The Sugar Debate
With the high sugar content in processed food in the news yet again today, I thought it timely to reprise the article I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, at the time of the 'reduce sugar in jam' fiasco. If we don't wake up and start taking responsibility for our own nutrition instead of leaving the food industry to stuff us with crap, then pretty soon we will be in complete meltdown. I have been talking about this subject for some time now - and just yesterday, a friend was telling me she thought she would benefit from taking a pro-biotic drink. She compared all of the ingredients and was horrified to find that all of the brands - Actimel, Yakult etc all had Glucose-Fructose or High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in them. Whether foods/drinks need any sugar in them doesn't matter - it is added to make the product addictive so that you will return to buy often. Once you are addicted the HFCS then highjacks your digestive system and the way that you metabolise what you eat. That is the danger in processed food and drinks. Anyway, I suggest that you read my article and use that as a stepping stone to making your own enquiries - there are plenty of sites on Google to find out more than you can possible take in. While you are about it, check out Agave Nectar, that other modern day wonder food. A dream of an advertiser's product, a nightmare for us.
There is plenty of discussion currently regarding the evils of sugar in our diet and preserves in particular. I would like us to dissect this further by looking at the nature of this ‘sugar’.
Artisanal production, of necessity, and I am talking jams and preserves here, uses sugars refined from sugar cane or sugar beet. By artisanal production, I take it to mean small batch, open pan production. Commercial production it would seem uses a predominance of High Fructose Corn Syrup, chemically manufactured from corn stalks. There is a great deal of science attached to this, as you would expect, and I don’t intend to re-hash it here, and maybe end up unwittingly distorting the facts. Instead I have attached some links to some of the articles I have read, and you will find plenty more on the internet. Beware of websites such as sweetsurprise.com which is the PR side of The Corn Refiners Association.
Put simply though, the main points are as follows:-
Sucrose, the sugar obtained by refining beet or cane sugars, has glucose and fructose in equal measures and can be absorbed and digested by the human gut. Of itself it is not toxic to humans, although, obviously, it’s intake needs to be moderate.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is also made up of glucose and fructose but in unequal measures with a predominance of fructose. It is chemically manufactured by treating corn stalks ( a waste product from farming) with several enzymes to manipulate the glucose found naturally in the stalks into part glucose, part fructose. Sometimes mercury is used in the process which gives rise to high levels of mercury being ingested.The resulting syrup has around 10% more fructose than its sucrose counterpart, is much sweeter and highly addictive.
When we ingest HFCS, it has to be broken down by the liver and does not pass through the gut, which results in a failure to trigger insulin, amongst other things. The sugars are not metabolised successfully and the normal responses which tell us we are full, fail, leading to over-eating. The liver stores the sugars as fat which leads to on-going problems with strokes and heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As HFCS is so addictive the rise in obesity, especially childhood obesity and diabetes is an inevitable outcome.
HFCS aids food manufacture because of its structure, and it is present in most of our food and drinks that are not made at home. The main reason that it is such a popular ingredient is that it is a fraction of the cost of refined sugar. It is present in all soft drinks that have added sugar as it mixes into a liquid more easily than refined sugar. Cakes, biscuits, frozen manufactured food, even yoghurts, crackers, pizzas and bread - pretty much anything that you buy ready prepared. Of course, if HFCS is added to savoury foods to aid production then salt is added to counteract the sweetness - a double whammy nutritionally.
When we are arguing over the Jam and Similar Products legislation in terms of altering the amount of permitted sugar for jam production, it is my belief that we should be arguing the bigger picture. As I have repeatedly said, artisanal production should be treated separately with it’s own regulations. This is demonstrated by the attached table of ingredients from the ‘leading’ brands.
My own Trading Standards Officer has said ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup is exactly what it says and shouldn’t be declared as sugar on any food label. Glucose-fructose is sufficient for an ingredient on a food label and therefore a product can be labelled with those ingredients. All consumers would take from that is that the product is not sugar, in it’s usual form.’
II do not wish to be judgmental but I am not so sure that the consumer is that savvy. I also do not know at what point HFCS is deemed to have changed into sugar to be counted as part of the sugar solids declaration on the label for jam. Currently jam has to contain a minimum reading of 60% sugar solids to be called jam - does HFCS contribute to this reading even if it is not deemed to be sugar?
We have laws about cigarette smoking with age limits controlling the sale of tobacco goods, and we have been extensively educated about its dangers. We have laws about alcohol sale and we have had similar levels of education and controls over who it can be sold to. We are also aware of the burden the mis-use of either substance places on the NHS. Not one human being needs tobacco or alcohol to sustain life. However, we all need food to live - it isn’t a lifestyle choice - yet for some reason, probably rooted in cash, governments, health professionals, the food standards agency, and scientists, systematically turn a blind eye to the inclusion of this toxic substance
present in even the most basic food that we feed to our children on a daily basis. A sector of society who cannot make an informed choice about their nutrition and who deserve better. It is even present in some baby formula milk, pre-disposing the very youngest to a lifetime’s addiction.
The population at large have not been educated with the risks, nor are there warnings on packets. The issues are probably felt to be too widespread and endemic to be tackled? Or is it fear of the food giants who control the market place?
Two million adults in our population in UK - that’s 3.33% - are deemed obese enough to warrant fat reducing and potentially llife-threatening surgery. 3.33% !!!
£millions are spent on treating obesity, heart disease and diabetes - and the resulting misery - but the root cause is never examinedor legislated for. Why?
In all of history the sugar in jams and preserves have never given rise to these problems - I just don’t think it would be possible to eat enough jam! Why make jams and preserves the scapegoat now?
The debate needs to begin - and FAST.
Oooh - I've just seen my strawberry tea cosy go by on the slideshow at the top of the page. I'll have to put my Christmas pudding away and fetch out the strawberry now the sunshine is here.
Now, it's not only Mr Philip Schofield who gives away daft prizes y'know. I have got a bumper prize for you! Just go to our new Facebook page and like and send a friend request. We'll enter you into our draw to receive A-Jar-For-A-Day . . 365 jars in a mixture of sizes complete with lids and delivered to your door. Head over there now, do the deed, and then hope you will be the lucky winner. We will make the draw on 6 May to get it out of the way before that other great contest going on. Good luck!
Fancy a Bargain?
Yes you do, you know you do. Two this week, both genuine price reductions being passed on to you - if we buy cheaper, so do you. I am not keeping the extra profit and taking Trev on a mad weekend to Barcelona, though God knows, he needs a break! The 14oz Facetted Jar has been reduced by a massive amount of over £8 per box! If you don't believe go and check it out. While you are there take a look at the Quadro jar, takes a good 8oz of jam and looks smart and stylish at the same time. They are the splendid price of 29p each which is a great price in anyone's book. I think they will be ideal for fruit or herb jellies so good to stock up now as they won't keep this price for ever.
I have put a link to my Redcurrant Jelly and my Herb Jellies just to inspire you - the herbs are just beginning to put on a lot of growth so it is a very good time to be making some jellies while they are young and fresh.
Ah, those words, if you were a teenager in the 60's, have a certain resonance of Mr Simon and Mr Garfunkel, but more of that in a moment.
I have been a bit saucy this week - I made my Rutlandshire Sauce which is exactly like the other sauce that comes from a bit further North than here, you know the one I mean. I totally forgot to take any photographs for you and I have been umm-ing and ah-ing over whether to divulge the recipe or not. I will think it over for a bit longer and let you know.
The other splendid sauce made this week was my Everyday Brown Sauce. I first made this in the Autumn last year because we had a veg box at that time which had a lot of those space age looking veg - kohl rabi. I didn't want to cook and eat as many as we were receiving, so looked on-line for a recipe to use them up. Turns out they are really popular in Europe, like really popular, and made into all sorts of dishes. I was more interested in the sauce recipe I found as it used a lot of the kohl rabi and another vegetable I had a lot of - turnips. A double whammy. I made the sauce and really loved it - it was H-ighly P-iquant if you take my meaning, very like its popular commercial counterpart.
I thought that I would make some more this week as a customer had asked for some - and I realised I had run out. One problem with that though, or two really, no kohl rabi, or turnips for that matter. I remembered when I was researching recipes that kohl rabi is a member of the cabbage family, like a swollen cabbage stalk, so I thought white cabbage would do the job. I had a butternut squash so I used that for the turnip and the sauce turned out really, really tasty. So the original recipe can now be made all year round interchanging the vegetables. I can't emphasise enough how tasty this sauce is and I am sure it would be H-ugely P-opular with you too!
It has been a lovely weekend, weather wise, chez Rosie, if a little windy (gale force!) and I have been out gardening for the first time this year. Now, the first few days of gardening for me, in any year, always involve doing the things that didn't get done at the end of last year. So there has been some tidying up, and some cutting back, especially of the woody herbs. I didn't want to waste them so decided to make a couple of herb wreaths. Who doesn't like a wreath? They are not just for Christmas. In my mind preserving is not just about jams and chutneys and the like. It is about not wasting what we have by using in whatever way possible.
I had cuttings of Rosemary, Sage, Wormwood, Curry Plant and Lemon Thyme - what type of herb you have doesn't matter. Take off any damaged leaves and scraggly bits.
You will need a wreath base - I make mine quite easily at the end of the year when I cut back our honeysuckle. I make the vines into a circle , twisting them as I go - they are still soft and pliable when newly cut. They harden as they dry out and make surprisingly strong wreaths. You can also buy twig wreaths or wire wreath shapes - any will do.
Trim the cuttings to a similar length, but not too short at this stage.
Make a small bunch of one of each type of herb using the woody ones at the back to provide support.
Tie the bunches with string or raffia leaving long tails as shown. Make the bunches until the herbs are used up - you will need 10+ for each wreath, depending on the size of the bunches and the wreath
Tie the bunches onto the wreath, overlapping slightly to hide the string/raffia. Don't cut off the ends yet - tie down the overlapping bunch at the top with these, just one stalk will be enough, it stops the bunch swiveling round or dropping down.
Continue tying on the bunches until the wreath is filled. Add a ribbon hanging loop and you're done. Here are the two I made today -would make a great present if you are going for supper to friends, or as a birthday present