Lowcarbezine! 24 July 2002

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Hey, Gang -

Here it is - and a long and varied issue it is, too. You realize, don't you, that some weeks I have so many ideas I can barely find room for them all, and other weeks I'm nearly banging my head against my desk, moaning, "What can I tell them that's useful and interesting this week?!"

This was one of the easy weeks. Hope it shows.

Read on!


All contents © Copyright 2002 Hold the Toast Press. All commercial reproduction is expressly prohibited. If you think your friends will enjoy Lowcarbezine!, please forward them the WHOLE ISSUE. Please, do not post articles or recipes elsewhere on the internet without permission. My attorney tells me that I'll have to come scold you and tell you to cut it out if you do.

A lot of people have inquired about advertising; we actually are going to launch new ad rates and a sign up page as soon as the webmaster is through with grad school for the semester. Watch this space!

How Sweet It Is!

Perhaps the thing that scares people the most about going low carb is the idea of giving up sugar. In a country where the average sugar intake is now 152 pounds per year - and someone's eating more, folks, since we're all eating less - quitting the National Addiction looms as a very large obstacle - yet few steps have such beneficial results.

I don't eat sugar because it makes me fat and tired and cranky. This does not mean, however, that I never use a sweetener. I'm an enthusiastic cook, and perhaps an even more enthusiastic eater, and some recipes do call for at least a touch of sweetness. This poses no problem, since there is a wider variety of artificial sweeteners and other sweeteners that are easy on the blood sugar available now than at any time in history. Indeed, there are so many sweeteners available that it can get a bit confusing for the uninitiated - and there are new low carb dieters joining our ranks every day. So for those of you who are new to the ranks of the sugar-free - and we have more fun here than you may have imagined - here is a quick rundown of the most common sweeteners available in the US today:

Saccharine - Saccharine is the granddaddy of artificial sweeteners, and still sees a lot of use today. Most commonly known by the trade name Sweet 'n Low, or "the pink packets", saccharine is still a very useful sweetener to keep on hand. It's very cheap, it's widely available, and it holds its sweetness when heated. For many years, saccharine was suspected of being a carcinogen in large doses, but the FDA took it off the list of suspected carcinogens well over a year ago - and even when it was considered a cancer threat, the doses needed to equal those tested were ridiculously high.

The big disadvantage of saccharine is that some folks dislike the taste. There is a genetically linked tendency to taste a bitter aftertaste from saccharine - since it's genetic, some people taste it and some people don't. If you're one of the people who does, however, anything but the smallest amount of saccharin is not going to taste pleasantly sweet to you; it will taste unpleasantly bitter. The higher the concentration of the saccharine, the more likely that it will taste bitter, so it is better used when only a bit of sweetness is needed, like in a glass of iced tea, rather when a lot of sweetener is needed, for example for sweetening a chocolate dessert.

In cooking, saccharine has a couple of drawbacks: First of all, it is very, very sweet - you may remember those teensy little saccharine tablets, about double the size of a pinhead, just one of which replaced a teaspoon of sugar. Because of this intense sweetness, saccharine that has not been bulked with something less sweet can be awkward to use, making it difficult to know just how much to use in place of sugar - and bulking agent usually add at least a little carbohydrate; for instance a packet of Sweet 'n Low has just over a half a gram of carbohydrate in it. Liquid saccharine is available, and contains no carbohydrates at all. The second drawback is that saccharine does not provide any of the bulk or textural effects that sugar provides in baked goods and desserts - it will not hold moisture the way sugar will, nor will it brown, nor crystallize. This limits its usefulness in cooking, and particularly dessert making.

Still, saccharine is handy for adding a touch of sweetness to a cup of tea or coffee, a dish of yogurt, or a batch of salad dressing.

Aspartame - Aspartame debuted under the trade names Equal and Nutrasweet in the early 1980s, and it is still generally known by those names, or as "the blue packets" although its patent expired quite some time ago. At the time, aspartame took the market by storm, partly because it lacked the tendency to taste bitter that saccharine has, and partly because there was far more reason to aggressively market a sweetener that was still under patent than one whose patent had expired decades ago. The advantages and disadvantages of aspartame are, for the most part, similar to those of saccharine - aspartame is cheap and ubiquitous, but will not add moistness, browning, or any other textural effects to the foods in which it is used. As I mentioned, it does lack the drawback of tasting bitter to some folks, but on the other hand, unlike saccharine, aspartame breaks down when exposed to heat for any length of time, and loses its sweetness - indeed, it will even break down without heat over time. The shelf life of diet Coke, for instance, is nowhere near as long as that of regular Coke.

Too, aspartame is wildly controversial. There have been more complaints to the FDA about aspartame than all other food additives combined. The FDA steadfastly claims that all reports of headaches, seizures, MS-like symptoms, and visual disturbances are all in the heads of the folks reporting them, but the reports continue, regardless. Dr. Robert Atkins, who used to recommend the use of aspartame, no longer does; he feels that it interferes with fat burning on a cellular level. He also asserts that professional pilot's magazines have warned pilots not to use aspartame, because of reported visual disturbances. And this girl can tell you that when aspartame-sweetened Diet Coke took over the market from saccharine-sweetened Tab, I quickly found that two cans of pop during the day were enough to give me panic attacks in the evening. Although I do not shun aspartame completely, I prefer the other sweeteners, for this reason.

Still, many people use aspartame freely, with no apparent ill effects. Pay attention to your body is always good advice.

Acesulfame-K - commonly known as Ace-K, and sometimes as Acesulfame potassium. This is a sweetener that has never quite cracked the public consciousness, although it's available pretty widely in grocery stores, right along side the saccharine and the aspartame. The most common trade names are Sunnette and Sweet One. Ace-K stands up to heat, doesn't taste bitter, but once again, doesn't give any of the textural effects of sugar. So far as I can tell, folks don't use ace-K a lot, but it shows up in a growing number of sugar free products - all of which seem to taste pretty good. I haven't been able to find a lot of health info about ace-K; the only report I could find seemed to think that ace-K was bad and dangerous simply because it was, indeed, an artificial sweetener. This does not strike me as a compelling argument.

Sucralose - this is the new kid on the block, mostly being marketed under the trade name Splenda, and it blows the competition clear out of the water. Splenda tastes remarkably good; if you don't tell people that a dessert is sweetened with Splenda instead of sugar, it's unlikely that they'd ever guess. Sucralose, like saccharine and aspartame, is extremely sweet in its raw form. For this reason, Splenda is bulked with malto-dextrin to the same sweetness level as sugar. This is both good and bad - good because it is very easy to convert recipes; you just use the same amount of Splenda as you would of sugar, and bad because it needs so much malto-dextrin to bulk it to that level that the carb count starts to add up. One teaspoon of Splenda has a half a gram of carbohydrate. Granted, that's only 1/8th the carbohydrate of a teaspoon of sugar, and in a cup of coffee, it's no big deal. But when you want to use a cup of the stuff in a dessert, we're talking 24 grams of carbohydrate, or more than some folks' daily limit. Liquid Splenda, which is carb free, is available in some countries, but MacNeil, the company that produces Splenda in the US, says that they currently have no plans to distribute it here. By the way, to give you an idea of how sweet liquid Splenda is - 1/4 teaspoon equals a cup of sugar!

Splenda is the sweetener of choice right now for any serious sugar free chef. Still, it has some of the same drawbacks as the other sweeteners - it's easy to measure, and it tastes great, but it still doesn't give the bulk or the textures of sugar. Since it's still under patent, it's also quite expensive - this box of Splenda runs about $4. A good reason to use another, cheaper sweetener where it will work out well.

These four - saccharine, aspartame, acesulfame-K, and Splenda - are all artificial, non-nutritive sweeteners. This is enough to upset some folks; I get email every now and then saying, "How can you recommend artificial sweeteners?! They're artificial!" True enough.

I do not know if artificial sweeteners are completely safe. To me, however, that is an irrelevant question, since I know of nothing that is completely safe. The important question is "Are artificial sweeteners safer than what they are replacing?" And to this question, the answer appears to be a resounding "Yes". For instance, I had a reader write me, wanting to know if it was true that Splenda caused thymus shrinkage and kidney swelling. I read the FDA documents, and learned that it was, indeed, absolutely true that Splenda did just exactly that in the test rats - in doses the equivalent of a 150 pound human being eating well over 12,000 teaspoons a day of Splenda. At doses the equivalent of 8700 teaspoons a day, thymus shrinkage and kidney swelling did not occur. Considering that the average American eats about 45 teaspoons a day of sugar - an amount I consider to be manifestly unsafe - I find it hard to imagine that anyone is going to manage to force down more than, say, 200 teaspoons a day of Splenda. The kidneys and thymus glands of America appear to be safe.

I'd also like to point out that if you work it out, the same quantity of sweetness as 8700 teaspoons of Splenda a day would require that 150 pound human being to eat double their body weight in sugar, which might well kill them outright.

At any rate, sugar has been implicated in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, and of course the ever popular tooth decay. If artificial sweeteners are only half as dangerous - and I don't believe they're anything like that dangerous - they're a better idea.

Now, for some not-so-artificial sweeteners:

Stevia - I did a whole speech on stevia a few years back. Stevia is an herbal sweetener, derived from the stevia rebaudiana shrub, known to the natives of South America as the sweet leaf shrub. An intensely sweet powder is extracted from the stevia leaf, and is growing in popularity as a sweetener. Technically, it is not allowed to be used as a sweetener in processed foods, but it is being used anyway, under the title "supplement."

Stevia has no known dangers. However, it shares many of the drawbacks of saccharine - it is so intensely sweet it can be difficult to use, and in quantity is it often unpleasantly bitter. It takes some experimenting with.

Easier to use is a blend of stevia and fructooligosaccharides, aka FOS. FOS is a naturally occurring sugar that is too big for the body to digest or absorb. As a result, FOS doesn't raise blood sugar levels or cause an insulin release. It does, however, encourage the healthy intestinal bacteria and improve bowel health. Since FOS is only half as sweet as table sugar (and wildly expensive!), it makes a good match for the too-sweet stevia extract. I use a stevia/FOS sweetener in my yogurt, and sometimes in beverages, and it works nicely in both.

Stevia, like the artificial sweeteners, does not give the bulk or textural effects of sugar. While FOS, in quantity, would give some of these effects, when paired with stevia the resulting sweetener is still too concentrated to use in amounts that would give these effects. Stevia and stevia/FOS blends also share a drawback of Splenda, in that they can be fairly expensive. Still, they're a good choice for anyone who is unhappy about using anything artificial in their diet.

Polyols - Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. There are several - xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and lactitol are the most widely used. The sugar alcohols are very different from the other sweeteners we've been talking about. They actually are carbohydrates, like sugar is, with one big difference - they are made of molecules so big that you can't digest or absorb most of them.

This means that polyols don't raise blood sugar much, don't contribute many absorbable calories, and don't cause much of an insulin release - yet they can provide virtually any texture that can be achieved with sugar. There are polyol-based marshmallows, gummy worms, jelly beans, caramels, meringues, ice cream, you name it, and they all are virtually indistinguishable from their sugary counterparts. Here we have polyol based taffies, hard candies, and chocolate; I think you'll be very impressed by both the taste and the texture of these candies.

There is one important thing to remember about the polyols, and you may consider it a drawback - although I consider it a benefit (hey, it's not a bug, it's a feature!) I mentioned that polyols are large-molecule carbohydrates that are very incompletely digested or absorbed. The same could be said of fiber. You know what happens if you eat a lot of fiber? Same thing happens with polyols. I find that just a candy or two, or a half a chocolate bar, is enough to make me, er, socially offensive a few hours later. Eat more, and you will regret it. I know someone who made the mistake of eating about a dozen sugar free taffies right before bed, and paid for it with 45 gut-cramping minutes in the bathroom at 4 am.

What this means, then, is that with the polyols we have high quality sweets that enforce moderation. Personally, I think this is a beautiful thing.

I have been asked, "Why use sweeteners at all? Why not just learn to do without sweet foods?" This is a question worth answering.

We are hard-wired to enjoy sweet flavors; this much has been well established. Apparently this is because for most of the millennia humankind has existed on planet Earth, sweet foods were rare, and served a strong nutritional purpose. Breast milk is sweet; I trust we're all clear on the value of babies enjoying their mothers' milk. Other than that, there was fruit - which originally had a far lower sugar content than our modern hybrid versions - a good source of vitamins and minerals. The one exception, and the only really concentrated sweet available in nature, was honey, and it seems unlikely that our primitive ancestors found enough honey to do themselves much damage, especially considering how much exercise they got. It seems clear that for most of the history of humankind, a preference for sweet flavors served us well. Only in our modern sedentary society, flooded with cheap and valueless sweets, has this preference been turned against us.

Although it seems unlikely that we will ever stop enjoying the flavor of sweet things, I do think we can, and should, unlearn our preference for vast quantities of heavily sweetened foods and beverages. That this could happen may seem unlikely to new low carbers; let me assure you that it is not. I have, in my life, quite literally stolen to get vast quantities of sugary food, yet most commercially sweetened products, both sugary and artificially sweetened, are far, far too sweet for my tastes now. As you wean yourself from sugar, you'll find your taste for the stuff diminishing, until someday you'll indulge in one of your old favorites, only to find it tastes so sickly sweet you can't bear to finish it. This is a far, far more common experience than you may believe!

Yet this lessening of our taste for sweets happens gradually, and in the meanwhile artificially sweetened desserts and such can keep the sugar monster from the door. This, to me, is a trade-off so valuable that I'm hard-pressed to find an argument against it - better, far better, to eat something artificially sweetened every day, and lose the physical addiction to sugar, and then let our taste for sweets gradually diminish on its own, than to say, "No! Nothing sweet, ever! No sugar, no artificial sweeteners, nothing!" and then get sucked back into sugar-hell. Every fight, every change, every goal has its appropriate time, and dealing with the very real addictive properties of carbohydrates, especially sugar, must happen before we start to teach ourselves not to need something sweet on a regular basis.

Further, I think it's likely that most of us will still find that at least a little sweetness among our variety of flavors is still desirable. I don't pick up the box of Splenda every day, but I don't hesitate to use a teaspoon or two in my cole slaw dressing, or to make a batch of sugar free ketchup - which I then eat a tablespoonful at a time. This sort of use of artificial sweeteners leads to truly minimal consumption, while keeping as broad a spectrum as possible of tastes available to us. If this makes our diets more interesting, and therefore more livable in the long run - and I have no doubt that for most of us it does - then this is a Very Good Thing.

We need to do this for the rest of our lives. Low carb sweeteners make this commitment far easier. I, for one, am grateful we have them.

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A Cool and Useful Website

I often get questions from readers regarding various fitness and weight loss products, especially those seen on infomercials. Obviously, I can only give an informed opinion on so many of these - the ones I know a little something about. In the meanwhile, there are dozens and dozens of infomercials out there, advertising everything from ab zapper belts to diets to workout videos.

Here's a website I've found that I turn to often: http://www.fitnessinfomercialreview.com/productreviews.htm Here you will find most of the infomercial fitness products listed, with reviews from actual users. Find out what the folks who have already shelled out the money think of their Gazelle Freestyle, their Ab-Doer, their Escape Your Shape program, or their Carb Trapper pills.

Despite a lot of people's skepticism of anything advertised on infomercials, a number of these products have overwhelmingly good reviews. I was not surprised, for instance, to learn that the Total Gym drew many raves; I love mine myself. Other products with a good rep include The Firm (another one I love), Walk Away the Pounds, and Bowflex. There are dozens listed, however, so go take a look and see if there's something that could help you!

Just as important, this website can help you keep your hard-earned money in your pocket, instead of spending it on products that simply don't work. When you've just seen an infomercial for a miracle weight loss pill or effortless fitness device, and you're about to dial that number, STOP! Tell yourself you won't buy a thing till you look at the infomercial review site. Read the reviews before you buy a darned thing. Then sleep on it. If, by the next time the infomercial is on, it still seems like a good idea, there will still be time to buy it. (Me, I'd see if I could get whatever it was for half price on Ebay!)

Just a Snicker

In the wake of all the coverage low carb dieting has been getting in the national media, our local paper, the Herald-Times, ran a story about low carbing this weekend. Sadly, they interviewed only people who hadn't tried a low carb diet, and were prejudiced against it.

Still, it was good for a quick laugh - one dietician said she preferred a "balanced diet", with lower fat and more carbs, and after all, she wouldn't want to try a low carb diet because she's put on a few pounds, and her cholesterol is kind of high...

Does snickering at this make me a bad person?

Going, Going, Gone!

Thought I ought to let you know that the recipes are coming down out of the Lowcarbezine! archives. It's part of my contract with my publisher, since most of the recipes will appear in 500 Low Carb Recipes. As new recipes appear here in Lowcarbezine! they'll stay up in the archives - at least until I sell them for a cookbook!

Speaking of 500 Low Carb Recipes, there's news: First of all, I've now been told it will be in the bookstores by sometime in September! Furthermore, it's coming out in paperback right away, so all of you can afford to run right out and buy it, right? ;-)

Won't be long now!

Vitamins 101

Thought maybe I should start a feature where we take a quick look at a different vitamin each issue. May as well start at the beginning with:

Vitamin A

* Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. This means that you can store it in your body. It also means that it is possible to overdose on vitamin A, although nowhere near so easy as some would have you believe - I've been taking 25,000 Ius, or 5 times the RDA for vitamin A, for 25 years now with no ill effects. So far as I've been able to find, the only cases of acute vitamin A poisoning have been in children who ate a whole bottle of vitamin pills, and in (and this is sort of odd) polar explorers who ate a whole polar bear liver, which contains many millions of units of vitamin A.

* Vitamin A is found in two forms in your food - preformed vitamin A, which is found in animal foods, and "pro-vitamin A", aka carotene, in plant foods. Theoretically, your body converts pro-vitamin A into vitamin A (this is how that preformed vitamin A ends up in animal foods from animals that don't eat meat), but different people have differing abilities to perform this conversion. The advantage of pro-vitamin A is that it's hard to overdose on the stuff. The disadvantage is that you may not get enough preformed vitamin A from it, depending on how well your body performs the conversion. It seems best to get some of both the preformed vitamin A and pro-vitamin A.

* Vitamin A is important for night vision and vision in general, resistance to infection, skin health, growth, preventing age spots and wrinkles, and healthy bones, gums, teeth and hair.

* The most common signs of severe vitamin A deficiency are xerophthalmia (dry eyes) and poor night vision. Lesser deficiencies may cause frequent colds or other respiratory infections, and skin problems like acne (Accutane, the acne drug, is a souped-up form of vitamin A), and those annoying little bumps on the skin of the upper arm.

* Vitamin A overdose signs include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, scaly skin, tiredness, headaches, and irregular periods. Remember that hair loss and irregular periods can also be signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), especially when combined with acne and abdominal obesity.

* The best low carb sources of vitamin A are liver, fish liver oil, eggs, dark green and yellow vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), cantaloupe, butter, cream, and cheese. (Indeed, one of the big concerns among doctors when the anti-cream-and-butter push started a few decades back was that people wouldn't get enough vitamin A.)

Putting My Tests To the Test!

A few weeks ago, I ran an article regarding some testing I had done on low carb protein bars, trying to determine whether or not they had, as some folks claim, a deleterious effect on blood sugar levels, and caused a subsequent insulin release. My conclusion was that at least in me, these bars did not cause an large increase in blood sugar, nor did they cause a serious blood sugar crash afterward.

In the wake of this article I received an email from a reader, criticizing me for my "pseudo-science", and asserting that all I had proved was that I was not a diabetic, and had a normal blood sugar response. This reader said that in his wife, a diabetic, the bars did, indeed, cause a rise in blood sugar, and that the only reason they did not do so in me was that I was not a diabetic. I decided I needed to respond to this criticism.

First of all, it is absolutely true that my blood sugar experiments, both with "carb blockers" and with protein bars, hardly fall into the realm of hard science. But then, I trust that my readers understand that one woman, armed with a drugstore blood sugar meter and a handful of protein bars, is not exactly the stuff of med journal articles. It is, however, what I can afford. I've always considered these experiments to be more investigative journalism than science. However, if my tongue-in-cheek references to "Hold the Toast Labs" led you to believe that I have a crew of white-coated scientific types with an array of microscopes, test tubes, and Bunsen burners at my disposal, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. It's just me and my test strips - one woman's experience. I try to make my experiments as meaningful as I can, given the limitations of my resources (not to mention my education), but no one's going to be publishing my work in a peer reviewed journal any time soon.

Secondly, I would point out that I do not write solely for a readership of diabetics; indeed, so far as I know a majority of my readers are not diabetic, and are low carbing for weight loss and greater health. It is completely appropriate for me to publish information that is useful to non-diabetic low carbers.

That being said, it is untrue that all I proved was that my blood sugar response is normal. The gentleman who emailed me seemed to feel that those of us who are not diabetic don't get any sort of meaningful rise in blood sugar when we eat carbohydrates, and this is simply untrue. Indeed, when I was doing my tests on carb blockers, I found that a cup of brown rice eaten on an empty stomach would drive my blood sugar above 180 - indeed, into the diabetic range. (This, incidentally, made me even gladder I'd gone low carb all those years ago!) And the whole point of low carb dieting is avoiding big blood sugar swings and the insulin surges they trigger; I knew that even those of us who aren't diabetic can take a ride on the blood sugar roller coaster after eating foods high in carbs.

However, I decided I'd put the gentleman's hypothesis to the test. He referred to the protein bars as "carb laden", and it is true that both the glycerine and the polyols in them are considered carbohydrates by the federal government of the US. This is why you'll find that many protein bars have been relabeled to reflect that - they'll say that they contain, say, 22 grams of carbohydrates, but that all but, say, 2 grams of that is glycerine and polyols, which don't cause a rise in blood sugar, so you can count 2 effective grams of carbohydrate. What I was trying to discover originally was whether or not it was true that those discounted grams really had little effect on blood sugar. I thought I had found out exactly that, at least for my body, but I decided I'd run yet another test.

In my original tests, I had compared the protein bars to a breakfast of 3 eggs, because the protein content was similar. I hypothesized that if my blood sugar response to the bars was substantially similar to my blood sugar response to the eggs, I'd have shown that they were, indeed, not contributing much in the way of absorbable carbohydrate. In the new test, I looked at my blood sugar response to 2 eggs plus approximately 22 grams worth of pasta (about cup, cooked), a relatively low impact carb. (Why only 2 eggs this time? Because the pasta contains a bit of protein along with its carbohydrate. The protein count ended up being virtually identical to the three eggs I'd used originally.) If, as my critic asserted, my response to the protein bars was so modest only because I have normal insulin response, and I really was absorbing 20-odd grams of carbohydrate from each protein bar, I should show much the same blood sugar response to these similar quantities of protein and carbohydrate from the eggs and pasta.

As with my original experiments, I started by taking my fasting blood sugar. I then ate the food involved - in this case the eggs and the pasta - and took my blood sugar at frequent intervals for a few hours. In this case I actually took my blood sugar a little more often than I did with the protein bars - roughly every ten minutes.

What happened? I got a much greater blood sugar rise than I did with the protein bars. My fasting blood sugar had been 99, and just under an hour it had risen to a high of 162, or a total of 63 points, and at times rose more than 10 points in 10 minutes, a rush I fancied I could actually feel. In contrast, the greatest blood sugar rise I experienced after eating a protein bar was 35 points, or just over half of that I got after eating the eggs and pasta, and with some of the bars I never got a rise of more than 10 points.

What this tells me is that, at least in my body, low carb protein bars do not yield as much digestable/absorbable carbohydrate as a meal that theoretically has a very similar protein and carb count.

As with the other times I've eaten carb-y foods to test the results, I found that my hunger kicked in when my blood sugar fell to right around 140. Worse, by the time my blood sugar had dropped most of the way back down - about two and a half hours into the test - I found myself yawning, and craving both food and alcohol in a way I haven't craved anything in a long time. It was scary to feel that addictive pull again, and it was a real illustration to me of the sugar/alcohol link that I've written about in the past.

So, that's my experience. However, it is absolutely true that I am not a diabetic, and it is just as true that people are different, and react to things differently. If you choose to eat protein bars - and I certainly don't consider them to be a replacement for real food on anything more than an occasional basis - pay attention to your own response. If you find yourself tired, hungry, and craving an hour or two later, take that as a sign that maybe they're not so great for you.

And of course if you are a diabetic, test your blood sugar frequently. Tight blood sugar control is vital to preventing vascular and nerve damage. There is no substitute for paying attention to your body.

Product Review

In some previous life I must have been a Southerner, because I tried the new Dr. Atkins' Cornbread and Muffin Mix last night, and my overwhelming response was, "Why is this so sweet?" I'm as Yankee as they come, but share the Southerner's feeling that sugar (or in this case Splenda) does not belong in cornbread. That this product was so sweet was jarring.

Especially since I had used it as part of a main dish! I had taken one look at that box of low carb cornbread mix and immediately thought, "Chili Cornbread Pie!" So last night I made a skillet full of chili, then spread some cornbread batter over it and baked the whole thing. Nice idea, and it looked like a picture out of a ladies' magazine, but that sweet cornbread just didn't go with the chili. Serious flavor dissonance.

I also found that the corn flavor was quite mild, and it lacked the distinctive "grittiness" that cornbread usually has. This isn't surprising, since the first two ingredients are wheat gluten and low glycemic cornstarch (an ingredient about which I am quite curious) - only after these come corn grits. Still, this was recognizably cornbread. If you like sweet cornbread or corn muffins, it might be worth trying for you. I paid $4.99; the mix makes 18 muffins, each with 3 grams of usable carb and 9 grams of protein.

Me, I probably won't bother again.

That's it for this issue! See you next issue!


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