A Fructose-Free Pantry Makeover
My pantry has had several makeovers since I enforced a fructose-free change upon it.  Immediately after reading ‘The Sweet Poison Quit Plan’, I piously tossed out nearly every thing with a sugar content.  Whereupon it quickly began to resemble Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. (You know… the one that was bare?  Oh, never mind.)  Out went the sauces, the cereals, the tinned soups (yes, really!), the dried fruit, the packet mixes… etc.  I actually had it organized for a few months, with neat little rows of things all in order (I should have taken a photo…).
And then I went through a brief uneducated stage of using low carb sweeteners.  I had several suspects in regular rotation.  Xylitol, erythritol, and splenda were my initial favorites.  I learned to cook and bake with them.  And then I discovered, through a bit more research, that as much as I wished it otherwise, they were ‘rubbish’.  Just another form of poison.  Not addictive like fructose perhaps, but harmful in other ways (in a nutshell, they are bad news for our livers).  
And so my pantry tried on yet another new look.  Low carb sweeteners are SO last season. (With the notable exception of stevia.)  And it seems we’ve got it right now, so here we stay!  This look suits us very well, and we do not consider it a trend…
From left to right: dextrose, rice malt syrup, stevia powder, glucose syrup and malt extract.
This is what we have ended up with:
  • Dextrose – which is simply the powdered form of glucose, our body’s favorite fuel.  Dextrose is finer than sugar, similar in texture to caster sugar, and tastes similar to sugar, but isn’t as sweet.  And that last comment really applies to all of these sweeteners; not as sweet.  Dextrose can be found in the brewing section of the supermarket – apparently it works better for beer making than sugar.  Make sure you don’t buy ‘brewing sugar’, which is dextrose mixed with sugar.  The packaging looks similar.
  • Glucose Syrup – thick and sticky, clear and a bit sweet (any guesses about what it breaks down to?). I get this in the baking section of the supermarket.
  • Malt Extract – Another thick and sticky one, it reminds me a little of molasses, though not quite as dark in colour.  This is usually found with the spreads (like peanut butter & molasses) in the supermarket.
  • Rice Malt Syrup – lovely and honey-like in colour and texture, and upon digestion, breaks down to good old glucose.  I buy this in my local Coles supermarket in the health food section (although, due to flooding here it sounds like our Coles will be closed for awhile).  It should be easy to find in a health food shop too, but it’s cheaper at Coles.
  •  Stevia – is 300 times sweeter than sugar so you can pump up the sweet factor in your recipe by adding just a tiny bit of stevia!  It’s low carb and doesn’t trigger much of an insulin response (sorry – medical term alert!) if any at all.  I have quite a bit to say about stevia… prepare to be bombarded.  It is my #1 choice to use in compensating for the less-sweet-than-sugar aspect of all the other sweeteners listed above.

About Stevia: If you can source a pure, non-bitter stevia powder locally, do, but I couldn’t find one.  The ones I tried were horribly bitter.  But I recalled that back in my xylitol/erythritol phase, I read a low carb baking blog

that recommended NuNaturals stevia as the best tasting one.  It really sounded as though the girl (Lauren from Healthy Indulgences) had taste tested them all, and rather than wasting more money on inedible things, I took her advice.  I ordered mine from the US.  Here is the link: Where to buy NuNaturals NuStevia.  It cost US$60 for a 1 lb (454 gr) container (plus US$8 for shipping to Australia).  This amount will last nearly your whole lifetime as you only need to use 1/16 -1/2 tsp per recipe.  I think it’s worth it (unless you can find a good one closer to home, and if you do, please tell me!).  

A word of caution if you try to find stevia locally though:  don’t buy one that is mixed with fillers.  It might say ‘baking blend’ or ‘granulated’.  Check the label and if it lists anything like ‘wheat dextrin’, ‘polydextrose’, ‘inulin’ or ‘erythritol’ don’t buy it!  Those things are what I refer to collectively (along with lots of other things that harm us in quiet unseen ways) as ‘rubbish’.  I prefer not to go into the medical and scientific reasons behind my opinion of various forms of ‘rubbish’, but rest assured, I have done my homework before lumping them in that category.

I have to say that a few things with a small sugar content have snuck their way back into my pantry.  I am somewhat less of a Fructose Nazi than I was at the start.  But I am a big label reader, and there is nothing with more than 3 gr of sugar per serve allowed.
The labels don’t say what sort of sugar it is though, so it is worth reading the fine print to see if it is glucose, dextrose, lactose or maltose, all of which are fine:  They break down to glucose, and are perfectly acceptable in a fructose free diet.  So for example, the label of my favorite full fat Greek Yogurt says ‘Sugar: 5.9 gr/serve’… well above my 3 gr limit, but in the ingredient list there is no added sugar, so I know that the sweetness comes from the naturally occurring lactose in the milk content.  And lactose breaks down to glucose, so we’re all good.
The real label trap comes with any one that confusingly reads ‘Sugar Free’.  Almost all ‘sugar free’ soft drink, lollies/candies, chocolates, cookies, jelly, jam, ice cream, you-name-it is sweetened with ‘rubbish’, in one or several of many forms.  As a rule of thumb, just avoid them.  The day may come when food companies get on board with making fructose free products, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t happened yet, and you pretty much have to make your own sweet treats.  But don’t worry.  I’m doing my best to help with that!

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