Thursday, August 16, 2007

On the Search For Good Hypoglycemic And Vegetarian Friendly Cookbooks (Vegetarian and Hypoglycemia Information)

As many people are already aware, I'm hypoglycemic as well as vegetarian. I've been vegetarian for about 13 years (I became veggie in high school), and I think I've had mild hypoglycemia since childhood (I could eat refined flour and sugar in moderation as long as I ate every few hours and my symptoms were mild most of the time). Shortly before I became a grad student my hypoglycemia became severe (mainly due to major stress and adrenal fatigue) causing many strange and unusual symptoms, and my body basically collapsed. Nearly three years later I still suffer from many of the symptoms but they are thankfully less severe and in most cases are mild/moderate (except when they flare up during frequent colds or pms) due to major changes in my diet.

While it is hard learning how to eat a hypoglycemic diet, it is doubly hard being a hypoglycemic vegetarian! My symptoms are much better than they were, and while I eat pretty well, I know I can do even better. Since I have to eat 6 times a day (at least) and protein at every meal or snack, I've been relying far too much on nuts, soy, and fake meat products (like veggie sausages etc which are probably way too processed for me). In addition, I think I recently just developed a mild allergy to cashews, so it is definitely time to re-evaluate my hypoglycemic diet and what I've been eating!

I have been scouring bookstores for good cookbooks for a while. The problem is that there is only a couple hypoglycemic cookbooks, and while they aren't bad, the recipes in it are...well, kind of bland! (My taste buds are spoiled. Though I live in VA/DC metropolitan area, I've been to so many great restaurants (all types of different cuisine) in NYC and Philly that I am a bit of a food snob, LOL! ;P Restaurants in Philly are very underrated, by the way). These books have a lot of good ideas for snacks, and some veggie or many easy-to- convert-to-veggie recipes, and while the recipes are okay, the ones I've tried aren't extraordinary either (they don't utilize spices well to make up for the lack of sugar in many recipes). They contain some good basic recipes for every day, comfort food, but if you crave things like Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and most importantly good American and fresh salad/gourmet-type/'peasant' food dishes--basically food that is healthy but loaded with flavor--like I do, I've found these cookbooks a bit lacking in the taste department.

The low-carb, high protein cookbooks I've seen aren't that great either. While most hypoglycemics follow a lower carb, high protein diet, many of the cookbooks I've flipped through in the bookstore are meat based (eating meat 6 times a day would not be that healthy for an adrenal fatigued hypoglycemic, much less anyone else!), too strict (eliminating all carbs or too many carbs), or the (veggie) recipes simply don't look that good.

Diabetic books aren't that much better. While most eliminate sugar, the ones I've seen do not eliminate things white flour, white rice, etc, or use things like synthetic sugar substitutes (which I avoid like the plague!).

So I've been inventing my own recipes or converting recipes from my favorite veggie books for the better part of the last few years.

When I was in Philly I went through my sister's cook book selection (she is an awesome cook--much better than me--and has a wonderful selection of good cookbooks) and went to one of my favorite used book stores (Molly's Bookstore in the Italian Market). My sister recommended several of her vegan cookbooks (she even gave me one of them; love you, Bexn!) and I found a couple of nice macrobiotic cookbooks at Molly's.

I've found that both the vegan and macrobiotic cookbooks I got are much closer to how I eat than any other cookbooks I've seen. I didn't know anything about the macrobiotic diet, but it looks similar to the hypoglycemic diet because it is based on fresh ingredients (non-processed), mostly vegetarian, based on whole grains and non-refined sugars, and taste is an important factor. It isn't as high in protein than a hypoglycemic diet though, and while there are many recipes I won't have to convert, I will still have to convert some a bit (though just one or two ingredients instead of several).

I was surprised that the vegan cookbooks were much more similar to how I eat than many of my plain veggie cookbooks. It took me a couple days to figure out why: they used a variety of whole grains (like quinoa and spelt--which are high in protein--and not just the common products like refined wheat and white rice); these particular cooks preferred granulated frutose, agave, or other liquid sweeteners over white sugar; since they don't eat eggs or dairy they used a much wider range of ingredients (many of which were high in protein); the cooks/chefs realized if you don't use eggs and dairy you need to pay extra attention to seasonings to be satisfying; and when subbing for eggs and dairy in desserts they used hypoglycemic-friendly things like pureed fruit and tofu. Like the macrobiotic books I won't have to convert most recipes, but even the ones I will have to, I'll only have to change them a little (less chance of the recipe failing).

So I am a happy camper and the recipes I've tried so far are easy to prepare and so good! I am super excited at trying the dessert recipes because I used to be a baker (and not a cook), and in the last three years I've only had about 6 or 7 real baked goods or desserts (not including breads or the occasional grain sweetened chocolate and carob). In the following weeks I'll try to post reviews of all my cookbooks once I try several recipes :)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insightful information about vegetarian / vegan diet and hypoglycemia. Your comments about the inadequate use of spices and ingredients for enjoyable flavor resonate especially. I have already started turning to vegan sources, and will continue to do so. I may also talk to my macrobiotic friends. I hope that you follow through with your plans to post recipes or reviews. Thanks again! -qixote

Solarkat said...

Hi Qixote

You're welcome :) I am sorry for the late response (working on my thesis). I have posted some recipes on this blog (see links on right side of mainpage). For good veggie recipes, check out my sister's blog
(for general vegetarian, not hypoglycemic oriented but lots of good recipes that I am sure you could convert).


Unknown said...

I have had some form of hypoglycemia now for years, and, thinking back, I believe that I have had it since about 7 years of age.

I have felt a world better (as long as I am diligent) eating to help the hypoglycemia. My concern is for my 4 year old child. I know that my mother has sugar issues as well, but she is old-school in her way of thinking (so in other words, it is undiagnosed). I am interested in offering my child great alternatives to all of the refined sugar products that all of the other kids at daycare are eating, but it is sooooo hard...she just wants the sugar. And if I am not careful, she will end up like me. Any ideas?? Hints? And for that matter, anyone out there offer vegetarian snacks that are higher in protein? I have read that 4 year olds need only around 14 grams of protein a day.

Solarkat said...

Hi Lindsey

There are many great snacks for children. Children love things like raw veggies and fruits, so maybe add some bean dips or peanut butter or cheese, and make a nice platter. There are snacks like whole grain pita chips, just combine them with protein like dips, cheese, and nut butters. For desserts sunspire makes a yummy grain sweetened chocolate and carob. So for cakes and brownies you can use whole wheat pastry flour (make sure it says 'pastry flour' and isn't the regular whole wheat) and then use the sunspire chips and then add some nuts. (The protein will be from the nuts and the milk/soy milk, and eggs if you eat them). There is a cookbook called 'Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World' that is easy to convert to hypoglycemic friendly (just sub the pastry flour), and use agave or granulated frutose for the sugar.
Or how about a whole wheat pita pizza? Lots of great ideas :)

My sister has a veggie food blog that may give you some ideas and also recipes, she's not hypoglycemic but has plugged on many types of veggie foods


shannonccbarry said...

Finally someone who can understand what I'm going through. I was "officially" diagnosed Sept 11th of this year, and my mother says this is definitely an explanation for many many years of weird behavior and random passing out. And I have just learned that not many people feel the need to disclose much information about this "disorder". My doctor even said "There's not much you can do, just make sure to eat 6 times a day".
I walked out thinking "That's all? There has to be a specialist." But there isn't anywhere on this island. So I set out last week to write "The hypoglycemia friendly cookbook" I have some recipes that I have been working on and little tricks that I have, for my frequent "attacks" I have some pre-made smoothies made with 2 or 3 ground glucose tablets in each bag. I just take the bag out of the freezer and grab a spoon and within 5-10 minutes most symptoms are gone. Although I'm really having trouble with the breakfast section, what can you eat without high high sugars and carbs for breakfast. Everything is made to give you energy and that kick starts my pancreas like nothing I've ever seen.
I'll be posting some recipes up in my blog of some tasty hypoglycemic foods. I've been all over the world [military brat] and I know your longing for interesting foods. Thanks for the information!
BTW do you know the names of the cookbooks you did find? I found.... one.

Solarkat said...


I am glad that you were diagosed! Symptoms can be very scary.

Diet is the only way to control hypoglycemia. I've written a couple more entries on this blog, but you'll need to do a search (search box at top of blog, just type in 'hypoglycemia' and a few entries will pop up).

>So I set out last week to write "The >hypoglycemia friendly cookbook" I have >some recipes that I have been working >on and little tricks that I have

Congrats on writing a book; there are very few good resources out there :) One day I plan to write a book on hypoglycemia too, but first have to finish my thesis and write books on aromatherapy, and also start writing my vampire novel and poetry again so it won't be for a while, LOL!

>Although I'm really having trouble with >the breakfast section, what can you eat >without high high sugars and carbs for >breakfast.

Depends on your symptoms and how reactive you are. Some people can only eat protein in the morning like eggs or tofu. I was like that for a while, but now I can eat something with whole grains as long as I have protein (like cereal with different milks, or veggie sausages and toast).

>for my frequent "attacks" I have some >pre-made smoothies made with 2 or 3 >ground glucose tablets in each bag.

I don't recommend taking the glucose tablets. For people with diabetes who have occassional hypoglycemia, glucose tablets are a must for them. But for hypoglycemia that occurs without diabetes glucose tablets can raise blood sugar too high too fast, and then cause the opposite reaction, your blood sugar will get even lower than what it started from. Just make smoothies with fruit and a protein if you need something sweet, they won't affect your blood sugar as much.

>BTW do you know the names of the >cookbooks you did find? I found.... >one.

Been meaning to write a new entry on hypoglycemia, guess that will be my next entry! The one I like best so far is vegan with a vengence. Best veggie cookbook EVER :)



Louise said...

Love this thread & all of these comments! Thanks everyone!

I have been diagnosed hypoglycaemic for about 20 years now & have always managed it well with diet - i eat every 2 1/2 hours - so 6-7 meals per day at
7am 9.30am 12.00 2.30pm 5.00pm 7.30 pm & 10.00pm if needed -
Breakfast is an egg & slice of gluten free multigrain bread, mid morn is YUMM! - shake (recipe below), 100g chicken + lots salad or veggies (usually as a stir fry with garlic ginger, wee bit of honey & tamari soy or with a low carb tomato pasta sauce - Leggos garlic & olive one is good) + small amount of carbs =1/2 slice of toasted multigrain gluten free bread. afternoon tea is home made choc torte & custard - no sugar (using fructose is fine & I recently discovered coconut palm sugar is DIVINE!!). Dinner is usually similar to lunch - i make up batches of every 3-4 days and pack a hamper of all my meals each morning. Easy when u get into the routine. Evenings i was having pineapple with soy yoghurt but Now have another round of choc torte & custard coz its sooo yummy. 'o) Sometimes some mixed nits if im up past 10pm (most if not all nights!)

This works brilliantly generally but occasionally i go through phases where it just doesn't seem to be very manageable at all. Usually high stress times - so I guess the extra cortisol release definitely doesnt help! But i think i have it managed well now with that protwin powder added to the shake.

Some food ideas : A GREAT & easy snack idea is a cocoa shake i make.
I mix in a shake cup : 1 1/2 cups soy milk + 1/2 cup rice milk (with added chick pea protein)+ 1T cocoa + 1T coconut palm sugar + 1t unhulled tahini + 1t soy isolate powder (& 1T psyllium husks if u want added fibre) . Then just SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE & you have the YUMMIEST ever meal in a cup!! I have it for morning tea (9.30am)- pre- made bar the psyllium husks as they gel up very quickly so i add these just before i plan to drink the shake. Seriously yummy home made protein shake :o)
I used to have it without the soy isolate but it just wasnt quite enough to sustain me 2 1/2 hours.

I also make a GREAT choc torte (gluten & milk free! But uses eggs) which i eat with home made egg custard for my afternoon tea (2.30pm). Vege but not vegan sorry.

I recently tried a high protein low carb diet as i want to lose some weight & my friend has teimmed really quickly on such a diet- that starts with a day of lots of protein & veggie meals every 2-3 hours but no carbs for e first three days - I lasted about half a day - UGGGHH! NO carbs does NOT work for hgc's!! I find protein with a small amount of carbs + lots veggies works best.

I am not a meat fan - hence searching for how people cope with hgc if vegetarian, as I have tried over the years but have not been able to sustain my blood sugar on a vege diet. So i eat chicken & the occasional fish. My diet is complicated by food allergies - milk, gluten,yeast. So this page has inspired me to try again.
Are lentils good for sustaining blood sugar?? & how much would u eat for a meal??

PS I want to totally support Li's suggestion NOT to use glucose tablets. You'll feel great briefly & then your sugar levels will drop even lower. So you'll likely feel totally rubish before your next meal.

Ok thanks again everyone! Nice to know im not the only one out there who has to live with this!! :o)


Solarkat said...

Hi Louise, sorry for the late reply. Thanks so much for sharing your post, all your tips, and your shake idea!

I like coconut sugar too. But I would go easy on the honey since it can affect blood sugar as much as white sugar in many people.

I will hopefully be posting more on eating as a hypoglycemic vegetarian soon; I may have gluten issues (my doctors are trying to figure that out) so may post more on gluten free options too. My main blog page is:

For lentils, it depends how sensitive you are to them. Most people are fine on them because of the protein content, but they contain carbs. I do very well eating lentils, and as far as I know most hypoglycemics that I've personally talked to can eat them. But I know a few (not all) diabetics are sensitive to them, so I imagine that there are probably some hypoglycemics who might not be able to tolerate them either. It's just like fruits and blood sugar issues, some people can eat certain fruits (as long as they aren't too high on the GI index) and others can not eat fruits at all. I would give them a try and see how you react to them!

On the days you have severe reactions, I suggest not eating coconut sugar, honey, fruit, and/or whole grains. Or at least cut back on them. On the days when I have severe symptoms I usually still eat whole grains but I don't eat my 1-2 daily fruits (I usually don't eat agave or coconut sugar much--I only eat sweets made with those two sweeteners maybe 1-2 times a month, and there are some months I don't have any at all, but I am really sensitive so aside from fruits I eat mostly sugar free).