Sweet equation


POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You can have your cake and survive it too, if you just remember what happened to poor Alice. In America, as in Wonderland, almost everyone these days seems to be growing large or wasting away from mindlessly following enticements to “;eat me”; or “;drink me.”;

It's not just people with diabetes and heart disease who need to beware, either. Anyone who suffers from chronic complaints with digestion, hormonal imbalances, skin breakouts, joint inflammation, depression, fatigue or weight gain—all of us, in other words—has probably been advised to avoid that arch-villain of the modern American diet: the Fluffy Whites.

And here we're treading on sacred ground, because the fluffy-white category of foods—bread, potatoes, rice, boxed cereals, cakes, pastries and all the other highly processed, high-carbohydrate foods we grew up on—are what most of us consider comfort food. We are simply not going to give them up, even under the threat of death.

The trick is to repackage those sheep in wolf's clothing, as it were, by doing the reverse of what the junk-food makers do: Ask science (baking science, that is) to re-engineer desserts that don't kill.

It's simple, really. Just replace refined sugars and starches with ones that don't cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Use safer fats, and more whole grains. And forget the chemical-laden artificial sweeteners and fake fats that only trade one potential health problem for another.

The real challenge is in making the results taste rewarding, and the secret here is never to substitute for the most important ingredient. The source of food that nourishes and comforts, rather than poisons, remains the same as ever: the human touch.