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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #128

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


Talk About a Mixed Bag

Last week the tone and tenor of the mailbox were quite serious. This week started out much the same—perhaps because of the Coronavirus, or maybe because all of us know we're another year older, there are questions about eating a healthy diet.

And, then, out of the blue, I get a question about cheeseburgers!

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.


Can Fresh Fruit Really Be as Bad as White Sugar?

"I really disdain all the salt and sugars as additives. On the other hand, a doctor told me that fruit sugars fresh from a hand-picked fruit is as bad as white sugar. I fired him."

Eric, I think I would have had the same reaction. Let's think about this for a moment. What do you gain, nutritionally, from 2 teaspoons of white granulated sugar? Well, it's only 32 calories and a medium-sized raw apple has 71.8 calories. So, is the doctor correct? What else does an apple supply?

Total fat = 0.2 g

Potassium = 147.0 mg

Total carbs = 19.1 g

Dietary fiber = 3.3 g

Sugars = 14.4 g

Vitamin A = 1.4%

Vitamin B6 = 3.3%

Vitamin C = 13.1%

Copper = 2.9%

Magnesium = 1.8%

Manganese = 3.1%


So apples provide more than mere calories. But there's another factor to consider as well.

Most of the studies on the negative effects of white sugar examine the diets of people who are already in a downward spiral of consuming a junk-food laden, high carbohydrate "Western" diet. Those people have, by their bad habits, created a situation in which they find themselves struggling with obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. For those people, white sugar is toxic!

There's still one more part of the nutritional equation to consider. Have you heard of the glycemic index?

*Low Glycemic Index is <55, Medium is 56-69, High is >70

SweetenerSweetness Compared to White SugarGlycemic IndexGlycemic Impact*

Agave nectar

1.5 times sweeter



Coconut Sugar




Date Sugar





Approx. the same


Med. to High

Maple Syrup

1/2 the sweetness




Up to 300 times sweeter



Glycemic index measures how different types of carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood glucose levels within two hours of ingestion. Yes, you can substitute other sweeteners for white sugar, but as you might expect, it's not always a 1:1 ratio.

Agave nectar - For each cup of sugar use 2/3 cup agave and reduce the other liquid(s) in the recipe by 1/3 cup.

Coconut sugar - You can use the same amount of coconut sugar as you would white sugar in a recipe, but it's more flavorful (hints of brown sugar or molasses-like qualities)

Date sugar - You can retain the 1:1 ratio, but some cooks prefer to reduce the amount they use by 1/3 because of the complex flavors. Don't use date sugar in baking. It burns easily. It also clumps easily (absorbing moisture in the air) so it needs to be stored in a tightly-sealed container).

Honey - There are many different types of honey. Some have subtle sweet flavors and others are bolder. It all depends on the type of flower from which the honey was collected. Honey is also acidic, so if you are using it in baking that acidity needs to be tempered with a touch of baking soda. These conversions are from the website EatBeautiful:

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  • 1/4 cup sugar = 3 T. honey, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees
  • 1/3 cup sugar = 3 T. + 1 tsp. honey, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees
  • 1/2 cup sugar = 1/3 cup honey, add 1/4 tsp. baking soda, reduce potential liquid by 1 T., reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees
  • 1 cup sugar = 3/4 cup honey, add 1/2 tsp. baking soda, reduce potential liquid by 1/8 cup (2 T.), reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees
  • 2 cups sugar = 1 cup + 6 T. honey, add 1 tsp. baking soda, reduce potential liquid by 1/4 cup, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees

Maple syrup - Use 1/4 less (for each cup of sugar, use only 3/4 cup maple syrup). Because syrup is a liquid, you need to reduce the total amount of liquid in your recipe; for each cup reduce liquids by 3 tablespoons. It also burns more easily so reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Stevia - Much sweeter than sugar (1/32 of a tsp. is the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of sugar). Difficult (but not impossible) to convert for baking because the bulk of white sugar contributes to the physical structure of your baked goods. Here are some useful tips for those conversions.

Finally, going back to the apple vs. white sugar—the glycemic index for 2 teaspoons of white sugar is 63; for fructose (the natural sugar in fruits, including apples), the GI is only 38.

Eating on a Budget, Part 2

Last week I received a request from Jonathan for suggestions on what to eat if you are a college student on a tight budget. (That column is here). Manatita asked for similar advice. Antioxidants are important to him (and should be to all of us).

"Whatever you can. Started returning to fruits, post seeing the doc. They are good for me anyway and the anti-oxidants are great for immunity. I mean, I'm pushing 70, so I don't want anything from the East or West to surprise me."

Manatita, I'm going to present a slightly different list of suggested foods because you are not a student working a part-time job. I will take a great leap and assume that you have perhaps more time available to shop and cook and might even have a slightly better-equipped kitchen. So with those guidelines in place, here are a few ideas for meals that are made of nutrient/antioxidant-rich foods that won't break your pocketbook.


  • oatmeal (not instant) with dried cranberries
  • two eggs scrambled with sauteed onion and chopped fresh spinach
  • Plain or vanilla yogurt with walnuts and raisins



  • warmed black beans, corn, tomatoes (fresh or canned), topped with avocado.
  • skillet ratatouille (link includes a step-by-step video)
  • Israeli shakshuka (saute onions and diced red bell pepper; add one can of crushed tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Make several indentations in the sauce with the back of a spoon. Break an egg into each indentation. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 12 minutes).

*3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Use your imagination. Get familiar with grains (I'll list the good ones below) and top them with veggies and legumes. In the next few weeks, I hope to create a new article on cooking with less-familiar grains (bulgur, barley, farro, etc.).

Here also is a list of the items to include in your shopping list (and keep in mind that eating at home is always less expensive than dining out). All of these are rich in antioxidants.

Grains and SeedsFruitsVegetablesLegumes and Nuts



red cabbage

black beans

brown rice

red grapes



bulgar (cracked wheat)








popcorn (yes, really!)


sweet potato

pinto beans



Brussels sprouts

kidney beans

corn (full of lutein for eyesight)


red bell pepper

navy beans


eggplant (yes, it's a fruit)


black-eyed peas

Cilantro (or is it coriander?)

Cilantro (or is it coriander?)

Coriander. Cilantro. What's the Difference?

Flourish Anyway said, "I got stuck on coriander being cilantro not that I recall cooking with either much, but I didn’t know."

Well, there's no difference at all. They are one and the same. Both cilantro and coriander come from the Coriandrum sativum. In the United States, we call the fresh leaves and stems cilantro and the dried herb coriander. Outside of the U.S. the fresh leaves and stems are coriander, and the dried herb is coriander seed.

Who Invented the Cheeseburger?

"Here's a question. Was the cheeseburger started in America?"

Manatita, you win the prize. Yes, the cheeseburger is an American invention. Perhaps one of these days I'll pen an article on "Exploring the American Cheeseburger" or "How to Make the Perfect Cheeseburger." Stay tuned.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Keep Those Questions Coming In


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 20, 2020:

Ms. Dora, it is my pleasure. Next week I will be devoting the article to helping a fellow Hubber with a diet plan.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 20, 2020:

Wow! I learned much from these questions and answers. Thanks especially for explaining coriander and cilantro, and the honey conversions. Very helpful.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2020:

You'll have to wait a week and a half. Next week is all "gastritis" (what fun).

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 17, 2020:

I'm surprised Flourish likes black walnuts. One of my uncles had black walnut trees on his property in York, PA. They are very bitter and very hard to crack. I don't like them at all. To me they taste like they're well beyond their prime.

I'll be interested to see what you come up with.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2020:

Flourish, I must admit that I have never tasted a black walnut. We don't have them here (but boy do we have hazelnuts!) I will address your questions as soon as I can. It seems that almost all of next week's installment will be devoted to gastritis (what it is, how to take care of it, meal plans, etc.)

Hey, you can tell me what you do to crack those walnuts--no one's listening.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 17, 2020:

I like the unusually strong flavor of black walnuts. How do they compare nutritionally with pecans and regular (English) walnuts? Do you have any good recipes using black walnuts? We have an abundance of them and are always looking for different recipes. Any suggestions on easier ways of cracking them? (I don’t even want to tell you what we do.)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2020:

Denise, I have to respond to this. My younger daughter owns her own home, about 20 miles away from us. Last summer she was doing some yard work and accidentally encountered a nest of baby garter snakes. ...I'm pretty sure I heard her screaming.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 17, 2020:

Oh my friend, I had to laugh because, you see, I don't "do" snakes either but I found if I left them alone, they left me alone too. It's when the girls found a nest and brought in the little baby ones because they were so "cute" that I had to put my foot down. No, I don't do snakes either. But I did appreciate them keeping the rodent population down. I also encouraged barn owls that kept the ground squirrels at bay. Still I lost lots of herbs and vegetables from the little critters.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2020:

Eric, I'm so happy to hear that Gabe is doing better. Nevertheless, I'm going to proceed with writing a gastritis diet plan because other people could benefit from it.

As for suggesting that someone "diet?" Are you meaning that someone needs to lose weight? They probably know that. If someone is overdoing sugar or salt (for example), that's perhaps a little more difficult. Write to me about this--I'd love to help.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 17, 2020:

Just a quick note. Gabe, is doing great. We have Rady's Childrens Hospital and a finest ever pediatrician. For sure no ulcer but lost about 4% body fat. Something I do not like in healthy children.

Opposite of Gabe. How do you go about suggesting a diet with folks who need it but would be offended. (Of course I use "diet" here not exclusive to fat)

Linda thank you for taking eating to a higher level. Gabe and I now really look forward to eating rather than just sitting down "to eat".

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2020:

Mary, I know I can always depend on you to give me a question (or two) that leave me scratching my head. My quick answer to both of your queries is "I have absolutely no idea." But, I'll have answers for you next Monday. Promise.

Mary Wickison from USA on March 17, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I was surprised to see popcorn in your list. I eat it occasionally but find the skin around the kernel annoying. I have to race for the dental floss afterwards.

Fresh coriander is readily available here but finding the seeds to grind or even pre-ground coriander is difficult. One lady on an open air market sells packs small packs of seeds.

I have a couple questions for you.

1. Do apples contain something that keeps you awake? I tend to have an apple in the evening and find it difficult to drop off.

2. I recently made osso buco (basically a meat stew) in my slow cooker. I added a sweet potato to the pot. It was dry and somewhat fibrous. The potatoes, carrots and onions turned out fine. What went wrong with the sweet potato do you think?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Denise, there's this thing about me. I don't "do" snakes. I don't care how cute and non-venomous they are. If I had to "encourage snakes" in my garden, the garden would be gone (along with me).

Thankfully the breed of squirrels living in Steilacoom don't favor alliums.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 16, 2020:

We were plagued with ground squirrels and they often ate the garlic and onions from the bottom and left the tops standing there so I didn't even notice. We had to encourage garter snakes to take up residence to chase them away.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

MizB, thank you so much for stopping by today. Your comments are always filled with so much wonderful information and love.

First, I have no experience with monk fruit. I'll need to look into that.

As for Eric's son, there is no "one-size-fits-all" diet for gastritis because there are so many reasons for the problem. I'm encouraging Eric to get some testing for Gabe (if he hasn't already done so). The presence of a specific bacteria (which can cause ulcers) or a virus requires a different approach than taking it down a notch because of stress or over-indulgence in salsa. And yes, gluten has NOTHING to do with it.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 16, 2020:

Very interesting article today, Linda. I notice that you didn't mention monkfruit in the sugar table. That's my favorite sweetener. The manufactured sweeteners and stevia all leave a foul aftertaste in my mouth and throat, but monkfruit doesn't. I can't comment on the particulars on it because I'm currently out of it.

I don't fare well on a low carbohydrate diet, so I try to add either potatoes, rice or quinoa to my gluten-free meals. Tell Eric to be very careful with what he feeds his son. I've had digestive problems since I was a child, and he certainly doesn't want to have my problems when he gets older. (Those problems have nothing to do with glutens btw)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Manatita, I'm glad you liked my suggestions for meal planning.

As for folks abroad being "bigger." Sadly, this is a plague in the United States. We are an overweight/obese population and there are so many problems that come with this--heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bad knees and backs, etc. This was very obvious to me the first time I visited Europe. It seemed that most times when I spotted an overweight person on the street, it was a visiting American.

Despite that, at the urging of others I will be doing an article on the cheeseburger. Perhaps I can put a positive spin on the story by provide alternatives such as chicken or turkey burgers and vegan/vegtarian.

manatita44 from london on March 16, 2020:

A very detailed report for me and some very good food indeed! The breakfast I've got all wrapped up, except for the Yoghurt and walnut plus raisins. I like soups or brown rice and stew. many of the foods listed are 'cool' for me. Awesome!

I love apples and do well on them but not sugar. So I'm careful there. Not surprised the burger is American. There's some level of abuse there as folks seem generally bigger abroad. Thanks a lot!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Thanks Denise. I miss having a garden too. (I've plenty of space, but also plenty of deer and rabbits.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Eric, I'm on it. I will find a way to make tasty stuff for your little man that might actually be healthy too.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 16, 2020:

What a fascinating mailbag you had for us today. I knew that about coriander only because I grew some when I had a herb garden years ago. I let some got to seed but mostly I ended up eating the fresh leaves in my salads and sauces. Yum. I really miss having a garden and fresh herbs as well.



Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 16, 2020:

Goshy Gee Missy Linda fine wife of Mr. Lum. My boy just broke all out with gastritis. OK his favorite spice is hot and his second favorite is hotter. Of course mine are as hot as can be and nearly an atomic bomb.

So it is your job to get us some remedy that is tasty.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Shauna, you want "cheeseburger"? You've got it. I'll put it in the queue. Right now I'm working on stuff for the month of June. This will be a fun one (I love burgers and I love cheese, so this puts me in my happy place).

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 16, 2020:

Linda, I want a cheeseburger! I hope you bring us an episode all about the cheeseburger. It's been a while since I've had one, but they sure are yummy!

I use stevia in my coffee. I get four cups of coffee out of one packet. I normally only add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to my wake up juice. Stevia is much sweeter, therefore I use less and it lasts longer.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 16, 2020:

Gabe's doctor ordered steamed food? As in soft and mushy like Gerber's? Does the poor little guy have an ulcer? Please fill me in (you know how to reach me) and I'll try to come up with some recipes for you to make everything more palatable for him. In the meantime, give Gabe a hug from Auntie Linda.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 16, 2020:

More cheeseburger questions, please, so I can relate. lol

Best wishes my friend. Stay safe!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2020:

Happy Monday, Linda. This is another good, informative article. I didn't know about the spices, so that was helpful. Have a good week.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 16, 2020:

Someone just jump up and call me sugar baby. I am so intrigued here. No way Coriander and Cilantro are the same. This small little hillbilly family is ramping that up and some sugars down.

Now where is this steaming fruit and vegetables coming from? I can dig it but the doctor ordered it for Gabe's stomach issues? Do not look over here but they are great steamed. Give me some hints here.

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