The Nutrition of Pie
For some reason, since adding the Ask Jessica feature to my website I have gotten an inordinate amount of questions regarding the nutritional benefits of pie. I don’t know what it is about my website that attracts so many over-the-top pie lovers, but I’m thankful for the business! Even if some of you are creepily serious about your pie questions. Here’s one of my favorite pie-related questions so far. And honestly, if I get any more questions about the nutrition of pie I’m going to have to open up an entirely new page on my website because it seems that my readers care way more about pie than they do about any health topic I could write about!
Q: What kind of pie should I make? Fruity, nutty, chocolatey or custardy? Please assume all ingredients are organic, if that helps.
A: Each type of pie you have listed has its own benefits, so why don’t I help your decision making process by listing them out below.
- Fruity: Fruit pies contain (you will never guess) – fruit. And fruit, being a natural produce item, has plenty of health benefits depending on which type you use. Blueberries have been found to contain antioxidants that protect the brain, cherries contain natural pain relieving compounds and may help promote a good night’s sleep due to their melatonin content (especially tart cherries), and apples have been shown in some studies to keep those pesky doctors away (and they also contain trace amounts of chromium, a mineral that helps to balance out the insulin your body is releasing in response to a huge slice of sugary pie). The downside to fruit pies is that they normally require the use of cups and cups of sugar. I have found that adding a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of lemon juice helps reduce the amount of sugar you need to make the pie tasty. You can also try substituting xylitol (natural sugar from birch trees) for all or part of the sugar in your recipe. Just make sure that you work your way up to it – lots of xylitol in one sitting eaten by people who are not used to it may cause loose stool due to its laxative effect and may also cause a runny nose or general unwell feeling since it kills off excess yeast in the body, leading to detox reactions. From personal experience, I have to warn you not to make a pure xylitol apple pie for your husband without telling him lest he dominate the ENTIRE pie in one sitting and then blame you for his explosive diarrhea the next day at work.
- Nutty: Nuts contain healthy fats and also protein, both of which are very beneficial. The downside with nut pies is that they require even more sugar than fruit pies to make them taste like a pie and not a 1970’s granola bar. Most nut pie recipes (such as pecan pie) also require the addition of corn syrup which is not an ideal sweetener due to the fact that it mostly comes from genetically modified corn and if you have ever researched the subject or have seen the documentary King Corn, the idea of corn syrup would just give you the heebie jeebies. You could try substituting stevia and/or honey for the sugar and corn syrup but I don’t know if that would crystallize properly. At any rate, if you must make nut pie try using sucanat or another form of natural cane sugar that still contains the trace minerals and look for organic corn syrup, which actually does exist (Wholesome Sweeteners brand makes a variety).
- Chocolatey: I can only assume you are referring to a chocolate pudding type of pie here? In that case, I would have to point to chocolate’s antioxidant properties which are highlighted over and over again especially in women’s health magazines since most writers rightly assume that the majority of women are addicted to chocolate. My theory on this is that women especially crave chocolate because it is a source of magnesium (the mineral that balances out calcium levels) and most of us get a lot of calcium since we live in fear of bone loss but not quite enough magnesium to balance this out since there is not much press on the subject. Magnesium is found in green vegetables, so somebody should start paying celebrities to pose for ads of them with green vegetable moustaches to bring more light to the fact that magnesium is just as important as calcium. But back to your pie – the nice thing about pudding pies is that homemade pudding contains milk compounds and starches that have been shown to improve quality of sleep. But if it’s chocolate pudding, the caffeine naturally present in chocolate may affect this a bit.
- Custardy: Custard pies are made from eggs, the whites of which are an excellent source of protein and the yolks of which are an amazing storehouse of B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and healthy cholesterol. To get back to your original question, if I were to decide your pie fate I would pick a custard pie simply because eggs are so incredibly good for you. Custard pies also contain milk, which may give you some of the milk pudding effect listed above. And I would think that stevia, xylitol and/or sucanat would blend seamlessly into a custard pie.