Humans have primal impulses to seek out foods that are sweet because they were harder to find in Nature. Really, what were the choices? Berries, honey & sugar cane. When we found those sources of pure energy, our brains rewarded us with dopamine, the pleasure chemical, so that we’d do that sugar thing again.
Fast-forward to today when we have Ho-Hos and Skittles and Twizzlers and tubs of icing and bags of actual straight-up sugar right around the corner in a store that’s open 24/7… but despite that, we STILL have the primal urge to seek it!
Let’s get philosophical for a moment. Food is not just about nourishing the body. It nourishes the soul, creates bonds and externalizes celebration. Sweetness is also a metaphor & symbolizes the “sweetness of life”. Sometimes it’s hard to find sweetness inside, so bringing it in from the outside is a close, though fleeting, second.
Many people who contemplate reducing their sugar intake (similar to perusing the gluten-free aisles) have an emotional response that screams “NO! Don’t take my sweetness away!” But, that despair is not real. It is a distraction created by your brain because it thinks you really can’t survive without sugar. Your poor, deluded, beautiful amazing, behind-the-times brain.
When you do decide to give a low-sugar diet a try, pat your brain gently and say to it, “Sweetie, just trust me for a little while and you’ll feel better than you’ve ever thought you could.” It probably won’t listen to you.
Then, try this: read to it. Specifically, read your brain this well-written, “fact-ion”-packed book by Margaret Wertheim, MS RD: Breaking the Sugar Habit: Practical Ways to Cut the Sugar, Lose the Weight, and Regain Your Health. She’ll tell your brain directly and politely why lots of sugar isn’t helping your brain (or any other part of your body) + how to reduce the sugar in your life while retaining some safe sweetness.
Speaking of sweeteners….
Last night I swung by the Artesian Food Fair presented by Edible Blue Ridge and thoroughly enjoyed some samples of Joyce and Travis Miller’s Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup. It’s Maple Syrup’s cousin made from hickory bark. It has the same amount of sugar in it as maple syrup (there has to be a set amount because the syrup preserves the product, and because the FDA says so). Since this is still a major sugar source, you can’t chug the stuff, but it turns out to be high in magnesium, which is a tough mineral to find nowadays! The cool thing about hickory syrup is that it’s made from fallen bark and the tree isn’t harmed in any way. (Can be purchased at Nu-Beginning’s Store by the way!)
Hickory syrup may offer many more minerals than the refined white sugar in your pantry, but it’s still sugar… right, Margaret? (We’ll have to get the sugar expert’s two cents here because, after all, she wrote the book on sugar!)