Never before has there been as much focus on what we eat. Brand new diet methods, coaches, experts and terms seem to pop up on an almost daily basis. I think it’s safe to call today’s diet field a very overgrown and very large jungle. Now, the term ‘diet’ is generally associated with weight loss and lifestyle changes. And although the latter may be accurate, the former isn’t necessarily. The word actually comes from the Greek diaita, which means ‘a way of life’. A diet is the food you choose to eat, whether it’s in your everyday life or with specific goals in mind.
The hard truth I’ve had to face over the past year writing for The Sugar-Free Baker, and the last few years on my weight loss journey, is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to diet. There are only opinions and priorities. The choice of what you feed your body is ultimately your own. You will never find that ultimate guru over all other gurus who can tell you exactly what you should do. Only you can figure that out. But it is a terminology jungle out there, for sure. That’s why I decided to go through the ones that applied to the spicy protein bites I posted last week.
Vegan is spreading across the globe in a big way. Which is great, you’re concerned about things like global warming, our use of Earth’s resources and environmentalism in general. There’s no denying that meat and other animal products produced for a human diet are resource-demanding. The amount of water, grass, and food that needs to be used to sustain cattle, for example, is monumental.
As we most often see it today, veganism is a diet that avoids all animal products. So they are not vegetarians, in the sense that they don’t eat meat. Vegans generally eat what is called plant-based. That means no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or any other products that come from an animal. Rejecting animals as a commodity is often associated with veganism.
People who follow a raw diet generally eat unprocessed and uncooked food. So anything that needs to be heated, baked, fried or otherwise handled by heat, would not fall into this category. The idea is that heating food destroys a lot of the nutrients, and essentially processes the food, making it less useful for our bodies.
Raw foods, then, can consist of things like fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, eggs, fish, meat and dairy products. The philosophy isn’t really connected to veganism or vegetarianism in principle, but there are also people who follow what’s called raw veganism.
I’ve talked about gluten in several previous newsletters, because so many people ask me why I don’t bake gluten-free when I’m baking ‘free’ anyway. And the simplest answer to this question is that gluten has some seriously important tasks in a lot of baked goods. Having that said, I’m now working on making those recipes that don’t desperately require gluten gluten-free.
When a product is gluten-free it simply means that it does not contain the protein gluten. When flour containing the proteins glutenin and gliadin is mixed with liquid gluten is developed, and it is a substance some people are allergic or sensitive to. The global gluten-free trend can be explained with a number of different things. Generally, though, people go gluten-free because it makes them feel better.
This is probably one of the most contested terms in the diet field today, simply because there are so many different opinions as to what ‘sugar-free’ actually means. Some people, like me, believe it means no added refined sugar, and only sugar substitutes that won’t affect your blood sugar. Others believe it means no sugar at all (no fruit, honey or anything else containing any kind of sugar). And others again focus on refined sugar, replacing it with things like maple syrup, honey and rice syrup.
I don’t want to step on anyone’s dietary toes, so all I’ll say is that in my recipes, the focus is on glycaemic load. This is a calculation that takes the GI of a food (glycaemic index, a crude measurement of that food’s impact on your blood sugar), as well as the serving size of that food, into account. It is categorised like this:
0-10: Low GL
11-19: Medium GL
20 and more: High GL
And although my spicy protein bites do contain both dates and prunes (which have high glycaemic indices and I generally don’t consider as sugar-free), their glycaemic load is only at 2.9. Thanks to the other ingredients in them, they won’t have a big effect on your blood sugar, and so they are The Sugar-Free Baker approved.
I hope that can clear up at least some of the dietary terms for you. It really is a jungle out there, and it’s easy to get lost. Just remember that the only person who can tell you what’s right for you, is YOU.