There seems to be a massive trend at the moment for quitting sugar. Lots of newspapers have run ‘quit sugar’ pullouts and features with their magazine supplement (I read a guide written by this lady); they were talking about it on Loose Women (I have no shame in admitting that I love that programme); Horizon did a fat vs sugar documentary; that food documentary Food Unwrapped did a feature on fructose and how bad it is for us… Where’s it all coming from? Many people say that this guy started the whole backlash, not that I have watched the full, very long video yet (I barely have time to wash my hair, let alone watch a video on the health risks associated with sugar!). From what I can glean, the enemy is fructose – and that occurs in natural foods like fruit, as well as processed food. Are you confused about the exact threat to our health? Me too! All I can tell you is that I am seeing these things crop up again and again: there is an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes with high sugar intake, as well as the fact that sugar is highly addictive and feeds cancer – these are just some of the nasty things associated with it.
As a family we don’t eat that much sugary or processed stuff. We do eat a fair bit of fruit – apparently my kids’ favourites are some of the worst offenders (high fructose fruit such as bananas, grapes and apples). But we don’t drink juice, only milk and water; we don’t eat cereals that contain ‘hidden’ sugars very often (occasionally Shreddies but mainly we eat porridge of a morn); and we mainly eat homemade treats (which surely contain less sugar). However I still think we could reduce our intake, so I have started halving the amount of sugar in my baking and, so far, it works great. I will also buy low sugar baked beans from now on and stop using any ketchup or brown sauce on food. Apparently the amount of hidden sugars to watch out for is anything more than 6g per 100g, so as long as you check labels you should be able to keep an eye on your family’s intake of the white stuff. Each slice of this cake has 10g of sugar in, but I tend to eat half a slice per portion, as it’s a big loaf, working out at 5g of sugar per portion. So, even low sugar is pretty high! It makes you think, huh?
They say that sugar poses the same level of health risk as tobacco and alcohol. Well, I’m afraid I do partake in both of those things too, but I do so with my eyes wide open. I am aware of the risks of binge drinking occasionally (I hardly ever do that any more to be fair, but I used to be practically a professional binger in my 20s), as am I with social smoking which I sometimes do (oh, the shame!). I judge the occasional pleasure to outweigh the potential risks – perhaps foolishly (probably so, where smoking is concerned). I know it’s not very wise to think like this, but what can I say, I’m a flawed human! I kind of feel the same about sugar. Yes, it’s not good for you, but in moderation why not just enjoy it ‘mindfully’? Life is surely about balancing pleasure with looking after yourself, no?! I don’t think we’ll be quitting sugar as a family, but I think reducing it where possible is a sensible approach.
Here I have a great banana bread recipe where I have halved the sugar, and it is just as nice as the version with twice as much. It’s a great, moist cake, just perfect with a cup of tea. It’s adapted from Skye Gyngell’s recipe, taken from her book, How I Cook. I also swapped plain flour for wholemeal, something else that I do to try and make recipes and bit more wholesome. Try reducing the sugar in your favourite recipes and let me know how it goes.
To make a large loaf (works out at about 15 large slices):
125g salted butter (or unsalted and add a pinch of salt)
150g unrefined caster sugar
250g wholemeal flour
4 large / or 5 medium / or 6 little bananas (you judge), mashed
2 organic eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
125ml whole milk
- Preheat oven to 190C. Butter and flour (grease lightly with butter then shake flour all over to coat – or grease and line with baking parchment) a 2lb loaf tin.
- Mash bananas.
- Beat sugar and butter until creamy and pale, about 5 minutes should do.
- Add in your eggs one by one. Tip in your mashed bananas and vanilla extract too and mix well.
- Fold in the flour, bicarb, and cinnamon. Lastly the milk.
- Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 45 – 55 minutes. Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before tipping out and cooling totally on a wire rack.
- Eat warm, plain or with butter, or with an ‘instant cream cheese frosting’, which I make by whipping up cream cheese with a drizzle of maple syrup. Pleasingly savoury! This cake keeps really nicely for around 5 days.