Carb Solutions: ICE CREAM!
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
While a large bowl of made-in-Vermont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream can never again be a solution to the sweltering temperatures of August for us carb counters, this does not mean that ice cream is completely off limits – even without an ice cream maker! The natural sugars found in most all summer fruits make a healthy replacement for the refined sugar in ice cream that disqualifies it from a low-carb diet. In August, the peak of the summer harvest season, fresh fruits offer an almost limitless choice of delicious flavors and flavor combinations! O.K., so maybe not that decadent kind of cookie dough flavor, but refreshing all the same and certainly a whole lot more healthy. Besides, if your carb-counting was mandated by a physician, then face it, your chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream days are done. Upgrade to fresh fruit and live long (longer).
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
It is true that fruit does contain a natural sugar, called fructose, but it is a much different kind of carbohydrate than the sucrose that is refined table sugar. Fructose does not cause abrupt fluctuations in blood sugar levels because the body digests it more slowly than sucrose. This is because fresh fruit is packed with fiber that slows the rate that the body absorbs fructose carbs and therefore dampens the effect on blood glucose. BTW that is why fruit juices have a much higher GI score than whole fruit – no fiber.
I used peaches as the main ingredient in the ice cream recipe below because I spotted some lusciously ripe ones at my local market on the day I shopped for supplies. Since the peaches were so sweet, I did not really need any extra sweetener, so I omitted the agave called for in this basic recipe. Almost any fruit or combination of fruit can be used in the recipe. Of course the natural sugars in each variety of fruit will vary depending upon ripeness; use Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup, as both a flavor additive and glycemic-friendly sweetener, according to taste preference. Personally, I have never understood why anyone needs to sweeten up a perfectly natural-tasting piece of fruit in the first place. At least agave fills the need without any collateral damage to one’s blood-sugar level or waistline!
Though fructose has little impact on blood-sugar, some fruits are better than others glycemically. Here’s a listing of the GL score of the most popular fruits for making ice cream. A score of 10 or less means little impact on blood sugar levels:
GLYCEMIC LOADS OF FRUITS (4.25 OZ)
Lime, Strawberry = 1
Apricot, Grapefruit, Lemon = 3
Cantaloupe, Guava, Nectarine, Orange, Pear, Watermelon = 4
Blueberries, Peach, Plum = 5
Apple, Pineapple = 6
Kiwi = 7
Mango = 8
Cherries = 9
Banana, Grapes = 11
The most challenging part of ice cream making is achieving a creamy-smooth texture and not just a bowl of flavored ice crystals. The fact to remember is that the faster the ice cream mix freezes, the creamier it will be. Putting a room temperature ice cream mixture in the freezer allows time for water from the fruit to form ice crystals that expand slowly during the freezing process; these crystals will produce an ice cream that has a gritty, sorbet-like feel on the palate. Freezing can be speeded up in two ways that both take a little planning ahead. First, place the empty loaf pan that will contain the ice cream mixture into the freezer a full twenty-four hours prior to preparation. The second technique explains why the basic recipe below calls for freezing both the peach and the mango (or whatever fruit ingredients are used) before pureeing them. The combination of starting with a chilled mixture from the frozen fruit poured into a frozen bowl will speed up the final freezing process, which limits the size of the ice crystals thus producing a creamier – and in this case SUGAR FREE -- ice cream. Enjoy!
SUGAR-FREE ICE CREAM
fresh peaches, skinned, pitted, chunked and frozen
1 cup fresh mango peeled, pitted, chunked and frozen
1 tablespoon fresh mint
3 tablespoons Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ c heavy cream or half-n-half
Pinch of coarse salt
2 fresh strawberries, not frozen (garnish)
Place frozen fruits in food processor with cream, mint, agave, lemon juice and salt. Puree.
Transfer to a frozen loaf pan and freeze for at least 4 hours. Serve individually garnished with sliced strawberry.