Sundried ambassador Anne Iarchy is a personal trainer and nutritionist. She shares with us her deliciously healthy sugar-free banana loaf recipe.
Truly sugar-free banana cake
A few weeks ago, I was working at the Woburn Tri for Life, and at the end of a very successful day, we had masses of bananas left. After eating a banana a day for a few days, the rest of the bananas I took home were a little too ripe to my taste (I do like them just yellow from green), so I decided to bake a banana loaf.
I have two recipes, one with sugar and butter, one with coconut oil and dates, but I really wanted one with no sugar at all. After all, ripe bananas are very sweet. I did some research on the internet, and I was really surprised to see how many recipes came up “pretending” they were sugar-free, but just swapping the sugar to honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup and other sweeteners.
Although honey is healthier than sugar (and that depends on the amount of processing of the honey), it has the same effect on blood sugar levels and insulin release than sugar.
Here is my truly sugar-free banana loaf recipe which still tastes amazing and is much healthier than any other you will find.
- 6-7 overripe bananas, previously frozen and defrosted
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups of gluten-free self raising flour (this is what I used but regular self-raising flour will work fine too)
- 2/3 cup of walnut pieces
- Preheat oven to 190C (Gas Mark 5)
- Lightly grease an 8x4" cake tin
- In a bowl, mash the bananas, then whisk in the eggs, vanilla and coconut oil, until properly mixed.
- Slowly add the flour bit by bit and stir well with a spoon.
- Stir in the walnuts.
- Pour your mixture into the tin, then decorate with some walnuts if you want to.
- Put in the oven to bake for approx 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool before slicing.
- The cake came out moist and it was definitely sweet enough.
- A slice of the cake makes a lovely healthy snack.
- It keeps well for 4-5 days covered in foil.
Why is junk food so addictive? When does it stop being an occasional treat and start becoming something you can't stop thinking about?
Why are certain foods addictive?
Unnatural foods change the way the brain reacts when you are eating and this is why you end up with cravings. Our brain works on a reward system and when we eat something we like, our brain signals that we should eat more of it, whether that's because it was nutrient-dense or just because it tasted good.
There are different tricks that food manufacturers use to make you want to eat more of their food. For example, foods that melt in your mouth signal to your brain that you're eating less and stop you feeling full so that you eat more.
The harmful effects of junk food
A 2001 study in medical journal The Lancet found that the more junk food you eat, the more you need to get the same buzz as before, and so it spirals out of control. Eventually, you seek out the foods because of the way they make you feel, not even because they taste good or even because you're hungry. Have you ever gone to get fast food even when you're not hungry, and then realise it doesn't even taste that good? And yet you crave more? That's because of the way the chemicals affect your brain.
What are the symptoms of food addiction?
- Getting cravings even if you're already full.
- Not being able to stop eating even when you become full.
- Feeling guilty after eating (but then eating again anyway)
- Hiding food from others
- Making excuses to eat more
- Getting anxious, stressed, and even angry when food is restricted
How to get back on the right track
Being addicted to junk food is the same as any addiction, and it can be best to just cut it out altogether. It will be hard at first, but your brain will need time to rewire and relearn how to react when you eat.
Every taste is an acquired taste at first, but some are just easier to acquire than others. If you hate broccoli when you first eat it, keep trying until you do like it. Eventually, your body will realise all the nutrient-dense benefits it's giving you and you'll start to actually like it.
It will take more than just willpower to get over your addiction as it is affecting the actual chemicals in your brain. Set small, manageable goals like cooking from scratch and only eating out once a week.
We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for us. But do most of us realise just how much we are consuming? And do we truly understand the dangers of overconsumption?
What can too much sugar do?
Public Health England states there are two clear reasons we need to be concerned about our sugar intake: obesity and tooth decay. 64% of adults in the UK are classed as being overweight or obese. Obesity caused by a high sugar intake and excess calories can lead to further health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. It can also lead to psychological issues such as bullying, low self-esteem, and even depression.
What happens when we ingest sugar?
Put in very simple terms, when we ingest anything high in artificial sugars we experience a sugar rush. Insulin is then released to control blood sugar levels. The temporary spike in energy experienced is usually promptly followed by a sugar crash, which is where cravings develop and the ‘just one more’ temptations defeat us.
Whilst we are working towards satisfying these overwhelming cravings, excess sugar is being stored in the liver. Too much of this can cause the liver to be overloaded and forced to expand to try and compensate. Once it has reached its maximum capacity, the liver then sends out any excess sugar to be converted into fatty acids, which are stored as fat in less active parts of the body.
Is a sugar rush as addictive as drugs?
Dopamine is the body's 'reward' chemical which releases energy and motivation when your body needs it most. Dopamine is to thank for those 'cravings' you feel and can be an almost overwhelming feeling when enough dopamine is released. When you consume sugar, huge amounts of dopamine are released into the body, which explains why it can be so difficult to stop eating sweet things once you start. Other substances which release huge amounts of dopamine are Class A drugs such as cocaine, which is why it is said that sugar is as addictive as drugs.
How can we slim our sugar intake?
It is vital that you always read the label when purchasing a new food. There are so many foods and drinks out there that contain a lot more sugar than you realise, even in foods that claim to be 'healthy'. The best way to lower your sugar intake is to check how much sugar is in what you are eating and either opt for a lower sugar version or cut it out completely. So for example here we have Tomato Soup:
Nowadays, nearly everything has a high amount of sugar in it. Let's take this tomato soup for example. You would expect this to be a very healthy, low-calorie meal.. right? Let's check the label.
This tomato and basil soup from Waitrose contains 11.1g of sugar per serving. The recommended serving by the manufacturer is half a pot, so if you consume the entire pot (which you probably would if you didn't read the label first) you are actually consuming 22.2g of sugar which is more than an average-sized Snickers bar which contains 20g of sugar!
Sugar In Meal Replacements
A very popular way of losing weight these days is consuming meal replacements, whether they are shakes, drinks, or bars. However, meal replacements aren't always sold by weight loss companies and are not always marketed as being for weight loss. Brands like Weetabix are now marketing meal replacements with their new Weetabix On The Go which is heavily marketed towards people who don't have enough time in the morning to eat a proper, nutritious breakfast. These products are sold as being a 'complete' breakfast with lots of fibre and protein as the main selling points, but let's take a closer look.
This is the nutritional information for the Weetabix On The Go Vanilla flavour drink. As you can see, one serving (one bottle) contains 20g of sugar. Again, as much as a chocolate bar! So, you might as well be eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, right? When you actually look at the ingredients of this product, they are essentially just milk, cream, sugar, and wheat derivatives. Not exactly a wholesome, healthy breakfast!
Should I Stop Eating Sugar Completely?You don't need to completely cut sugar out of your life, but it's very important to consciously cut down your intake. Make sure you always check the label of what you're eating and try to stick to whole, natural foods such as vegetables, grains, and lean protein.
A staggering 1 in 6 children eat fast food twice a day in Britain while 57% of Americans admit to eating junk food at least once a week. We know that junk food isn't good for us, but most of the time we just can't help ourselves. Try our healthy food swaps to help you eliminate junk food from your diet and follow our tips to learn how to stop craving it.
Swap potato crisps for vegetable crisps
Crisps (or chips as the Americans call them) can be the downfall of many people. These salty snacks are always popular, and crisp brand giant Walkers produces an incredible 10 million packets of crisps every single day. However, the salt and fat content of this snack can be very high and they can cause unwanted health issues such as acne and weight gain.
Instead of reaching for a packet of crisps when you get the craving, reach for a packet of vegetable crisps instead. Brands like Emily Crisps produce delicious vegetable snacks which are just as tasty as your favourite crisps but instead will contribute to your five-a-day and will help you boost your vitamin and mineral intake for the day.
If you do get constant cravings for salty snacks, it could actually be because you're dehydrated or that you have an electrolyte imbalance. Before you give in to the craving, try drinking a glass of water and wait a while to see if the craving subsides.
Swap takeaway pizza for homemade pizza
Takeaway pizza is one of the nation's favourite and our consumption of takeaway pizza has grown by almost half since 2006. However, takeaway pizza contains a lot of added sugar and salt and an inordinate number of calories. Ever feel sluggish and bloated after eating a takeaway pizza? Try making your own!
By making your own pizza, you know exactly what has gone into it and you can even use it as an excuse to increase your vegetable intake by including things like peppers and spinach to make it even healthier.
If you are craving something carb-rich and starchy like pizza, it could mean you are suffering from a low mood or even depression. We tend to crave carbs when our body wants an energy boost, or even just when we are feeling cold, so try taking a hot bath to solve both of those problems at once by relaxing and warming your body.
Swap sweets for fruit
We all know that too much sugar is bad for us and that there is lots of added sugar in many of the foods we enjoy. However, sometimes you just feel like grabbing a bag of sweets (candy to our American cousins) and enjoying the flavour. When you want to grab a bag of sweets and release your inner child, try having some fruit instead. While it's true that fruit is still high in sugar, it contains far less than your average branded bag and you will benefit from the vitamins and minerals. Additionally, certain fruits like apples contain pectin which is a natural appetite suppressant, so you are less likely to continue on to a full-blown junk food binge.
If you constantly crave sugar, it could be because you're already eating too much and your body is becoming dependant upon it to release serotonin. Try cutting out foods which contain a lot of added sugar and beware of foods which seem healthy but actually aren't. By reducing the amount of sugar you have each day, your blood sugar level will have a chance to re-balance and you won't get so many severe cravings and mood swings due to blood sugar spikes and drops.
Swap donuts for energy balls
Our final healthy food swap is for donuts. These delicious sugar-laden snacks can be all too easy to overindulge upon and it's easy to see why. With their melt-in-the-mouth texture, the body doesn't have much of a chance to realise you're getting full, and so we tend to overeat and suffer the consequences. If you are partial to enjoying donuts, try swapping for energy balls instead. Brands like Boost Ball and The Protein Ball Co create delicious protein balls which are full of healthy, natural ingredients and will satisfy your cravings much better than donuts. Not only this, the high protein content will mean you're not left still feeling hungry after eating them!
If you're constantly craving melt-in-the-mouth foods, it could be because the food industry has geared it that way. Try to get out of the vicious cycle by quitting cold turkey, and adhering to the healthy food swaps outlined above.