Sweets for My Sweet! – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB

I like to snack on candy now and then but Valentine’s Day has always been a great excuse for me to temporarily pig out. And until recently, I was lucky to have never gained any weight from my mid-winter spree. In fact, for many years I was the family’s unabashed chocoholic. So understandably, avoiding chocolate due to my IC isn’t easy or pleasant. But at least with chocolate I instantly recognize it and know what I’m letting myself in for…. a lot of bladder pain.

Artificial sweeteners though, are not like chocolate. They’re sneaky. Unless you carefully read the label, they lurk unsuspected in candies, ice creams, snacks, drinks and other treats. Aspartame is one of the bladder burning artificial sweeteners we encounter the most.

Sweets Aspartame enables many people to enjoy sweet foods– diabetics, hypoglycemics, and people looking to shed a few pounds, for instance. But for those of us with IC, aspartame is far from good news. It can increase our urgency, frequency and bladder pain. Troubles with aspartame are not limited to IC sufferers though. People with phenylketonuria shouldn’t consume it. (Their bodies can’t properly deal with one of its breakdown products, phenylalanine). And many migraine sufferers find that aspartame provokes their headaches.

Aspartame is broken down in the digestive tract into other compounds, two of which are aspartic acid and phenylalanine. No one knows why IC patients have trouble with aspartame, but these two breakdown products are likely suspects. Phenylalanine is found in the protein of many foods. Some susceptible people seem to be sensitive to increased amounts of it, regardless of the source. The body can convert phenylalanine in food to tyrosine, which can in turn be converted to tyramine (a substance that constricts blood vessels and affects blood pressure, among other things). Many of the foods that people with IC or migraines find troubling are high in tyrosine and/or tyramine– foods like red wine and cheddar cheese.

So if your Valentine’s Day plans include sharing a few sweets with your sweet, be sure the treats are the old-fashioned kind– made with sugar. Some candies that IC patients can often tolerate include: divinity, caramels, licorice, taffy, butterscotch drops, carob candies, nougats, some mint gumdrops, horehound drops, and peppermint sticks. And speaking of sweet treats (the non-chocolate kind) here is a recipe for one quick-to make delicious homemade candy.

Easy Butterscotch Fudge

– makes about 3 lbs. candy (108 pieces); preparation time, 20 minutes

  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 pkg (12 oz) Nestle’s butterscotch morsels
  • 1 jar (7 oz to 8 oz.) Marshmallow creme
  • 1 cup chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • candy thermometer
  1. Lightly grease a 12 x 9-inch cake pan or a casserole dish. Mix margarine, milk, and sugar together in a large (2 or 3 quart) heavy saucepan. Stir constantly while bringing the mixture to a full rolling boil over medium heat.
  2. Continue boiling until candy thermometer reaches 235 degrees F., stirring constantly to prevent scorching (this takes about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Quickly stir in butterscotch morsels, creme, nuts and vanilla until all are mixed in well. (Butterscotch morsels will be melted and evenly distributed throughout). Pour into prepared pan. Set aside to cool at room temperature. When cooled, carefully cut into 1-inch squares. (Candy will be relatively soft).

Note: If you live at an altitude of 1000 above sea level or more, decrease the temperature on candy thermometer 2 degrees for every 1000 feet above sea level. If the butterscotch morsels provoke your bladder, there are many other variations of this recipe to try!

Variations: There are so many fun variations on this recipe that you’ll be tempted to try them all. Here are a few.

Butterscotch-carob marbled fudge: Make butterscotch fudge as above, but omit almonds and substitute 1 cup of carob morsels, stirred in quickly after adding the butterscotch morsels.

Basic vanilla fudge: Prepare recipe as above, but use Ghiradelli’s white baking chips instead of butterscotch (these contain a little cocoa butter, but taste like vanilla, not chocolate).

Orange-creme fudge: Substitute 2 tsp. orange extract for the vanilla, and add 3 drops yellow food coloring and 2 drops red if desired. (You can also stir in 2/3 cup of chopped orange slice gumdrop-style candies if they are low enough in citric acid for your bladder).

Vanilla-Mint fudge: Make basic vanilla fudge but use 3/4 tsp. mint extract and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. Add 5 drops of green food coloring, and omit the almonds. Pour into pan to cool. Immediately sprinkle top of fudge with 2/3 cup of finely cut up mint gumdrops. Cut when cool.

Any of these candy squares can be decorated with white or colored icing (powdered sugar mixed with egg white), using a pastry tube and a fine writing tip. For Valentine’s day, draw hearts… or write words on each piece to spell out a message.

This article originally published Feb 1999, revised and updated by the author Jan 2004.