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The sweet life - with less sugar

The good (sugar-free) life ... chef and Blood Sugar author Michael Moore.

The good (sugar-free) life ... chef and Blood Sugar author Michael Moore.

When chef Michael Moore was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, his endocrinologist was as surprised as he was. Fit, active and only 35, Moore, now the chef and owner of Sydney’s Summit restaurant, wasn’t a typical candidate for a disease linked to being overweight and over 45.  But if his high blood sugar level of 29 was a shock (normal is 4 to 6) there was a bigger one to come. Ten years later - and still committed to regular running and cycling - he was at a family lunch when he had a stroke, a problem for which diabetes is a risk factor.

"Up until then my blood sugar control was good but it wasn’t perfect. What the stroke did was to sharpen my focus on all the elements of my life and now I look more carefully at what I eat,” says Moore whose diet is less sweet than it used to be. 

“I do feel that there are too many fat chefs cooking with and eating cream, chocolate, butter and caramel - and joking that it is a naughty treat. It’s a bad message.” 

Flavoured yoghurt is out (people think it’s healthy but it can have a lot of sugar, he points out), so is fruit juice because it delivers so much sugar without the fibre of whole fruit. Now if he drinks juice it’s mixed in a glass of water. He’s also learned to sweeten foods with agave  syrup or agave nectar which are  both low GI – compared to sugar with a GI of 68, agave nectar has a GI of 11 and agave syrup a GI of around 28. You can find agave (pronounced agarvay) in health food stores.

Healthy food is good food ... Michael Moore's toast with ricotta and figs.

Healthy food is good food ... Michael Moore's toast with ricotta and figs.

Using his experience of diabetes with his knowledge as a chef, he’s also set out to create dishes that prove that keeping diabetes under control isn’t about denial and doing without. Dishes like slow baked  Turkish dates and  peaches with porridge, or fresh figs on toast with ricotta that feature in his new  cook book - called Blood Sugar - don’t taste of deprivation.

His isn’t the first cookbook to produce great recipes for people with diabetes, but it’s probably the most glamorous – and with Moore’s name on it also more likely to find a place in the regular cookbook sections of book shops rather than on the shelves dedicated to health.  That’s part of his rationale for producing it – to promote the idea that good food and healthy food aren’t two separate things, and let the families and friends of people with diabetes know that everyone can cook and enjoy this food too. 

Although Moore’s own diet is more savoury these days, he does eat sweet treats – and appreciates them more now that he eats fewer of them. 

“When I have piece of chocolate cake it’s a small slice and I sit down and really enjoy it because it’s a real treat,” he says. "For anyone on a healthy diet a treat can be seen as negative or something naughty, but I think treats are important and if you build them into your diet there’s a better chance of your staying on track.”

As for dishes on the menu at the Summit, he now cooks using far less sugar, butter and cream and  thinks it’s time for more chefs to showcase healthier dishes.   

“I do feel that there are too many fat chefs cooking with and eating cream, chocolate, butter and caramel - and joking that it is a naughty treat. It’s a bad message,” he says.

But while Moore works at keeping his own diet blood sugar-friendly, fitting exercise into his schedule is a priority. 

“I exercise five or six times a week for an hour – I run, cycle and I do weights. When my trainer asked me ‘what do you want to achieve?’  I said, ‘to live as long as possible’.”

Here's one of Moore's sweet treats - so easy.

My Simple Figs On Toast With Ricotta

4 slices of seeded bread

100g (3½oz) low-fat ricotta

2 ripe black figs (or fresh raspberries or strawberries)

1 teaspoon agave syrup

1 Toast the bread then mash the ricotta onto it using the back of a fork. Slice the figs and also mash them onto the ricotta.

2 Drizzle with a little agave syrup and enjoy with coffee or tea.

Serves 4

Blood Sugar is published by New Holland, $45.00

PS As a stroke survivor, Moore is also supporting the Cook for Cure fundraising project to raise  money for the George Institute’s research into  the polypill  - a single pill that works to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Anyone can join in Cook for a Cure – the idea is to host a lunch, dinner or afternoon tea for friends  to raise funds  to support a range of research projects including breast cancer, asthma,  food allergy, ovarian cancer, dementia, MS, leukaemia and melanoma  as well as stroke. To take part go to the Cook for a Cure website.

Do you think that more chefs should showcase healthier recipes?

40 comments so far

  • Battling the bulge brought on by client lunching is something I share with a lot of others in Sydney......looks like I'll have to try out Summit as a "healthy" alternative venue.

    BTW what's the easiest way to have your blood sugar level checked? Do you have to go to the GP? I reckon mine is all over the place, and now in my early 40's I wouldn't mind knowing where I sit.

    Date and time
    August 24, 2011, 9:36AM
    • be careful with agave syrup. it is HIGHLY processed, resulting in an extremely high ratio of fructose to glucose. fructose is linked to many health problems, including diabetes, so be careful of following this dietary advice - it most definitely is NOT the answer!

      Date and time
      August 24, 2011, 9:40AM
      • What a great idea! I'd love it if chefs would endeavour to make healthier meals - or at least identify the healthy ones on the menu. In the US it's common to get meals on a menu with little "health" icons next to them so you know you're eating a tasty but low calorie dish. As someone who is constantly monitoring her weight, I'd welcome the move.

        Weight Watcher
        Date and time
        August 24, 2011, 9:42AM
        • Great article. I myself adopt a low sugar diet. not diabetic, just want to eat foods in their most natural state. I love agave nectar and carob powder! both give you tasty options without the sugar. For brekkie this morning I had Cottage cheese and fresh chives on Soy and linseed bread with Rocket tomato and a microwave poached egg. prepared at work... The comments are always "whoa thats fancy" but really it's just wholesome food. much better than the cafe bacon and egg favourite....

          Date and time
          August 24, 2011, 9:46AM
          • @AE, what do you use to poach your eggs? I've been thinking of getting a microwave poacher so I can add a bit of protein to breakfast.

            It may be time to revisit the Summit, which I've not been to in years. I don't have a sweet tooth and I detest the modern habit of adding sugar to everything.

            Date and time
            August 24, 2011, 10:09AM
            • Hi - getting your blood sugar tested is a simple blood test from your GP, but you need to fast for about 12 hours before (makes sense to get a first thing in the morning appointment to get it done). More info here from the Better Health Channel

              Date and time
              August 24, 2011, 10:14AM
              • I would think this would depend on the total load of fructose in the diet - I don't think anyone is suggesting including large amounts of agave.

                Date and time
                August 24, 2011, 10:24AM
                • Agave Syrup - is just sugar - a more expensive form! And not that high in minerals or vitamins either.

                  And relying on GI? this has got to be misguided - fructose is far more stressful to the liver than glucose, but it has absolutely no GI - it does not induce any insulin secretion.

                  I am not going to jump on the Lustig(1) bandwagon and pronounce the evils of fructose (I am awaiting more evidence!) however, despite some flaws in Lustig's presentation, I am convinced that fructose needs attention more than glucose (and by inference high GI starches)

                  I still believe in using rapadura and molasses/molasses sugar as sweeteners. These are still essentially sucrose (glucose & fructose), but you are getting more minerals with it (than agave) and better flavours, which may mean using less overall.

                  Needless to say, cutting out the cream and butter is unnecessary. Studies show saturated fat is protective against alcoholic fatty liver disease(2), and so if it isn't protective against diabetes, it is most certainly harmless, and provides energy to the body which is neither glucose or fructose!

                  I will not be surprised if Lel or Photodancer dig up an old study to show high dietary Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) intake induces diabetes in [insert laboratory animal]

                  1 -
                  2 -

                  Gordon Rouse
                  Yinnar South
                  Date and time
                  August 24, 2011, 10:26AM
                  • @photondancer - I use a small coffee mug, lay glad wrap over the rim and create a dip then break the egg into it. I then parcel the egg in the glad wrap (like a money bag), fill the mug 1/3 with boiling water and the drop the egg parcel in. I microwave for 20secs at a time. 40secs will give you a runny yolk. 60secs will give you a hard yolk. it's a bit trial and error but it's pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

                    Date and time
                    August 24, 2011, 10:29AM
                    • Or you can just use an egg poacher! You just add boiling water to the poacher, break an egg into one of the cups in the pacher, cover with a lid and it poaches in minutes.

                      Date and time
                      August 24, 2011, 10:37AM

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