Just Juice Part 2: the truth about wine (and fructose)

I am a little behind in my posts this weekend so I thought I’d take it to the opposite extreme and give you all a two-parter.

I’ve been following Sarah Wilson for a few years now. Originally from Australia, she is currently in the US promoting her I Quit Sugar program. I have found her recipes and blog posts generally to be extremely helpful for my own journey with food. Much of her program centres around cutting fructose out of our diets, which – as you may or may not be aware – is right up my alley.

As I experimented with my diet, I became acutely aware of the patterns around my metabolism, different foods affected me in a variety of ways when I excluded or included different things. But one of the most dramatic – and immediate – changes that occurred when I cut sugar out of my diet was my tolerance for alcohol. Sure, there is argument for the fact that our metabolism slows with age, but at the time I was in my late twenties and for someone who spent their evenings on a stage and then socialising with cast members and friends in that timeless haze of post-show splendour, it was a game-changer. Suddenly the bottle became two glasses – any more than that and I would be heading into black outs and raging hangovers. Not only did I have no recollection of my night – and therefore my life – but I was brain dead and depressed for days afterwards. But worse still, it was almost as though I slipped into an alternate world. I thought I was superhuman, I thought I was invincible. I could talk to anyone, eat everything, go anywhere, be anyone. I could fly. But I wouldn’t remember it. I just knew it felt good at the time. And I never wanted it to end.

‘There is a definite moment. One minute you are there and then the next your eyes glaze over and you’re gone. It’s like you check out. One minute you are Erin, the person that I love and want to spend time with, and the next you scare me.  There’s no getting through to you. You are stubborn and completely unaware of where you are at, what you are capable of. And the truth is, you can barely stand up.’

This is what one of my closest friends very bravely said to me after a night out for a thirtieth birthday dinner. Reality check #1.

Then I ran my Nissan NX – a gift from my uber-generous auntie and uncle who simply ‘never drove’ it – into oncoming traffic after an afternoon at the race track. Not just any oncoming traffic – a BMW. Just in case I didn’t get the message.

The spring racing carnival is big in Melbourne. You get frocked up, slap on a truckload of sunscreen, cake on your make up, stomp around in high heels that inevitably sink into the soft grass, bet on horses and drink. What you don’t do is drive home. But apparently I do. Because I’m invincible. Because I’ve done it a thousand times before. Because I am different – I am a fucking hero.

To this day I don’t remember a thing. But I saw the fallout: I know there was an ambulance, I remember the hospital, the neck brace, I remember the moment my heart fell to pieces – through the alcoholic haze – when all four of my siblings walked into the emergency room, I’ll never forget my eldest brother, Ben, sitting with me all through the night, despite my father’s comments that ‘she’ll be alright’ (no disrespect Dad, it would have been difficult to sit with).

And then I remember the bald patch on my forehead where I shaved off my hair on the windscreen, I remember the therapy sessions, the astronomical repair bills (for that BMW I so cleverly targeted, not my NX – she didn’t make it, she was – luckily, I suppose – the one fatality of the day), the court case – my girlfriend, Mel standing strong and steady beside me, the loss of license, the fear, the sobering…

I remember the carnage in my heart.

And then I remember the awakening. The emergence and exploration of that question that has been burning ever since: Who Am I?

At this point, can I just say – I had no idea this was where this post would go. I wanted to talk about wine and whether or not I can drink it as a fructose-free girl. I guess my truth about wine and how I drink these days is a very different story. But let me finish with this ode to Sarah Wilson, who posted this on her I Quit Sugar website just a couple of days ago. Because I am still exploring. I am still questioning. Because, my story continues…

 

One of our most popular pages on the I Quit Sugar website is Can I drink wine?

Many people are surprised to find that wine contains minimal amounts of fructose and is okay to drink in moderation while quitting sugar. For info on sugar in other alcoholic beverages click here.

Our community editor was in Adelaide recently and caught up with Rosemount Estate chief winemaker, Matt Koch, to get to the bottom of why wine in moderation won’t affect your sugar-quitting mission.

Five questions with Rosemount Estate:

How much residual sugar is there in a glass of wine?
If the wine has been fermented to ‘dry’ (white or red) it contains very low levels of residual sugar – less than 1g/litre – and in most cases not at a level that can be practically tested.
What happens to the fructose in the grapes?
Fructose is one of the main sugars contained in grapes. This is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeasts, which is why at the end of the fermentation process there are minimal levels of fructose remaining.
Which wine has less sugar: Red or white?
Generally, high priced, high quality wines are produced as dry wines and contain less than 1g/litre of residual sugar. Commercial dry white and red wines, i.e. wines selling under $10 a bottle, generally contain 3-10g/litre of residual sugar, with white wines containing higher sugar levels than red wines (on average).
What about dessert wines and wines that are sweeter on the palate?
Dessert wines and sweeter wines contain both fructose and glucose – the levels vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit and the variety of grape. They’ve either been fermented for a shorter period of time so that plenty of sugar still remains, or additional sugar is added to the wine after fermentation.
Are there particular grapes that are better suited for people steering clear of sugar?
People who want to avoid sugars completely should select dry (i.e unsweetened red or white wines) and they would be advised to look at the more premium end of the wine categories. Always ask the experts. If you’re at a restaurant ask to speak to the sommelier and if you’re choosing a bottle from your local bottle shop the staff should be able to point you in the right direction.

Note: Although this is good news regarding the fructose levels in wine, remember it’s still alcohol. There are a multitude of metabolic and health issues that come with excessive consumption.

 

fruit free muesli

20130405-225742.jpg

For a long time, one of my favourite things to eat on a cold Melbourne morning used to be a big bowl of hot toasted muesli. In fact, it used to be one of my favourite things to eat as an afternoon delight too. However, since discovering all my tummy sensitivities, it’s now highly fraught with danger: gluten in bran and oats (I know, controversial), fructose in all that sweet dried fruit, fructose in the added fruit juice, added sugar, added this, added that…it’s a mine field (and a mind field)! And a sad state of affairs. How can something so simple be so bad for me? Unfortunately the majority of pre-packaged cereals – and the cereal aisle in a supermarket more generally – are the same.

Well, I walked in to work this week to find my colleague’s bag of muesli sitting on the kitchen bench. Now, it’s not often you see the words ‘Fructose Free’ on any kind of packaging, but Aussie Health Snax have done it – I soon found out after a quick google – on a number of cereal products. Brilliant! Go Aussies!

The only thing is…I’m a little bit of a Scrooge when it comes to this stuff. I get that the market is smaller for these companies trying to cater for people like me, and I understand that this has to be reflected in their prices. I really do. And for those who prefer the convenience of someone else sourcing the ingredients, having it made, packaged AND delivered to their door – I totally get that a lot of the time you would rather save the time (as opposed to the money).

I – on the other hand – get a lot of pleasure out of spending the time strolling around food aisles, designing and redesigning my recipe ideas, discovering alternatives and of course, playing with measurements, utensils and flavours back in the kitchen itself. And to be frank, at $9.95 for a 700g bag, I can spend $20 and end up with twice that in mixture PLUS ingredients left over to mix up a whole other batch once I’ve eaten my way through the first lot. But please, don’t get me wrong – their products look great, and to be fair, I drew my inspiration from one of their bestsellers, Organic Quinoa Blend of Fruit Free Muesli and couldn’t be bothered going the extra mile to include the quinoa on my first run so…each to their own. I’ll give it a go next time though…famous last words.

  • 2 cups puffed brown rice
  • 2 cups corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup natural almonds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup linseeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut, shredded
  • 1/4 cup LSA meal
  • 1/4 cup psyllium husks
  • 1 tblsp cinnamon, ground
  • vanilla concentrate extract (to serve)

Optional additions…
2 cups quinoa, cooked and toasted
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cacao nibs

20130405-225732.jpg

I quite literally just dumped everything in a big bowl, stirred it through and poured in into an air right container for storage. I might even try drizzling with coconut oil and toasting the whole lot in the oven next time…as I said earlier, with some quinoa. The best thing about making your own muesli is there are no rules! Mix ‘n’ match, pick ‘n’ mix and for goodness sake – enjoy!

I topped this batch with some (fructose free) fruit – banana or berries – soy milk and a little drizzle of vanilla concentrate extract. Or go without the fruit – still tasty, hot or cold! And outrageously easy. If you can spare the time. You can definitely spare the money. Just beware the psyllium husks – and the chia seeds, if you include them – those babies are machines at soaking up liquid, so have your milk at the ready if you like your muesli moist and creamy. Dare I say, we’re heading into bircher territory. And I say: go there.

20130406-084939.jpg

egg and bacon muffins

All you ever wanted for breakfast in one neat little parcel! These are adapted from Sarah Wilson’s recipe – I’ve just used persian fetta because it’s the best – fetta in oil (so there’s no need to grease the muffin tray), marinated with thyme, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. Brilliant.

These tasty protein pockets were a great favourite at the breakfast table on Easter morning. My folks are always looking for ways to use up the copious amount of eggs their chooks lay about the farm. While I always buy free range, nothing beats the bright yellow yolks and the creamy texture of freshly laid eggs. After I served the urban-version to their rumbling tummys, I get the feeling they’ll be taking a little bit of the city back to the country…

20130402-100113.jpg

20130402-100030.jpg

To make six muffins:

  • 4-6 rashers bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • Persian fetta
  • Chives, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice the bacon so that it lines the edges of 6 muffin cups. Line the bottom with any any broken bits.
Crumble a teaspoon of fetta into each muffin cup and sprinkle with chives.

Crack one egg into each and gently poke a knife through the yoke so that it breaks ever so slightly.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the egg is white and set. Remove from the oven an let sit for a minute or two.

Run a knife between to the bacon and the muffin tray to separate any bits that are stuck and then use a spoon to gently remove the muffins from the tray.

Serve with crusty bread, some avocado, and perhaps a little slice of lemon on the side. There’s really no need for any extra seasoning as the bacon provides enough salt and the fetta is infused with pepper. But pop it on the table for sheer aesthetics alone – and marvel at how no one even bats an eye.

Tastes like home…

20130402-101940.jpg

seafood and avocado salad

This fresh little beauty is adapted from Lee Holmes’ Supercharged Food. Her selection of tasty recipes and simple dressings make feeding the masses that much more joyful.

Regarding the health benefits of this salad, she writes:

An exceedingly good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, prawns also contain high levels of vitamin B12 – an important vitamin for those with digestive difficulties, as it is essential for making blood red blood cells and nerve cells. Prawns also contain immune system boosters such as zinc, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, as well as iron, calcium and magnesium.

Excellent. So with this – and Easter traditions – in mind, I went one step further with an all out seafood salad fiesta. This went to the table alongside my ruby red grapefruit, smoked salmon and roquette salad for Easter Sunday lunch in my attempts to nourish and impress my beloved family on their trip to Sydney for the long weekend. Dare I say, I think it worked… With a splash of pinot gris in our glasses, this proved to be a delightfully festive yet simple, light lunch with all the feel good factors – tasty and healthy – WIN!

  • 12 cos lettuce leaves
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber (or half a continental), thinly sliced
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 red onion (optional, or sliced so that it’s easy to dodge!)
  • 1 cup cooked prawns, shelled and cleaned
  • 1 cup cooked crab meat

Lemon & Garlic Dressing:

  • 125mls extra virgin olive oil
  • 125mls grape seed oil
  • 2 tblsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper

(This dressing will keep in fridge for up to 5 days.)

20130401-154003.jpg

I bought my prawns and crabmeat from my local fish shop – shelled, cleaned, cooked and just asking to be tossed around with a bunch of greens. Too easy. Arrange the lettuce so that it lines a big salad bowl. Toss the rest of the ingredients in on top, leaving the seafood to sit on top. Drizzle with the dressing – you will only need about half of the mixture so pop the rest in the fridge ready for other salad concoctions – and serve.

Serves four.

triple berry chocolate ripple

So this was meant to be my attempt at making  a sweet treat for the Easter lunch I was planning for my family. It never made it that far…So please – tread carefully! It took all my strength not to eat the entire tray in the first sitting. So I ate the rest the next night instead…for dinner. Apologies to my poor family who missed out on account of my inability to reign in my tastebuds!

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp Nuttelex
  • 2 tblsp cocoa
  • 1 tblsp rice malt syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut, shredded
  • 1/3 cup of frozen berries
  • Salt

Melt the Nuttelex and oil in a saucepan or in the microwave…the oil takes longer to melt so add the butter a little after. Stir in the cocoa and syrup. Salt to taste. Arrange the berries and coconut on a small baking tray. Pour the coconut oil mixture over the top and pop in the fridge for an hour or the freezer for 20 minutes and serve.

20130401-123818.jpg

mike’s rice pudding

After a Thai-inspired dinner party I was left with an obscene amount of leftover rice. What is it about rice that makes it so tricky? It’s either burnt or gluggy, the wrong grain or too much grain! As it was I miscalculated my measurements and ended up with mountains of the stuff clogging up my fridge. But with a little trip down memory lane, I managed to find a very tasty way to start my day with an old favourite. My Dad used to cook us up this soul food for supper when we were kids. While this has a bit of an alternative spin on his recipe, I’m sure it would do him proud.

  • 1 cup cooked medium-long grain rice
  • knob of butter (use Coconut Oil or Nuttelex for a dairy-free alternative)
  • Tsp ground cinnamon
  • Tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy or almond milk to cover (or other milk alternative)

Optional additions…

  • Tblsp Linseed, Sesame and Almond meal (LSA)
  • Tblsp coconut flakes

In a small saucepan, melt the butter/oil. Add the cooked rice and stir through for 30 seconds. Sprinkle cinnamon over and stir through vanilla extract. Finally, add enough milk to cover the rice and simmer until the rice starts to soak it up. It will continue to thicken slightly on standing so make sure you take it off the stove with some liquid.

Serve immediately with another sprinkle of cinnamon. Some chopped banana on top might be a welcome addition too.

Serves 1.

Try this! Swap the rice for white quinoa and add some chia seeds or psyllium husks (one tablespoon should do the trick). Chia seeds and psyllium tend to soak up any liquid they can find. Chia then tends to bind together while psyllium becomes gel-like – both or either would help bind the quinoa together to create that ‘pudding’ consistency.

two sweet nut balls

spirulina & sesame balls

Ok, before you run away – don’t freak out at the colour of these. I promise they won’t burst into tiny green alien goop balls in your stomach. Spirulina is a rich vegetable protein and high in vitamins which make it a great addition to any diet, though particularly for vegetarians, and (look out: fun fact ahead…) is apparently used by NASA as astronaut food! So as that dark green cloud settles over the rest of your ingredients (and down your front, and on the bench, and under your nails) just remember, you’re entering a space age where everything radiates a little brighter and a little stronger. This is the new norm.

  • 1 tblsp spirulina powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup mixed raw nuts, crushed
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds or linseeds
  • 1/2 jar or 7 tblsp almond or cashew spread/paste
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp stevia granules
  • extra sesame seeds for coating

20130220-064650.jpg

coconut & almond balls

While they look less like alien fodder, these little balls of bliss could be described as ‘out of this world’. Proof: I took a full batch of these to work and between six, these little beauties were devoured. So make sure you cover all your bases and leave some extras at home in the fridge because once you offer these up over morning tea, trust me on this – you’re going home empty handed.

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup mixed raw nuts, crushed
  • 1/2 jar or 7 tblsp almond or cashew spread/paste
  • 3 tblsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp stevia granules
  • extra sesame seeds or crushed nuts for coating

Alternatives and additional extras (measurements may vary to taste/consistency):

  • 1/4 cup psyllium husks
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs or cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1 tblsp rice malt syrup (instead of stevia)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until combined. Set aside a small dish containing the extra crushed nuts or sesame seeds.

Roll a tablespoonful of the mixture into a ball in the palm of your hands. Roll each ball in the dish of nuts or sesame seeds until they are covered all over.

Place the balls on a tray or plate lined with grease proof paper. Keep refrigerated so that they stay firm, but perhaps pull them out half an hour before you serve them up so that they soften slightly before everyone pounces.

Makes 14-16.

You might also like…

choc nut balls