How has your week been? I hope great. The weather’s starting to warm up here in NZ, and we’ve even had a few days that almost feel like summer. As for me, I made a pledge over on Instagram earlier this week, to tackle the hard, scary tasks first. Do you ever have that issue? Procrastinating perfectionism, or just putting things off for fear of not doing a good enough job? I’ve tried focussing on tackling those hard tasks first this week, and whilst I’ve had a few days where I reverted to putting things off, I had even more days where I had success. And in doing them, not only did I realise that they weren’t as hard as I thought, but I felt so much better for having done them, and realised that my “less than perfect” job was actually well good enough. If that’s something that rings true for you (procrastinating perfectionist, or just general fear avoider), I highly recommend giving the hard/scary-task-first technique a go – I’m going to roll it out again next week and see if I can hit a full five dayer!
On to what you really came for: the recipe. I’ve been wanting to create another recipe using carob for a while now, after this delicious Carob Coconut Rough turned out so well. Largely because I wanted to talk more about the incredible natural sweetness that carob has, and the fact that it’s caffeine free, making it a fantastic option for both diabetics and children (the latter of which, as you know, is a slightly more front of mind topic for me these days).
And so these lovely Carob Logs were born. They’re…
- 100% plant-based
- Naturally gluten free
- Packed with iron and protein
- Brimming with vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin E, iron and calcium)
- Easy to make
- One step wonder
- Only your food processor to clean
- Kid and diabetic friendly, AND
- Legitimately ZERO ADDED SUGAR
Yes zero added sugar! Can it be done? Well yes – carob is so naturally sweet and creamy, that you can get away with literally adding no refined sugar or even any natural sweetener to these logs at all. I’ve thrown in 1/3 cup of raisins because I really enjoy the occasional chewy sweet pop you get as you bite through them, but you could omit these if you wanted for a fully no-added-sugar version.
Will the real sugar-free please stand up
So what does sugar-free really mean? Sugar-free, refined sugar free, fructose free, I quit sugar/IQS, low sugar, no sugar, dried fruit vs fresh fruit… what’s a sweet-toothed gal (or guy) supposed to do amidst this sea of sugary confusion?
Sugar, essentially, is the generic name for the short-chain members of the carbohydrate family. The smallest include monosaccharides (mono-sugars i.e one sugar) which include glucose, fructose and galactose. Then slightly larger, the disaccharides (two monosaccharides joined together), which include sucrose (simple white table sugar), lactose (found in milk). These are what we normally term “sugar”. However moving on from them, we also have oligosaccharides and polysaccharides (= multiple monos stuck together), which are also found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Essentially the longer the chain, the more work the body has to do to break them down in order to use them as energy. This is why the smaller mono and di chains are often called “sugars or simple sugars” while the longer chains are referred to as “complex carbohydrates”.
All sugars though, regardless of length, are eventually broken down into glucose (a simple mono sugar), which is the key form of energy our body, cells and brain use to function. So really, any food that contains carbohydrate of any form (white table sugar, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, and sweeteners such as agave, maple syrup, rice syrup and coconut nectar), can never truly be “sugar free” in a full technical sense. Refined sugar free yes, but not fully sugar free, technically speaking.
So given the above, that eventual sugars are found in so many foods, why are people so set on being sugar free? Two reasons – firstly, sugars consumed in any form in excess to our body’s needs will be stored as body fat. Secondly, simple sugars cause spikes in our blood sugar, which can leave us feeling drained, headachey, and in the extreme, lead to metabolic syndromes such as diabetes.
However to counter these two oft-stated rationale, fat and protein are both stored as body fat if consumed in excess too. In fact, any macronutrient we eat too much of (carbohydrates, protein, or fat), can lead to us retaining more body fat than we might like. Secondly, blood sugar spikes can be mitigated by simply combining our various sugars, particularly the shorter chain ones, with protein or fat to balance out our blood sugar response. This is why an apple might leave you feeling hungry half an hour later, but an apple dipped in nut butter will likely leave you feeling just perfect.
To add mayhem to the mystery, many foods and recipes labelled sugar free still might not be good for us in large quantities. They often contain either artificial sweeteners, which our body doesn’t recognise and thus we want to avoid. Or they include large amounts of other sweeteners, such as agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar, rapadura sugar or dates. Even though they’re more natural whole food forms of sugar, they’re in such great quantities that if consumed in large amounts, would cause anyone to gain excess body fat and have blood sugar spikes!
So, what to do? Here are my top three recommendations:
- Choose whole foods sweeteners wherever possible – dates, raisins, fresh banana and coconut nectar are my favourites
- Keep your total sugars low – that means using dates in your recipe, but making sure they don’t make up the majority of the ingredients
- Consume short-chain sugars (monos and di’s) with protein or fat – eg apple + nut butter, fruit salad + coconut yoghurt/nuts/seeds, wholegrain crackers/toast + hummus/avocado, or brown rice + chickpeas/tofu.
Also, be somewhat wary of recipes that claim to be “sugar” or “refined sugar free” – have a look at the ingredients, and if a sugar-containing food is 50%+ of the ingredients, it’s still going to be very high in sugar. In terms of my recipes here on the blog and elsewhere, they all meet the above three criteria – whole foods sweeteners only, low in total sugars, and are combined with fats or proteins for blood sugar stability and satiety.
Now that we’ve covered off sugar, let’s get back to our gorgeous Carob Logs! Here I’ve combined naturally sweet carob powder with cashews for creaminess, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds for protein, iron and calcium, almond butter and coconut oil to help bind, and a very small scoop of raisins for some chewy pops of flavour. I’ve detailed three versions below:
- A zero added sugar option (no raisins, coconut nectar or dates) – note this does still technically contain a very small amount of natural sugars via the carob, (as well as nuts and seeds), but is close to zero sugar a sweet treat as you’ll ever get!
- A low sugar option – which contains a mere 2 teaspoons of added sweetener for the entire batch of 28 logs, and;
- A chewy low sugar option – which contains a relatively small 1/3 cup of medjoul dates to add sweetness, as well as a more chewy texture .
Pick your vice and go for it! All three are wonderful healthy low sugar options. I’d love to hear your feedback, and any thoughts you might have on the sugar debate, feel free to share with me below. And if you make these lovely logs, I’d love to see you beauties on Instagram – tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics so I can pop over and say hello, and even share yours on my feed!
Enjoy your sugar free adventures this weekend, and til next week stay happy and well.
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Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
- 1 c cashews
- 1 c mixed seeds
- 1 c carob powder
- 1/4 c almond butter
- 1/2 c coconut oil melted
- 1/3 c desiccated/shredded coconut
- 1/3 c oats
- 1/3 c raisins
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp coconut nectar OR 1/3 c medjoul dates optional
- Blend the cashews in a food processor until they form a fine flour, then add all remaining ingredients and stir until combined or blend on very low (or reverse if you have that option) until combined. You want to retain some chunkiness and texture from the seeds, coconut and oats.
- Roll into logs, put in the freezer to firm up for 10 minutes, then roll in extra carob powder if desired, or serve as is.
- Keep in the fridge for up to a month.
- I used an equal blend of sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (1/3 cup of each) for the optimal blend of protein, iron and calcium, but you can use whatever is in your pantry!
- Try to use dried activated nuts/seeds if possible, otherwise raw will be fine.
- To make this nut free, simply swap the almond butter for tahini, and cashews for sunflower seeds.
- To make this gluten free, simply replace the oats with an equal measure of desiccated coconut.
- To make the zero sugar option, simply omit the coconut nectar and raisins. Or if you prefer a slightly chewier log, then try the medjoul date option.
- To make this keto and paleo, simply omit the coconut nectar and raisins as above, and swap the oats with an equal measure of desiccated coconut.
- As mentioned in the post, raisins and carob powder both contain some natural sugars – you can omit these if you like (although taste wise, I prefer the raisins + coconut nectar option, or the medjoul date option – note that both are still very modestly sweet as per most of my recipes).
- If you prefer a less intense carob flavour, reduce the carob powder to half a cup, and omit the additional carob rolling option at the end.
- If you like a chewier texture, similar to a traditional bliss ball, try the date option. These logs are otherwise of a firmer type texture. Which also means these logs are best stored in the the fridge, rather than the freezer (they’ll be too hard). They also store well out of the freezer as long as it’s not too warm, making them perfect for lunches or in the handbag on the run (in a container, obvs).
- If your mixture is a bit too soft after blending to hold together in rolls, pop the processor bowl in the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm up before rolling – or you can do this after rolling if they’re a bit sticky/soft to firm up before rolling in the optional extra carob powder.
- For those of you with toddlers and who are wondering, yes these were very much Mila approved (and a great way to get more protein, iron, calcium, and good fats into your kids). If you’re making these for very little kids (eg 18 months), you may want to add the seeds and oats a bit earlier and pulse a few times, for a finer texture that they’re able to chew – depending on the development of their teeth and ability to chew food properly. Finer particles will always ensure more absorption of the nutrients, whether you pre-blend them that way, or your toddler (or you!) chew them with your teeth to get them to that level.