Cook Fit | Eat Fit: The Glycemic Index

The season of cookies, punches, and parties is upon us. For those of us in New Orleans, the season of King Cake, more punch, and more parties is about to arrive. In the middle of it all, SoFAB hosted the latest program in our series on learning to use knowledge about your food and diet to keep you healthier. This Cook Fit | Eat Fit program focused on the glycemic index, and the role of sugar in our bodies.

As in all of our Cook Fit | Eat Fit programs, our medical student of the month, Rachel Seiler started us off with a quick review of the medical needs and issues associated with sugar consumption. We learned that while foods with natural sugars and foods with added sugars are processed slightly differently, they are both considered carbohydrates. Sugars are broken down in the mouth first, then more in stomach, before being processed in the pancreas, creating glucose and sending insulin into our bloodstream. We get mental and physical energy from the processing of sugar, but we need to be careful to not consume more than the recommended amounts.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons. That’s 24 grams and 36 grams, respectively, and sugars add up very quickly when you start to look closely at your nutrition labels. One can of soda, for instance, contains about 8 teaspoons of sugar. That’s over the daily limit for women and almost over for men, and that’s just one beverage! Experts estimate that the average amount of sugar that Americans consume on a daily basis is about 22 to 30 teaspoons. What does that overage mean to the average person? That energy boost that you get from sugar is used up in regular activities if you are eating a small amount, but once you have too much produced, your body starts to send it to fat cells. This can lead to obesity and other chronic diseases. If your body is receiving so much sugar that it starts to develop resistance to insulin, then you’re at risk for Type 2 Diabetes. All this to say what we’ve heard a million times in the past—limiting sugar intake (added and natural!) is essential to maintaining your health.

But in a world full of sneaky sugars, not to mention the decadence of holiday dessert platters, what are we to do? Is there any joy to be found? Andrew Adorno, a nutrition professional with Ochsner’s Eat Fit NOLA, was there to partly reassure us. First, he suggested giving sugar substitutes a try if you simply need sweetness in your life. There are quite a few out there to try, and if you’re having trouble with your sugar levels, the substitutes will ultimately serve you better. Then, he encouraged us to try pairing our sugar intake with proteins, fats, or fibers, to slow down the processing time in your body. So don’t give up that apple a day (never!), but consider pairing it with a little bit of cheese or some nuts to make sure everything gets digested and processed slowly, giving you a longer energy boost.

For the holidays and beyond, always think about making your own desserts so you know what you’re working with. As you cook, take a look at what you’re adding, and look for hidden sugars in things like your salad dressing or barbecue sauce. And if you do end up binging a couple of times, don’t fret. Just get moving, because exercise is always a good way to work off some of those extra sugars.

Finally, we got to enjoy a really healthy and delicious treat from Chef Hillary Barq from Fat Boy Pantry. Hillary made us special cashew milk ice cream with Swerve (an all-natural sugar alternative), honey, and roasted cashews. This is just one of her many experiments with decadent flavors that end up being fairly good for you—she doesn’t use pre-mixed ice cream bases for her home made flavors, and she’s always got something new in the works. Italian ices use fruit juice as the only sweetener, and her sorbets and sherberts are Eat Fit NOLA approved, and the ice creams are made with buttermilk.

While everyone acknowledged that cutting down on sugar was a process, we left a bit better armed to tackle the holiday cookie platters and eggnogs. Join us after New Years to learn about fad diets and how to keep your New Years Resolutions!

Toasted Cashew & Honey Cashew Milk Ice Cream

Recipe Courtesy of Hillary Barq of Fat Boy Pantry

  • 2 quarts cashew milk
  • 1/4 cup Swerve brand sweetener
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews, toasted and chopped
  • Louisiana honey to taste, at room temperature

Pour the cashew milk and Swerve into an ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturer's instructions until desired consistency is achieved.  Using a spatula swirl in the honey and cashews.

This is best served immediately but it can also be frozen for later use.