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Giancarlo Caldesi reveals the sweet treats you can still enjoy if you’re a sugar AND carbs addict 

Are you finding it harder than you imagined to give up carbs and change your diet? Do you find you can’t just eat one biscuit or square of chocolate, but instead you’re reaching for the packet again and again?

If you really find yourself craving sweet or starchy things, and struggle to cut down, despite knowing how harmful it can be, you might be a sugar or carb addict.

This is not as fanciful as it may sound — in my opinion, sugar is a highly addictive substance, because when it is digested it produces ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain.

As a doctor, I wondered for years why my advice around ‘moderation’ and ‘cutting back’ to help with weight loss seemed so ineffective, even after pointing out the serious risks to the patient’s health that obesity and type 2 diabetes bring.

Then, one day, I realised some of my very obese patients were exhibiting similar behaviour to other people who struggle with moderation; such as those addicted to drugs or alcohol. What if they really could not easily just ‘cut back’ any more than a person with an alcohol problem can stop drinking? It would make far more sense if obesity was not just the result of a dietary choice or greed, but instead part of a psychological and physical compulsion to eat certain foods.

Dr David Unwin and chef Giancarlo Caldesi have created a list of recipes which means you can still enjoy sweet treats even if you’re a sugar and carbs addict

Around seven years ago, I was starting to notice a ‘middle-aged spread’ in myself and realised it was partly because of a nasty snacking habit I had developed. I kept biscuits in my desk, and I’d munch a few throughout the day, particularly in anticipation of a stressful patient.

When I could easily get through three, even though I wasn’t hungry, I decided to stop.

I was astonished to find giving up biscuits completely took me a year. Asking around, I found patients were having similar problems, but not always with sweet foods. These days, I find a new ‘bread addict’ about every two weeks.

People for whom even the thought of giving it up causes distress. Of course, if you are a lucky person who is addiction- free, you may well struggle to understand this, but perhaps you can see it would help explain how for many people obesity is not simply a lifestyle choice but something more complex.

A number of reputable scientific studies have identified that for some people, eating high-GI foods (those with a high glycaemic index, a measurement of how rapidly they cause sugar to be released into the bloodstream) can trigger changes in the chemistry of the brain and behaviour similar to other addictions.

HOW CAN I TELL IF I AM ADDICTED?

The following, adapted from the Yale Food Addiction Scale, is a tool developed by Yale University’s Rudd Centre for Food Policy And Obesity in 2009 to identify those who exhibit addictive symptoms with the consumption of foods. Consider the following seven statements to see how many correctly describe your relationship with sugary or high-starch carbohydrate foods.

1. I have cravings or a strong desire for the food.

2. I suffer more cravings and other physical symptoms of withdrawal if the food is not available. These symptoms are relieved by consuming that food.

3. I eat the food in larger quantities, or for longer than I intended.

4. I want to cut down on my consumption or quit entirely but I find I am not able to.

5. I spend a lot of time obtaining or planning how to get the food.

6. I eat the food consistently despite acknowledging that it brings me persistent physical or psychological problems or other harm arising from it.

7. I need to eat increased amounts of the food to get the same desired satisfaction from it.

If two or more of these statements apply to you, then you may have a food or carbohydrate addiction.

Dr David Unwin believes that sugar is a highly addictive substance, because when it is digested it produces ¿feel good¿ chemicals in the brain

Dr David Unwin believes that sugar is a highly addictive substance, because when it is digested it produces ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain

WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

In my own case, the ‘biscuit problem’ was solved by a two-pronged attack — progressive reduction of the snacking, along with transferring to less addictive foods; first, plain oat biscuits, then non-salted almonds or walnuts.

If you are struggling with a sugar or carbohydrate addiction, the chances are that gradually reducing your intake just won’t work for you. If so, you may want to try a ‘cold turkey’ approach.

Plan in advance and pick a day to give up whatever is your problem food, and be prepared for a couple of difficult days where you may feel tired and have headaches. Be sure to drink plenty of water and have a little extra salt with your meals during these early days — you’ll see the medical reasons why this tip is so helpful in the Q&A on the last page of this supplement.

HOW CAN I DEAL WITH CRAVINGS?

If cravings strike, try snacking on full-fat yoghurt with some raspberries instead, or a handful of almonds or a few squares of 90 per cent dark chocolate, which contains very little sugar.

Food cravings are caused by the regions of the brain responsible for memory, pleasure and reward, and can be complex in origin, in the same way that other addictions are.

An imbalance of hormones such as leptin and serotonin can also cause food cravings. It is also possible that cravings could be triggered by the endorphins released after someone has eaten — leading them to want to repeat the pleasurable feeling.

However, cravings may also be triggered by emotional issues, particularly if the person eats for comfort or when distressed.

Physical cravings are often time-limited so if you can distract yourself for, say, 20 to 30 minutes, by going for a walk, then the urge to eat something will naturally ease after time. Be aware of this — and also that the craving will pass in time.

Find other rewards to focus on: a long, hot bath, your favourite TV series or a chat with a friend.

After a few weeks it will all be worth it and you will start to feel clear-headed and more energetic — and perhaps lighter on the scales, too!

Spiced walnut cake

Depending on the season, you can use the natural sweetness in a carrot or parsnip to make this flavour-packed cake.

The mixture can also be cooked as 20 mini-muffins, which take around 12 minutes to cook.

Spiced walnut cake

Spiced walnut cake 

SERVES 10

Per serving: Calories, 203; carbohydrates, 10g; protein, 5.8g; fat, 15g; fibre, 3.5g

100g butter or coconut oil, plus a little more for greasing

2 medjool dates, chopped

1 medium carrot or parsnip

2 apples

100g walnuts, chopped

4 medium eggs

100g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

Heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Generously butter a medium, loose-bottomed, shallow 24 cm cake tin.

Using a fork, mash the dates in a bowl with two tablespoons of very hot water to form a paste.

Pour this into a sieve and force it through with the back of a spoon into a large mixing bowl.

Discard any remaining skin from the dates.

Grate the carrot (or parsnip) and apples into the bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix together thoroughly with a large spoon.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes.

Check that a toothpick or skewer comes out clean when inserted — if not, cook for a few more minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes before removing it from the tin.

Serve on its own or with a light spreading of cream cheese.

Seed and nut loaf

This dense, nutty brown loaf is adapted from Sarah Britton’s ‘Life-Changing Loaf’ recipe, which she developed while she was living in Denmark (see her version at mynewroots.org).

It is gorgeous with butter, cheese or pate. As it is packed with nuts and seeds, it is high in fat — so don’t scoff too much in one go.

Seed and nut loaf

Seed and nut loaf

MAKES 1 (16 slices)

Per slice: Calories, 162; carbohydrates, 5.1g; protein, 4.9g; fat, 12g; fibre, 6.2g

135g sunflower seeds, plus 1 tbsp to finish (optional)

90g ground flaxseeds

65g hazelnuts or almonds

75g quinoa flakes or oats

2 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp psyllium husk powder (from health food shops)

1 tsp fine salt

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee or coconut oil, plus extra to grease

Put the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir. Add 475ml of water and your choice of fat and stir through with a spoon to form a firm dough.

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking parchment with flaps over the sides of the tin to help you lift the loaf out. Spoon the dough into the tin and flatten down the top, scattering over the seed topping (if using).

Let the dough sit for 20 minutes, then bake for 45 minutes.

Slide a knife around the loaf, tip it out of the tin and place it upside down on a rack in the oven so that the heat can flow around it evenly.

Remove the paper. Let it cook for a further 30 minutes, until it sounds hollow when tapped and is firm to the touch.

Let the loaf cool to room temperature before slicing.

If not freezing, store in a bag or sealed container for up to five days in the fridge or a cool place.

Scones with strawberry chia jam

These delightful little scones are best cooked in mini muffin moulds and served with strawberry chia jam and clotted or whipped cream.

Scones with strawberry chia jam

Scones with strawberry chia jam

MAKES 8

Per scone: Calories, 126; carbohydrates, 1.7g; protein, 4.1g; fat, 11g; fibre, 1.7g

Per serving of jam: Calories, 62; carbohydrates, 6.4g; protein, 1.2g; fat, 1.5g; fibre, 5.1g

100g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

30g melted butter

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

For the jam:

300g strawberries, hulled and roughly cut

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter, yoghurt and vanilla extract and stir, making sure they are well blended.

Separate the egg and put the white into a large bowl.

Keep the yolk for the glaze. Whisk the egg white to form stiff peaks. Use a spoon to fold it gently into the almond mixture, keeping as much air in as possible.

Divide the mixture between eight mini muffin moulds and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch.

To make the jam, whizz the fruit, seeds and vanilla briefly in a small food processor until smooth.

Tip into a bowl and chill until ready to serve.

Lemon and blueberry cake

Buttery almond cake meets sharp lemon curd and vanilla whipped cream in this impressive celebration cake. 

The clever part is that the egg whites lighten the cake while the leftover yolks make the velvety lemon curd.

Lemon and blueberry cake

Lemon and blueberry cake

SERVES 8

Per serving: Calories, 470; carbohydrates, 15g; protein, 8.3g; fat, 41g; fibre, 6.1g

For the cake:

2 medjool dates, chopped

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

200g ground almonds

35g coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g melted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

150ml whole milk

3 medium egg whites

For the lemon curd:

2 medjool dates, chopped

4 tbsp of water

6 tbsp lemon juice (approx 1 lemon)

Zest of 1 lemon

70g butter

4 egg yolks, beaten

To serve:

180ml whipped cream

150g blueberries

Heat the oven to 170c/gas mark 3. Grease a baking tin and line with paper. For the cake, melt the dates in the lemon juice in a microwave for 30 seconds and set aside. Mix together the almonds, coconut flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest and stir through.

Sieve the date puree into the bowl, then add the milk and stir. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix some of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it, then fold the remaining whites in with a spoon. Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool.

For the lemon curd, put the dates, water and lemon juice into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, mashing the dates with a fork until they dissolve. Remove from the heat and sieve into a bowl.

Put the date puree back into the saucepan and stir in the zest and butter.

Tip in the beaten egg yolks while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. When they are well combined, put the pan over a gentle heat once more and stir constantly until the curd thickens. Remove from the heat straight away and allow to cool before using.

Use a spatula to spread the cake with a generous layer of lemon curd, plus the whipped cream and blueberries.

Magic muffins

This recipe comes from Katy Threlfall from Dr Unwin’s low-carb patient group. As a busy mum, she makes one each day for a late breakfast or to carry on the go. 

The muffins can be eaten just as they are or topped with crème fraîche and strawberries.

Magic muffins

Magic muffins

SERVES 1 

Per serving: Calories, 536; carbohydrates, 15g; protein, 21g; fat, 42g; fibre, 7.5g

1 egg

1 knob of butter or 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

50g ground almonds

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ apple or pear, grated

Mix the egg and fat together in a bowl, then add other ingredients and stir well. Spoon into a mug and microwave on full power for three minutes.

VARIATIONS

Savoury: Use the standard recipe but instead of the apple add half a grated courgette, pinch of dried oregano, 15g grated Parmesan and a tablespoon chopped coriander. After cooking the muffin, cut it into slices and top with cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves.

Chocolate: Use the standard recipe and add a teaspoon cocoa powder, half a teaspoon vanilla extract and pieces of 90 per cent dark chocolate.

 Flax seed and Parmesan crackers

These bite-size crackers are versatile. They are ideal for packed lunches (we suggest a serving is three crackers), to serve with cheese or paté, or to use as a low-carb, gluten-free base for canapes. 

Made from seeds and nuts, they are filling and packed with nutrients. 

Add dried herbs, spices or seeds for extra flavour.

Flax seed and Parmesan crackers

Flax seed and Parmesan crackers

SERVES 16

Per serving: Calories, 92; carbohydrates, 0.7g; protein, 2.1g; fat, 8.7g; fibre, 1.3g

50g sunflower seeds

50g flax seeds

2 tsp chia seeds

100g ground almonds

25g Parmesan

100g butter

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp rosemary, chopped

1 tbsp black onion seeds

Heat the oven to 170c/gas mark 3. Cut three pieces of baking parchment the size of a large baking tray. Put the three types of seeds into a food processor and grind to obtain a flour. Tip into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to form a well-blended dough and divide into two balls. 

Transfer one ball of dough to one of the pieces of baking parchment on a work surface. Put another piece of paper over the top and use a rolling pin to flatten to around ½ cm. Use a palette knife to neaten the edges to make a rectangle. Roll again with the top paper in place. 

Transfer the base paper with the crackers to a baking tray. Cut the dough into approx 24 squares. You don’t need to separate them before cooking as they will pull apart after they are cooked. 

Do the same with the other ball of dough. Bake the crackers for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool. 

Break the crackers apart (there should be 48 in total, 16 servings) and store in an airtight container for up to three days. 

If they become soft, they can be firmed up in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Coconut and raspberry squares 

Coconut gives a natural sweetness to a dish, which means you can limit any added sugar.

Coconut and raspberry squares

Coconut and raspberry squares

SERVES 12

Per serving: Calories, 202; carbohydrates, 4.7g; protein, 5.4g; fat, 17g; fibre, 3.6g

2 medjool dates, chopped

100ml milk, either cow’s or nut

100g butter

2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla powder

1 tsp baking powder

100g desiccated coconut

50g coconut flour

6 medium eggs

125g raspberries

Put the dates and milk into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute to soften them. Mix, then sieve, the mixture over a bowl; it should form a thick paste. 

Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix. Pour into a baking tin. Bake at 170c / gas mark 3 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. 

Allow to cool before cutting into 12 squares.

Brown ‘bread’ cups

Use these low-carb rolls to make a bacon butty for breakfast. We like them with garlic butter.

Brown 'bread' cups

Brown ‘bread’ cups

MAKES 4

Per serving: Calories, 314; carbohydrates, 1.8g; protein, 26g; fat, 26g; fibre, 6.8g

½ tsp baking powder

50g ground flax seed

125g ground almonds

125g mozzarella, coarsely grated

3 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

Mix the ingredients into a dough, divide it into four balls and put them onto a baking tray. Pat them down a little to form a bap shape around 1.5 cm deep. 

Bake at 180c/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes, or until browned and firm to the touch. 

Allow to cool before slicing and filling.

Will going low-carb make me feel dizzy? Dr Unwin answers your key dieting questions  

Q: I’ve just started my low-carb plan and I have dizziness/cramps and feel lousy — what do you advise?

A: The first few days of cutting down on carbs can be difficult. Your system may have been running on sugar for years, so this may be a form of metabolic shock; it takes time for the system to swap to burning fat as fuel instead.

Make sure you drink enough water. Many people find they need extra salt on a lower-carb diet. This is because insulin, the hormone your body produces to regulate blood sugar, causes you to retain salt — so cutting sugar may result in excreting salt in your urine. In turn, this loss of salt can lower your blood pressure.

When I started a low-carb diet, I felt dizzy if I stood up suddenly, because of changes in my blood pressure.

Some people get muscle cramps and weakness. Again, a bit more salt may be the remedy, and sometimes magnesium supplements also help. If problems persist, see your GP.

Q: I’ve done your quiz on how carbs affect our bodies and I’m worried that I might have type 2 diabetes. What should I do now?

A: Please contact your GP. They may want to do a few simple blood tests.

Q: What can I eat for breakfast if cereals and toast are off-limits?

A: Try full-fat yoghurt with nuts and berries; an omelette with cheese; or a English breakfast with eggs, bacon, mushroom and tomato.

Q: What about when I’m travelling or at work?

A: Buy slices of meat, cheese or crudities. Low-carb bread sandwiches are also good, as is a salad box with meat, eggs or cheese. I always travel with some almonds and a bar of dark chocolate for emergencies — the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sugar.

Q: How do I deal with cravings for carbohydrates or sugar?

A: This can be so hard! I substituted sugary snacks with almonds, raspberries or very dark chocolate. Over time, my snacking habit died away.

Q: What can I have to drink?

A: Water (still or sparkling); tea or coffee, but avoid lattes as each 100 ml of milk is equivalent to about a teaspoon of sugar.

You can have alcohol in moderation — but stick to spirits such as gin, whisky and vodka, which are lower in sugar, or red wine. Beer is full of sugar, so much so that my son Rob calls it ‘liquid toast’.

The UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol to 14 units a week, but I would drink less than this if you want to lose weight. I stick to less than four units a week, as alcohol makes me hungry.

Q: Could I reverse type 2 diabetes and other health problems by losing weight on another diet plan?

A: Yes. Weight loss, however you achieve it, can help type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that, as well as low-carb diets, low-calorie diets or even bariatric surgery can be effective. Exercise is another key way to improve your health. Examine the pros and cons of each approach with your doctor, then decide what suits you best.

Q: You say to be careful about eating fruit, but surely this is good for you?

A: It depends how much fruit and which type. Choose less sugary fruits such as berries over more sugary tropical fruits, such as a bananas or pineapple. Consume whole fruit rather than juicing it, which speeds up the release of sugar from the fruit. Watch out for dried fruit — 100g of raisins could be worse in terms of sugar than a couple of digestive biscuits.

Q: How long will it take before I see a noticeable change in my health?

A: On average, my type 2 diabetes patients lose weight after three weeks and are surprised to not feel hungry.

Q: I am slim but I eat lots of carbs and sugar. Do I also need to follow a low-carb diet?

A: You may tolerate a high carb and sugar diet — but it’s difficult to be certain you are not storing up trouble for the future. Twenty per cent of UK adults now has a fatty liver, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Most have no idea that they have it or that it can affect their health.

Q: Won’t eating saturated fat be bad for my cholesterol?

A: Going low-carb can mean eating a diet higher in full-fat dairy, eggs and good fats such as olive oil.

In the early days, I did worry about the effects on cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in my patients.

However, I was surprised to find their average cholesterol came down.

This, together with the improved blood pressure and weight loss they experienced, could suggest improved heart health.

The saturated fat debate remains contentious. But a recent review (involving eight studies and 1,600 participants) concluded: ‘Large randomised controlled trials of at least six months duration with carbohydrate restriction appear superior in improving lipid markers [cholesterol and other blood fats] when compared with low-fat diets.’

For anyone with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic form of high cholesterol, or readers who worry about cholesterol, speak to your GP before embarking on this new plan.

NOTE: Always consult your GP before starting a new diet, particularly if you take prescribed medication.

Recipes by Katie Caldesi. The Diabetes Weight-Loss Cookbook by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi is published by Kyle Books at £20. 

To order a copy for £16 (offer valid until April 27, 2019; P&P free), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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