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How to bake diabetes-friendly Christmas cakes
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How to bake diabetes-friendly Christmas cakes

Experts suggest opting for healthy alternatives to refined flour and sugar to bake cakes for people with diabetes. Portion control is also advised
It is better to use healthy alternatives to refined flour and sugar to bake diabetes-friendly cakes
A diabetes-friendly walnut cake prepared with millet flour is fiber-rich and packed with healthy fats. (Photo by Rewati Rau)

Diabetes need not stop you from enjoying your share of delicious Christmas cakes. Experts point out that people with diabetes can enjoy a slice or two of Christmas cake, provided it is baked in a diabetes-friendly manner, using healthy ingredients to ensure minimal spikes in blood glucose levels. They also add that blood glucose levels should be closely monitored during the holidays and those with very high levels of blood glucose should consult their doctor before relaxing their dietary restrictions.

Dr Belinda George, endocrinologist and associate professor, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore, says there is no harm if people with diabetes have some cake as long as they don’t go overboard with the portions. “All you need to ensure is that the cake is not made of refined carbs or maida but fiber-rich complex carbs,” adds Dr George.

She says another key point is to monitor glucose values. “If the glucose level is too high, it is best to skip the cake this year. However, if your sugar levels are within the desirable range, you can dig into some cake in moderation,” she says.

According to Mumbai-based clinical dietitian and nutritionist Reena Poptani at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. the key to a diabetes-friendly Christmas cake is to balance the dessert with adequate protein, fat and fiber to prevent glucose spikes.

Dr Urman Dhruv, Director, Department of Internal Medicine and Diabetes, HCG Hospitals, Mithakhali, Ahmedabad, says when indulging in such baked goodies, you should also burn excess calories with additional exercise. “A piece of cake weighing about 50 grams will have approximately 120 calories. To burn this, a person needs to walk for about 25 minutes,” he cautions.

Use healthy alternatives to refined flour for Christmas cake

For people with diabetes, using refined flour or maida is not advocated by nutritionists as it can cause rapid sugar spikes. However, certain millets and other ingredients fit the bill for diabetes-friendly cakes. Nigam says diabetes-friendly cakes can be made using healthy flours like almond and coconut flour. On the other hand, fiber-rich ragi or oats flour batters can also turn into soft and fluffy Christmas cakes. “You can use a blend of all these flours or even any one of them to bake a diabetes-friendly cake,” explains Nigam.

Nigam adds that an almond flour base makes the cake healthy yet delicious because of its soft and crunchy texture. On the other hand, Poptani recommends millets like jowar and ragi as well as flours like arrowroot, oats, tapioca and fibrous whole wheat for making a diabetes-friendly Christmas cake. “These are loaded with dietary fiber, and also packed with vitamins, minerals and protein,” she explains.

How to make low-fat cakes

Nigam shares that by adding vegetables like zucchini or cauliflower to a cake, you can cut down on the oil required to bake it. Poptani adds that most recipes can be made better and healthier by replacing the oil or butter with nut or almond butter, olive oil, avocado or fruit purees. She adds that avocado is an excellent replacement for butter in baking and can be used in a 1:1 ratio. “This fruit has a low glycemic index, apart from being low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and rich in healthy fats,” she shares.

Applesauce is another great substitute for oil in baking. It can also be used in a 1:1 ratio.  

Nigam shares that in some recipes, you can even add yogurt or flax seed powder to replace egg and make it vegan. “You can add in walnuts or almonds for healthy fat content that will reduce the sugar spike and fill you after a few bites,” she says.

Healthy alternatives to sugar

Poptani says if you don’t want to use refined sugar while baking, consider using mashed or pureed fruits like bananas, pears, raspberries, cranberries, prunes and figs, which lend their natural sweetness to the cake, too. She adds, “Fig or prune puree can increase the fiber content of the cake and reduce fat content.”

She says mashed bananas are the ideal consistency to replace butter and oil. Their sweetness makes for a good replacement for sugar in diabetes-friendly cakes as well. Apart from natural sweeteners like coconut sugar, Poptani suggests using stevia if sugar is to be completely avoided.

Portion control is a must

People with diabetes need to be mindful while eating to control their blood sugar levels.  Poptani explains that if a person is forbidden from consuming a certain food, he may ultimately end up binging on it after a few days or months, resulting in more weight gain. Hence, those with diabetes should be occasionally allowed a little indulgence so that they feel satiated. “This must be teamed with exercise and overall diet control,” says Poptani.

Nigam shares a smart tip to prevent overindulgence even with a diabetes-friendly Christmas cake. “Use a mini-muffin mold instead of a traditional cake tin to bake so that you stick to small and limited portions,” adds Nigam.

Time it right

Christmas cake or desserts shouldn’t be consumed right after a meal as it adds not just to the glycemic load but also to the glycemic index of those with diabetes. Instead, one should ideally enjoy cake in the gap between breakfast and lunch, that is, 11am to 12pm, or in the evening between 4-6pm. However, Nigam cautions, “Avoid consuming cakes on an empty stomach or with tea as it may lead to a rapid sugar spike.”

Takeaways

  • People with diabetes can enjoy a slice of Christmas cake if their sugar levels are under control.
  • It is better to use healthy alternatives to refined flour and sugar to bake cakes for people with diabetes. Heavy fats and oils can also be replaced or used in moderation.
  • Before digging into Christmas cake, people with diabetes should ensure that they do not overeat the cake or watch their carb intake for that day.

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