Yay or Nej for Agave?

An ingredient which I have used from time to time as an alternative to honey or white sugar is agave. The main reason I would do this, is that I’ve been led to believe that it’s healthier and better for me than white sugar and is vegan with respects to honey.

However, just a day or 2 ago, someone asked me why it was healthier than sugar, and I was at a loss for words. Totally befuddled, as it was just a notion I had fixated in my head but with no real reason behind it.

My first thought was ‘it’s natural’, but in essence so is white sugar. White sugar comes from the sugar cane, what makes the stuff bad for us is that it’s highly concentrated leading us to excessive portions in relation to what we would if we ate the plant and it’s also highly treated. The same would go for agave syrup. There are no laws or regulations at present which monitor what can be labelled as ‘raw’, it is a relatively new lifestyle as far as the market is concerned. So even a lot of agave syrups or nectres that are labelled as raw, may in fact not be raw. They can get away with labelling raw if the product at some stage of it’s processing, extracting etc was raw.

I then looked at the nutritional content of white sugar, vs agave syrup. Both are entirely made of carbohydrates, and both are predominantly sugary carbohydrates. THESE (i believe) are what causes weight gain. I do believe that saturated fats are also bad for health and attribute to weight gain, but I firmly believe that sugar is the main culprit.

So what are the differences? Well agave has a much lower GI level, keeping blood sugar levels lower and can be a good solution for some diabetics to get their sugar fix. Agave is also sweeter and therefore less is needed. (eatingwell.com)

From my own experience as well, i have found that agave is less addictive. Many of us have heard or read the research papers arguing that sugar is as addictive as heroin, and i support this belief. A while ago, I decided to give up refined sugar to prove to myself I wasn’t addicted, but in fact proved to myself that I had been, and have not touched the stuff since. I had huge headaches and moodswings to begin with, as well as cravings for things I haven’t had in years (i went through a week where I just wanted to binge on mcdonalds). After a week or 2 I felt the difference in myself and my body and I now don’t crave it, but instead crave things like fruits and vegetables to nourish myself with. I can honestly say I don’t often get hungry since not having refined sugar, which is also why I believe it’s one of the main culprits to weight gain (false hunger).

As for agave, I don’t crave agave, or chocolate sweetened with agave. I will eat it and then not have a craving to eat it again, which I think is the yay towards agave.

The ‘nej’, is that it is still very similar to the white stuff, nutritionally speaking. Aside from sugary carbohydrates it has no nutritional value whatsoever. For this reason, I tend to home make date syrup (just blending dates with water), if I want to sweeten something as although high in sugar they also provide me with A LOT of potassium, calcium, iron and protein. They have also not been tampered with (refined or processed) like agave and the white sugar, and are still the way nature intended them to be. This being said, I know in some countries dates can be quite costly, and agave i think is still ok to have in moderation, and it’s a lot easier to moderate when it’s not addictive!

As a disclaimer, I should add I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, dietician etc. I have based all of this information on research and my own experiences and opinions.

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MUSHROOM & BAMBOO JUNGLE CURRY

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This clearly dates back to asia, I’m in Helsinki now. Starting to think that maybe a travel blog would be more convenient these days. But life isn’t about convenience, it’s about passion. And yes food, and animals are my passion.

Maybe one day when I have a camera (mine went walkabouts into someone else’s possession a few weeks back), when I get round to getting another one or a decent camera phone, maybe I can do a few veg carving tutorials, as you may have noticed this is garnished with a shrimp…also known as a carrot.

Until that day comes, I’ll stick with what I know and can do which is recipes.

The list of ingredients for this curry is pretty extensive, and a few ingredients (particularly the fresh ones) may not be too easy to get hold of in other continents. However, a curry is a curry and you can adapt it best you can, I’ll even offer a few suggestions 😀

So what is a jungle curry? Well by a definition, as i’ve been told, a curry is a soup with chunks of meat (or veg in our case) with a paste as a base. It doesn’t need curry powder, but the paste are often strong in flavour, typically chili. A jungle curry, is different to a normal curry, as it has no coconut milk. Different flavour and also low fat and low calories, yay!

Ingredients (makes a lot! 6-8 portions):

1 cup of mixed mushrooms (keep small mushrooms whole, and chop bigger mushrooms to be similar size)

1 cup bamboo shoots (you can usually find this tinned in europe at least, if not substitute with another cup of mushrooms)

1/2 cup cubed courgette

1 cup mixed veg (eg baby corn, carrot, greens etc)

1/2 cup lime (thai) basil (you can usually find this in asian grocery stores. If not DON’T substitute for italian basil, or dried basil. You can use coriander, it will have a different taste, but will taste good still)

1/2 cup climbing wattle (i have never seen this in europe. If you’re feeling ambitious you could substitute for nettles. Or omit then to get a similar flavour, when making the paste in step 1, add about 2 inches of lemongrass)

1 tbsp uncooked rice (i used sticky rice, but you can use any white rice. needs to be soaked in cold water for approx 20 minutes)

5 shallots

1 chili

1 tbsp soy sauce (i used a mix of dark with light, but either will work in this recipe)

1 1/2 tbsp mushroom sauce (available at asian grocery stores, or just substitute with extra soy sauce)

1 tsp salt

2 cups water

2 heaped cups spinach/chinese kale (you can use either or both)

Method

1. To make the paste/base, crush the soaked rice, shallots and chili using either a pestel and mortar or mini food processor.

2. Blend the spinach/kale with the water, then sieve through to extract the juice. You may need to get messy and use your hands to squeeze out all of the liquid. If you have a juicer, then you can also do that, but make sure to add the water through the juicer as well, otherwise you will need A LOT of spinach/kale, and it will also be a very strong flavour.

3. Warm up a cooking pot on the stove, and add the curry paste and the juice at the same time (you don’t want the inredients in the paste to fry).

4. Add the mushrooms and bamboo and cook for about 10 minutes until it is boiling, then add the soy sauce, mushroom sauce and salt.

5. Add the courgettes and the rest of the mixed veg ( if using carrots make sure they are quite finely chopped or else they will take too long to cook). Turn down to a medium heat and keep cooking for a few more minutes.

6. Finally, add the thai basil (or coriander) and continue to cook on a high heat until it begins to wilt.

7. Serve with rice and enjoy!

I’m still here!

Technically, here is now Bangkok. Just a short post to reassure everyone I’m still here, and haven’t been forgetting to post, it’s just not possible. My phone has given up with the internet, and I’d rather save the posts I have planned for when I can load the pictures to accompany them.

I guess for now I’ll just say, see you all in a month! Should have used this pun when I was in China, but nevermind, here goes: Chow for now 🙂