Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Have Your Cake and Diet Too

Who doesn’t like cake? Shows like “Ace of Cakes” and Cupcake Wars have introduced this ancient culinary art form to a new generation, and it’s now just as hip to flaunt the “cupcake diet” as it is to play up your allegiance to the “Paleo diet.” But there’s a difference between liking your favorite food and believing that it’s actually good for you. Or is there? An emerging body of culinary research — both in the test kitchen and the laboratory — suggests that diet-friendly cakes might be a partial answer to that age-old question: what to eat on a diet?

A Gluten-Free Cake Recipe?
While the gluten-free craze is now undeniably mainstream, many people are skeptical that a gluten-free cake can possibly exist — let alone taste good. But this gluten-free cake recipe gives that sentiment the lie.

First, use cornmeal. It’s lighter than buckwheat, which can become dense and gummy without care, and lighter than rice flour, which may leave you wanting more. Cornmeal has a rough, pleasant texture that mimics whole wheat and adds a bit of roughage to what’s normally a low-fiber treat.

To flesh out your cake and keep it from collapsing in on itself, mix the cornmeal with a decent amount of cornstarch and a lighter gluten-free flour, such as rice flour or sorghum flour. To hold everything together, use butter or, if you’ve got a real sweet tooth, caramel plus butter. (Yes, we said caramel.) Oh, and don’t forget the xanthan gum! You only need a tiny bit to tie the cake’s component flavors together and avoid the dryness that so often bedevils cornmeal cakes.

Not What You Eat, But When You Eat
Whether you’re gluten-free or not, the timing of your indulgence could have a big effect on its overall healthiness. Although it needs to be corroborated with additional evidence and shouldn’t be taken as a be-all-end-all pronouncement, a new study suggests that eating cake (and other calorie-dense treats) in the morning may actually be better for you than eating later in the day. That’s because an early-morning meal can jump-start your metabolism and give you more time to burn off calories as you go about your daily routine. By the time you settle down for the night, that morning indulgence could be a distant memory for your body.

All About Balance
As much as we’d like to eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, no one is suggesting that’s a good idea. Eating, like so many other things in life, is about balance. Stop when you feel full, get plenty of vitamins and minerals, and make sure you’re not investing too much in any one part of the food pyramid. (Do they still use that thing, anyway?) Cake can be a surprisingly healthy piece of that puzzle — but it’s just a piece. Or, in this case, a slice.


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