, so hummus may originate in another country, but you still find a lot of it in Israel.

How to make the best hummus:

(250 grams) cooked chickpeas (c.a 2 cans). Prefarbly with no “skin”

1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup (60 ml) runny tahini (recipe to make your own tahini)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) olive oil (more for serving)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water or aquafaba(should be cold)

Optional: Add sumac or coriander to the mix or on top for serving

Serve with some fresh corianer or parsley, pita bread or why not some fried tofu

How to:

Add the chickpeas and tahini to your food processor. Begin mixing for 1 minute before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Note, start off with only half the liquid (oil and water/aquafaba) and add more as necessary. Keep mixing as it will take a few minutes to get it fully creamy…. don’t be scared to add more olive oil as that adds flavour.

The best is to eat it fresh, but it does store in the fridge up to 5 days if stored in an airtight jar!

Adpations to this recipe:

Roast 2-3 red peppers in the oven for 20 minutes at 200c. Note, drizzle some olive oil and salt over the peppers before hand. Add to the hummus mix. Roasted red pepper hummus | Recipe

You can aslo make beetroot hummus by adding 2-3 precooked beetroots. Note, y ou will have to add more liquid. Beetroot hummus & different types of hummus recipe

Or make some roasted carrot hummus. Similar to the roasted red pepper recipe. I.e chop carrots, drizzle over some oil and salt. Bake in the oven for c.a 30 minutes and then add to the originial hummus mix. Note, the liquid amount will have to be increased. (Roasted carrot hummus | Recipe

Other hummus adaptions:

Sweet potato hummus | Vegan recipe

Processed foods are unhealthy? – What are processed foods exactly?

In my life, I have both heard and read many people say processed foods are unhealthy. I understand what they mean, but their statement isn’t totally correct.

What the majority of people may mean when they say processed food, is the highly processed foods such as frozen pizzas, cakes and buns, meatballs, baconand soda which are often high in saturated fat, sugar and salt. But what people forget is that processed food entails anyfood that has been altered in some way from their natural state.

This meaning…. Prechopped frozen vegetables, canned beans, crushed tomatoes, tofu, oatmilk, bread are just some examples of processed foods which are not unhealthy or filled with saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt.

Why process food?

Processing food is actually a way to limit food waste and to help preserve food. Processing food can help keep them nutritious and can even make them more nutritious via fortification, example adding D vitamin and calcium to oatmilk, cereals and orange juice. Via pasterization it also makes dairy products safe to eat by removing harmful bacteria. Not everyone can cook their own beans, so buying precooked in a can is amazing. Now a days there are also usually salted and unsalted precooked beans you can buy. Not everyone can bake their own bread or not everyone has the money to buy fresh produce or food that hasn’t been altered in any way. Not to mention, just because a food hasn’t been processed doesn’t automatically mean it is healthier or more nutritious.

Also, you can’t forget that certain processed foods make it convenient and easier to eat and buy…. Example if you’re having a picnic then you might run into the store and grab some bread, tofu, premade hummus and some prewashed, ready to eat spinach. I.e a processed meal but also a highly nutritious meal.

Buying frozen vegetables is both cheaper and a way to limit food waste as many don’t manage to eat the fresh vegetables they buy before they go bad, so then frozen vegetables are a good alternative. Have written a post regarding the nutrition in frozen vegetables vs fresh vegetables, you can read it HERE, but to quickly summarize… they are still very nutritious and sometimes more nutritious than certain fresh vegetables as the deep freezing helps protect the vegetables and nutrients during transport and storing. But just like with all fruits and vegetables, the process of heating them up and preparing them can affect the nutritional value but in such a small way that it isn’t anything you need to think about.

Types of processing:

There are different ways of processing foods such as freezing, canning, drying, baking or for dairy products, pasteurizing the milk is a form of processing. And in the case of pasteurization, that is actually necessary to make the milk safe to consume as it removes harmful bacteria… so without that step of processing, it wouldn’t be as safe to consume.

So what counts as processed food?

Well as you have just read… there are a lot of foods that count as processed. But there are different degrees of processed, example frozen pizzas, different meat products such as sausage, meatballs, granola bars, certain cereals and even fake meats can all be classified as highly processed. These types of products often contain added sugar and salt and are typically high in saturated fat or cholesterol.

There is nothing wrong with eating these foods in moderation, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet.

Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:

  • Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
  • Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
  • Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
  • Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
  • The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

(Source: Eatright.org)

You don’t need to avoid processed food

But you should of course be aware of certain processed foods… such as the ones stated above where you can infact try to make your own version at home if you eat those foods a lot. Example, make your own pizza at home (Recipe, recipe), make your own snack bars (recipe,), you can even try making your own seitan instead of buying your own…. (recipe), however because of the marinade it will still contain a lot of sugar, salt and oil so making your own seitan will be similar to buying fake meat.

I have not got around to writing a post about fake meat vs. real meat (I began writing already in July!), but it is better to eat fake meats than red meat. However the best is to consume other protein sources such as legumes, tofu, tempeh, oats, quinoa, nuts as your majority of protein source and include fake meat as an extra/smaller part of your diet and protein source. And if you eat meat, then choosing white meat such as chicken, turkey and fish (also including salmon) is a lot better than red meat from a health perspective, but it is also recommended to consum plantbased protein sources as the ones mentioned above.

So next time someone says that processed foods are unhealthy, link them to this post or tell them what processed food actually entails.

Just like with all foods, too much of anything isn’t good. Trying to choose the alternatives with no added sugar or salt and contain mono and polyunsaturated fat instead of transfat or saturated fat is best.

And lastly… not eating processed food will definitely limit and restrict your food choices. It will mean you have to do alot of cooking and preparation yourself. Also it has no health benefits avoiding all processed foods…. even if there are benefits in limiting or avoiding highly processed foods.

Vegan Sabich recipe

While I was in Israel – invited there by VibeIsrael – for their Vegan food tour 2019.

One vegetable which I noticed was occurring in many of the dishes we ate was aubergine, or so called eggplant. Mushroom was another reoccurring vegetable, however as I don’t like mushroom I am not going to make any recipes based on this vegetable.

Aubergine is one of those vegetables which is very hit or miss. It is very easy for it to turn out mushy and tasteless. It is one of those vegetables which you definitely need to know how to prepare to make it edible.

I have some different eggplant recipes you can try if you are interested: eggplant schnitzel, they are thin and crispy and super amazing. Stuffed eggplant, another amazing dish which I really like.

Inspired by some of the meals I ate while in Israel, I wanted to recreate some meals I ate while there. And the first one is a Sabich sandwich.

I had to do some googling in regards to what is actually in a Sabich, because lets be honest… when I ate it I just enjoyed it and didn’t think too much about it. The good thing about the trip was that I never had to think about if something was vegan or not, as it was already planned and organized already.

From my googling, I saw that there are different ways to make this sandwich. Different vegetables and fillings. I also tried to figure out if there were any specific spices necessary to make this sandwich, but apparently there weren’t any… it was the sauces that added the flavours. I.e hummus, tahini and amba.

Amba is a type of pickled mango sauce with lots of spices.

Originally a Sabich has egg in it, but of course that is excluded in this recipe.

I do understand that if you are from Israel, or the middle east where you may eat this type of meal on a regular basis, you may think that this isn’t the “exact/original recipe”. And I agree… it isn’t. It is my homemade, Swedish style Sabich. It is missing the amba (I used mango chutney instead) and is also missing the Israeli pickles, but it still worked great!!

Pita bread, hummus and vegetables that just don’t compare to the kind I ate while in Israel… but that is ok. I can atleast try to replicate this dish as much as is possible.

It’s funny how I have never thought of this amazing sandwich combo… all the fillings and sauces work so well together, and the fried aubergine is the cherry on top. So next time you make a sandwich, give this one a go.

If you have tried this sandwich before, let me know what you thought…? 😊

Changes you can make to this recipe:

You can bake the aubergine instead, c.a 30 minutes at 200 degrees. Use plenty of oil, garlic and salt. Also, using the spice sumac on the onion or on the eggplant is recommended!

Recipe

Makes 3-4 pita bread

2/3 large aubergine, in thin slices

Plenty of olive oil

Salt

Tahini – a runny kind

Hummus – preferably homemade

Cabbage, purple or white

½ red onion, sliced thinly

4 boiled potatoes, cold and sliced (this is optional)

Tomatoes, chopped

Cucumber, chopped

Lemon juice

Cilantro or parsley

Amba sauce, or mango chutney

4 small/medium potatoes

3-4 pita bread

How to:

Begin by washing the aubergine and slicing thinly. Then fry on medium heat in plenty of olive oil, until golden. Take about 3-5 minutes on both sides. Add some salt either while frying, or once they are done.

If using potatoes, rinse the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes until almost soft. Then place in the fridge to cool down before slicing into thin slices.

In the mean time you can prepare the vegetables. The best is to make a mix of cucumber, onion and tomatoes, which you drizzle over some lemon, cilantro and olive oil and let sit for 30 minutes.

Also, making your own hummus is the best but store bought works as well. Recipe for homemade hummus (HERE).

Recipe for homemade tahini, (HERE), however I do infact recommend storebought one for this recipe.

Once the veggies are done, heat the pita bread in the oven (200 degrees) for 2-3 minutes.

Then begin to layer the sandwich, first with hummus then cabbage, followed by the cucumber and tomatoes. Then add the aubergine and potatoes and lastly the tahini and amba sauce.

Eat warm, and don’t be scared to make a mess!!!

**Note, i have not stated any quantities for the vegetables or sauce because it is all about the quantities YOU want to use. I.e more sauce, less vegetables or vice versa 🙂 You don’t really need measurements for this recipe.

Eat and enjoy and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram (itsahealthylifestyle) if you try this recipe.

I’m an introvert and that’s ok

If i am honest….. i have many times gotten sad over the fact that i am an introvert. I have tried to be extroverted…. but it just isn’t me.

I am not someone who needs to be around people all the time.

I am not someone who needs the attention on me.

I am someone who needs my alone time. I enjoy being with my close friends who give me energy… but it also takes alot of time for people to break down those walls around me to actually become a close friend

I am not saying that all extroverts want attention or to always be around people. Everyone needs their alone time…. i just need more than others.

Of course i am more of an ambivert in recent years. Wanting to be more social, wanting to spend more time with my close friends, wanting to meet new people and not always be on my own. Not needing as much alone time as i did before. In a way, i guess the majority of people are ambivert, i.e both introverted and extroverted… even if some are just either or the other.

When i ask people to describe me… or what their first impression of me is/was, the answer is 95% of the time:

You are rather quiet. You observe before you speak and you choose your words. You are never someone who judges and i feel like i can tell you anything without being judged. You are amazing at listening.

But i also get… You are very different when i actually get to know you. You are sarcastic, joke and laugh alot when you are comfortable around people.

Of course… for me to get to that stage where i feel comfortable just being myself, being sarcastic, open and laughing… it does take a while. Which is of course why i can come across as very shy, in the background, listening…. not taking up alot of space. I don’t like small talk…. i prefer to talk about other things and meaningful things. Even if i love jokes, sarcasm and memes. I am not someone who feels the need to speak… i can walk beside you in silence and not feel awkward or feel the need to say anything… but of course, if the person i am walking beside gives of an awkward energy because they don’t like being quiet… then i also begin to feel awkward. But i like spending time with people who are ok with just being quiet sometimes… not feeling the need to fill every second with sound and talking.

What is an introvert and extrovert?

“An introvert is often thought of as a quiet, reserved, and thoughtful individual. They don’t seek out special attention or social engagements, as these events can leave introverts feeling exhausted and drained.

Introverts are the opposite of extroverts. Extroverts are often described as the life of a party. They seek out interaction and conversations. They aren’t one to miss a social gathering, and they thrive in the frenzy of a busy environment.” (Healthline)

Being introverted, having my guards up does make it hard for me to make friends… or atleast very close friends. I have alot of friends, but maybe not ones who are super close because i never really get to that stage where i let my walls down.

And this does sadden me…. sometimes i feel like i need to change. I need to change who i am. I need to change my personality and try to be someone else… someone more extroverted… someone who has lots of friends… someone who is social all the time. But on the other hand, i tell myself that this is just who i am and i should accept it….

On my recent trip, we were talking about being extroverted and introverted, and everyone else was pretty much an extrovert, even if some were more like me…. slighly held back and maybe not as open and energetic at first. However i was told that i was very introverted…. and even if i am aware of it. It saddened me…. maybe because i feel like i am really trying? And i didn’t feel like i was holding back or being shy, infact… it was the most extroverted, open, friendly and energetic i have been around others. To think that i spent 12 hours a day with a group of people and never once felt tired or drained of energy from being social, instead felt comfortable being myself…. but yet, i still came across as very introverted. They didn’t mean it in a bad way, but it made me sad…. and that was what sparked me to write this post.

To make me realize it is ok to be an introvert. I am ok the way i am. I don’t have to change or try to be anyone else. People like me the way i am… even if it takes time to truly see my personality and true self. I still socialize, i still have friends, i still enjoy meeting new people and being social. But i also want my alone time…. i don’t always have to say what i am thinking, instead sometimes i can just listen…. be someone who people want to talk to or feel like they can talk to me about anything – which is what many people say that they feel when speaking to me.

I am telling myself that i am ok the way i am.

And if you are introverted, just like me…. tell yourself the same thing, that it is ok to be an introvert. Of course… do push yourself to be social, do push yourself to meet new people. When you find the people you feel truly comfortable and yourself around, they will fill you with energy. For me personally, my closest friends and family always give me energy and i can spend hours with them without feeling drained…. Find people who love you for who you are and want to spend time with you. You may feel lonely….

Even if introverts, like myself, love their alone time… love spending time alone and just doing what you want to do. It can get lonely, or it can feel like no one really likes you because you have a small group of friends or never really open up enough to let people know the real you. But remember, try to just be yourself… try to be as open and friendly as you can be with new people. People will like you for who you are, and you don’t need to be someone else… it won’t last anyway. In the past i have tried to be someone else… put on a personality and facade that wasn’t truly me, just because i thought i needed to act a certain way to please others and make them like me. The fact is, it doesn’t work that way. Be true to yourself and accept yourself the way you are….. even if you also need to be honest with yourself and change the habits or personality traits which may be self destructive or harmful to others. I.e just saying that you are a bithco r have a hot temperament as an excuse to be rude to people is not ok… and is instead a personaity trait that can be changed or atleast controlled.

It is ok to be an introvert… we need both introverts and extroverts in society. Just don’t isolate yourself because you feel/are introverted…. you still need to push yourself to be social and step outside of your comfort zone.