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Food

Are we addicted to sugar?

Nutritionist Sherry Strong looks at how sugar has become such an ingrained part of our diet and the challenges to both body and mind of trying to eliminate it.

Less than 100 years ago, sugar was consumed primarily by the wealthy, while everyone else rationed portions to sweeten tea. As it became cheaper to produce, sugar made its way into everything. It was deemed the darling of the food world once people realised how useful it was in food processing and preservation. But how sugar became an ingredient of nearly every product on the supermarket shelf is an interesting story.

In 1980, after consulting a host of highly regarded nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol, as these were thought to be contributors to ailments such as heart disease and cancer. Food companies saw a new market and low-fat products began flooding the shelves. The problem is, fat equals flavour, so to bring back flavour the food producers added – you guessed it – sugar. The effect was immediate and severe. Obesity rates in Amercia trebled within the next 20 years.

Heroin of the food world

If you look at sugar’s addictive properties, it’s no wonder we keep coming back for more. Many types of sugar are found in nature, but by the time these are turned into white sugar, the result is essentially a drug. In fact, sugar in the form we know it is created using similar processes used to turn opium sap into heroin and coca leaves into cocaine. Heat is applied to denature the plant and toxic chemicals help remove nutrients. Brain scans reveal that refined sugar lights up dopamine receptor sites (the neurotransmitter response for perceiving ‘pleasure’) eight times more potently than does cocaine.

For some, giving up sugar is harder than getting off recreational and prescription drugs. In my work as a nutritionist, I’ve had alcoholic clients who found it tougher to give up sugar than alcohol.

The body has a strong physiological desire for sugar. In nature, this is no big deal because nature makes sugar less available and harder work to obtain (i.e. fruit growing up high in trees). The opposite is true in the supermarket.

The average teenager consumes 45-68 kilograms of refined sugars each year, and it’s not just soft drinks. As Damon Gameau discovered in his documentary That Sugar Film, sugar is found in 80-90% of food in your typical supermarket, which means even savvy shoppers struggle to avoid it.

Lethal love

Up until recent times, sugar has been the cheapest, most socially acceptable drug on the market – no prescription required, legal dealers on every corner. I even found a local bank raising money for the pink ribbon campaign by selling candy, chock full of the stuff now conclusively linked to all types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Indulging in sugar is what I refer to in my book Return to Food, as the ‘Lethal Recipe’. Lethal may seem like a strong word, but the increased deaths from lifestyle diseases in countries that consume large amounts of sugar suggest how deadly it is. Science is providing proof to the dangers of sugar and, slowly but surely, consumers are taking note.

We’ve always had a hunch, but now we are paying more attention. Over a 100 years ago, Canadian dentist Weston A. Price linked poor dental health with diet and found that cavities were more about nutritional deficiencies than dental hygiene because refined sugar strips nutrients from the body.

William Duffy pointed out in his book Sugar Blues, that Sir Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin, noted in 1929 that plantation owners who ate refined sugar were rife with diabetes, while cane cutters who chewed on raw cane had none.

As we appreciate a better understanding of our health, we know that all refined foods contribute to health issues, but sugar is the gang leader. Knock sugar out of your diet and you’ll also find yourself eating a lot less refined oils, salts, grains and chemicals. They tend to travel together.

To tax or not to tax?

Implementing a sugar tax is currently a hotly debated topic. Jamie Oliver successfully spearheaded the movement in the UK and Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar fame is following suit, petitioning to implement a sugar tax in Australia.

David Gillespie, author of the ground-breaking book Sweet Poison, thinks a sugar tax is unlikely to work because people will find ways to offset the cost of the tax by buying in bulk, choosing generic brands or finding alternative sources. The fact is addicts will always find ways to get their sugar fix. If money is an issue, they forgo other things, most likely vegetables.

He posits rewarding companies that make foods with less added sugar is the solution to decreasing sugar consumption.

“Force supermarkets to show the lowest sugar choice in any food category with shelf labels,” he says. “Allow customers to vote with their wallet by buying the product that has the least sugar. Companies who want part of that action will ‘reformulate’ quickly and this should drive down the sugar content of food.”

But can our generation live without sugar? The horrific fact is, we are basically weened onto sugar from birth. Millions of people have increased susceptibility to sugar addiction due to poor infant nutrition, starting with baby formulas and baby foods, many of which are rife with refined sugars.

More than knowing

It isn’t just the poor and uneducated affected by sugar. At a recent nutrition professionals conference in Vancouver, a woman in the audience got up and confessed, ‘I’m a nutritionist and I’m addicted to sugar’. She was not only well informed, but she had the means to buy good food. Information alone is not enough to beat this kind of addiction.

Addiction is not just physiological. The latest research is showing that lack of connection is a bigger predictor than physiology for addiction. That is why I’ve been training my food coaches to treat their clients’ whole lives, not just what they are eating. Help them look for opportunities to bring sweetness into their life that isn’t in the form of food and drink.

To lick our global sugar habit, we need to be looking at the deeper human drivers that entice people to self medicate with sugar. I know this intimately from working with hundreds of clients over the years and, even more intimately, as at one time in my life I started the day with half a litre of chocolate ice-cream and went from one sugar fix to another until my head hit the pillow in a drug-like haze.

What I found is that if I didn’t have rules around sugar, sugar ended up ruling my life. The solution starts at the table with food choices and conversations that build us up, strengthening us to make more nourishing choices.

Tips for giving up sugar

Firstly, you have to admit you have a problem and in my experience, there are less than 1% of the western population who aren’t addicted to sugar.

• Do a kitchen audit and pull everything out of your cupboards and fridge that contains sugar. Get rid of it if you’re brave enough and at the very least replace it.
• Start to replace all refined sugar with natural sugars; unsweetened fruits and honey are my go-to sweeteners.
• Curb sugar cravings with supplements like chromium and magnesium.
• Go to a farmers market and bring more vegetables into your home. Learn how to prepare them simply and deliciously.

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Food
Christmas food and wine matching guide
Planning your Christmas Day feast shouldn’t be a chore, so to make it a breeze we’ve put together this easy to follow Christmas food and wine matching guide. Matching wine and food is as much about personal taste as anything else, and you may have your own family traditions, however some tried and tested pairings can be a good way to ensure your Christmas Day is one to remember. Read below for our tips and start planning your most delicious Christmas yet! Poultry Turkey If you were enjoying it entirely on its own, roast turkey would be one of the easiest ingredients in the world to match. You could drink your favourite white, red, rosé or even sparkling wine with it and it would work fine. When turkey is served with a number of different accompaniments it can be a little complex to match wines to. With full-flavoured, fruity, spicy stuffing, tart cranberry sauce and an array of vegetables there are a lot of different flavours to take in, so choose something full and fruity that can stand up to so many flavours. Turkey is medium weight so any white wine needs to have the body to match and this is why Chardonnay , Viognier and Pinot Gris are a great – all three are fuller-bodied dry whites with richer flavours. Turkey is also lower in fat (hence why it needs basting), so it needs a wine with bright fruit and low level of tannin. Smooth, fresh and juicy wines like Grenache, Shiraz Viognier and Pinot Noir make great partners or if you’re in the mood for bubbles try a Sparkling red! Chicken Oaked Chardonnay is a blissful match with a simple roast chicken and also a good choice if the chicken is seasoned with tarragon or served with a creamy sauce. If you have a slightly spicy stuffing or one with fruit like apricots in it, a rich white wine like Viognier is a good choice. As for reds, Pinot Noir is a good choice for chicken served with its own juices or with truffles, and the generous sweetness of a Grenache is perfect if the chicken is accompanied with a traditional meaty gravy. Goose If you’ve decided to serve goose rather than turkey this Christmas you’ve already decided to be adventurous. So you could arguably be adventurous with your choice of drink too. Goose is more strongly flavoured than turkey and is more like game but quite a bit fattier which means it’s essential to look for a wine that has a fair level of acidity. Pinot Noir offers a fantastic pairing, but select one with some sweet, silky fruit. Baked glazed ham Baked glazed ham has three things to contend with – the saltiness, the spice of the glaze, and the fat content. A sweet glaze needs a ripe and fruity wine with juicy fruit flavours to offset the saltiness of the ham.   Riesling with its lime cordial flavours, Rose´ with raspberry nuances or the lemon curd flavours of Semillon all work well (think of the classic ham and pineapple combination – salty and sweet). If you prefer reds choose wines with a lot of fruit and not too much tannin. Ripe reds like Merlot and Shiraz are plump and rich with red and black fruits that compliment the spice of the glaze and offset the salt. Seafood Citrus fruits are a natural accompaniment to seafood – the acidity offsets the richness of seafood and the sweetness compliments their delicate flavours. White wines such as Riesling , Semillon and Vermentino are all perfect matches because of their citrus flavours, mouth-watering and energetic acidity. Fresh prawns have a delicate flavour so the wine should simply act like a squeeze of lemon hence Semillon with its fine, piercing acidity and lemon flavour, is the perfect accompaniment. Young, crisp Vermentino goes well with so many fish dishes, as well as oysters, raw shellfish and cold, seafood antipasti. Dry Rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valley have a distinctive limey twist that makes them a particularly good match for spicy seafood dishes. Or why not serve an entrée of smoked salmon with Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc for a match made in heaven. Dessert Christmas pudding There is an argument that you don't need anything to drink with the classic Christmas pudding, especially if you've flamed it with brandy or served it with a brandy sauce, but if you fancy a small glass of something sweet and delicious, a dessert wine with a touch of orange or apricot such as late harvest or botrytis-affected wine make the perfect match. Mince pies Mince pies are very much like Christmas pudding and Christmas cake so you could drink much the same sort of wine with them. But tradition obviously plays a part in terms of what most people expect and they do pair particularly well with fortified wines like Tokay, sweet Sherry or Madeira. Trifle For a trifle with jelly, custard and cream, a sweeter style, spritzy wine perfect. If it is a classic Sherry trifle, depending on how much is already added to it, sherry is obviously an option.
Food
Matching wine with vegetarian food
Studies show that around one in ten Australians are now taking meat off their shopping lists. Whether you take part in ‘meat-free Mondays’ or are cutting down for health, animal welfare or environmental concerns, there are plenty of reasons to make veg the star. Your wallet will thank you too! Matching wine with meat-free meals is no different or more difficult than any other food and wine pairing with basic rules such as ‘delicate flavours with delicate wines’ still applying. Follow these tips for delicious vegetarian food and wine matches to impress! Cooking a stir-fry or curry? Think of all the beautiful veg you can choose and remember that spicy foods can be enhanced by very fruity or even sweeter wines. Fennel and asparagus risotto with Sauvignon Blanc or wild mushroom risotto with Pinot Noir is foodie perfection. Thinking of a mid-week roast? Fill up your roasting tray with a selection of colourful seasonal veg and whizz up a salsa verde or pesto sauce to accompany them. You could choose any wine to match. Getting together with the family for a BBQ? Think of sizzling field mushrooms with rosemary butter, onion and capsicum on the flat plate and vege and haloumi cheese skewers on the grill. Serve with a beautiful big salad and a couple of bottles of your favourite Rosé for a meal fit for a king! Sauvignon Blanc and asparagus are classic partners – serve grilled with garlic butter or pan-fried and topped with poached egg and pecorino shavings for a dinner party entrée to impress your friends. A Thai red curry with tofu and bok choy is fabulous with a Viognier or Chardonnay and Japanese tempura vegetables are sublime with Riesling, Semillon or Sparkling white. Mild Indian curries are superb with soft reds such as Merlot as are tomato-based pastas. Swap out the mince in a lasagne for grilled eggplant and enjoy a spicy Sangiovese for a classic Italian pairing. Light lunch? Enjoy crisp salads and antipasto platters with Pinot Grigio for a burst of fresh flavour or pour a glass of the slightly richer Pinot Gris with blue or washed rind cheese. Cabernet Sauvignon and blends are delicious with your next aged cheddar and dried fruit plate and enjoy a mid-weight red such as Grenache or Tempranillo with vege-based tapas, home-made pizzas or mushroom burgers. If you’ve never tried French onion soup with a medium sherry or Pinot Noir, then you haven’t lived! For more great vegetarian recipes and wine matches, click here to view our full collection.
Food
Top eats in the Hunter Valley
Words by Patrick Haddock & Mark Hughes on 7 Aug 2015
The Hunter Valley Wine Region is fast becoming a mecca for foodies. From casual bites to artisan cheeses and full degustation fine dining, there is a burgeoning restaurant scene that is exciting locals and visitors alike. Here is our list of the Hunter’s top 20 culinary delights. Muse 1 Broke Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 6777 Hands down the Hunter’s best fine dining destination conveniently located at the gateway to the vineyards inside the sleek architecture lines of Hungerford Hill winery. Chef Troy Rhoades-Brown uses the best seasonal produce to serve immaculate dishes such as butter-poached scampi tails, slow-cooked lamb and his signature Muse Coconut dessert. Restaurant Botanica 555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin (02) 6574 7229 Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyards Estate has made a name for itself thanks to its emphasis on sustainability. They make fresh bread daily and use their on-site kitchen garden to create healthy and locally sourced dishes that deliver freshness and flavour. Margan Restaurant 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke (02) 6579 1317 Margan uses produce from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard in its the Meditteranean-inspired meals and complements it with Andrew Margan’s award-winning wines. A delightful atmosphere with views of the Brokenback Range.   Bistro Molines 749 Mount View Rd, Mt View (02) 4990 9553 Located at Tallavera Grove Bistro Molines is coveted by locals as one of the Hunter’s little gems thanks to the consistent cooking of Frenchman Robert Molines, who arrived in the region in 1973. Rustic provincial cooking paired with a stunning wine list. Circa1876 64 Halls Road, Pokolbin (02) 4998 4998 One of the new culinary highlights of the Hunter, located in the refurbished site of the historic Robert’s Restaurant at Pepper’s Convent. American-born chef George Francisco uses seasonal produce from the on-site kitchen garden to create a superb menu of modern Australian with French flair. Muse Kitchen Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7899 Muse Kitchen (at Keith Tulloch Wines) is the second Hunter venue from Troy Rhoades-Brown, this one somewhat more laid back but still delicious seasonal produce. Breakfast at the weekends is not to be missed. Esca 790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 4666 Located at Bimbadgen Estate, Esca serves modern Australian cuisine such as confit pork belly and Madgery Creek venison. Match with Bimbadgen wines or something off the varied international list. Verandah Restaurant Palmers Lane, Rothbury (02) 4998 7231 Situated at Calais Estate, the Verandah Restaurant serves up delicious tapas or a la carte dishes such as slow-braised pork belly.   Make sure you save some space for the signature dessert of soft chocolate soufflé with Baileys and almond ice cream. Sabor 319 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale 1300 958 850 Sometimes it’s a sweet hit you require and if you like to skip mains, Sabor is the place for you. Portuguese custard tarts, gourmet ice creams, hand made chocolates and terrific coffee. Café Enzo Cnr Broke & Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7233 Located next door to the boutique wines of David Hook in Peppers Creek village, Café Enzo’s charming Tuscan-inspired courtyard is open for traditional breakfast, and lunch dishes such as barramundi on kipfler potatoes & pea purée.   Mojo’s on Wilderness 84 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale (02) 4930 7244 By day you can stop by the deli and stock up on gourmet sandwiches, delicious tarts and quiches straight from the oven, in the evening, Ros and Adam Baldwin serve up cultured European cuisine with natural flair.   Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House Cnr Broke Rd & Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin 02 4998 7881 At the very gateway of the Hunter Wine Region is Peterson House where you can taste the best sparkling wines and pair them with the freshest of oysters then stay on for the full a la carte menu using regional produce. Smelly Cheese Shop 2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin 02 4998 6960 No trip to the Hunter is complete without a visit to the Smelly Cheese Shop. Now in two convenient locations, there’s no better way to match the wines of the region than to some of the locally made and international cheeses. A cheese lover’s paradise! Goldfish Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7688 Unwind in this bar & kitchen in the heart of the Hunter. Down to earth, laid back dining paired with a broad cocktail list with a range of tequila, whisky, boutique beer and of course, wine. Oishii Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd’s, Pokolbin  02 4998 7051 Right next door to Goldfish at Tempus Two Winery you’ll find Oishii which fuses the best of Thai and Japanese cuisine. There’s sushi, sashimi and teppanayaki as well as Thai curries and salads.   Lindemans 1843 café McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin 02 4993 3700 Casual and comfortable dining for the whole family with dishes like wood fired pizzas, pulled pork and wild mushroom risotto – all at reasonable prices.   Tatler Tapas 477 Lovedale Road, Lovedale  (02) 4930 9139 Head chef Katy Carruthers has designed a delicious range of tapas delights including bacalau & potato croquetas, sardines escabeche, and Moroccan meatballs Shakey Tables 1476 Wine Country Dr, North Rothbury 02 4938 1744 Art and food collide at chef Paula Rengger’s Shakey Tables, which serves up modern Australian blended with touches from Paula’s Scottish heritage. Morpeth Sourdough 148 Swan Street, Morpeth 02 4934 4148 On the other side of the Hunter in the picturesque village of Morpeth, this is the site where the iconic Aussie brand Arnott’s started. Morpeth Sourdough serves an amazing range of sourdough breads. A must visit.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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