Naturopath and Nutritionist
Google sugar free snack ideas and you're likely to find pages and pages of sweet treats made with sugar ‘alternatives’ such as rice syrup, stevia, dates, maple syrup etc etc. You’ll find substitute recipes for all your usual favourites including slices, cakes, desserts, drinks and more.
To be honest, I can't help but feel we've lost the point of the whole ‘sugar is bad’ message. Instead of retraining our taste buds to prefer savoury over sweet - we are just perpetuating the cycle of craving sugary foods. As a society, we are so stuck on replacing our old eating habits with different versions of the same thing that we've forgotten there's a whole lot of other delicious foods out there to be enjoyed, many of which aren't sweet at all!
In very simplistic terms, basically when we eat sugar, or undertake in other activities that give us pleasure, our brain fires off dopamine. If you have been a sugar addict and are trying to conquer that addiction by using these sugar alternatives then I’m not sure it’s the right strategy. It’s like telling a gambler to recover from their gambling addiction by partaking only in online gambling games where no money changes hands. The reward centres in your brain still fire off dopamine every time you play the game, just like dopamine is fired off in your brain when you eat sugary food. And guess what? Your dopamine receptors have no idea if the sugar you ate came from rice malt syrup, maple syrup, raw honey, or cane sugar. Using white sugar alternatives also doesn't retrain our taste buds.
Up until 18 months ago I was one of these people posting delicious recipes made with 'better' sugar sources, but it all changed when I did a full sugar detox. During my four week experiment I eliminated ALL forms of sugar with the exception of fresh fruit This 4 week experiment changed my life. It completely reprogrammed my taste buds, and my mindset. No longer did I feel the need for a sweet treat after lunch every day, my moods were better, my skin was clearer and I had more energy than before.
After the 4 weeks were up, I found I no longer wanted to bring back the dates, the dried fruits, the maple syrup, the rice syrup, the rapadura sugar etc etc. These foods were no longer part of my usual diet, but instead reserved for special occasions or as the very occasional treat, and now I focus on sharing delicious savoury recipes instead!
I know many of you will be reading this thinking that life is for living, and this all sounds incredibly bland and boring, but I guess the point is that once you actually go without the sugary foods for a while, you will begin to enjoy savoury much more.
One of the notable absences from most Western diets is bitter foods. Because we are so sweet obsessed, bitter foods, which play a pivotal point in our digestive processes, have taken a very distant back seat.
Don't get me wrong….the sugar alternatives are definitely (mostly) healthier and definitely a step in the right direction… but bitter is better!
Naturopath & Nutritionist