We’ve all got the message that too much sugar is bad for us, and food manufacturers are spending small fortunes looking for substitutes, or hiding the fact that there is still plenty of sugar in their products.
So if you’re trying to cut down, you need to be expert at decoding what the labels say.
First of all, there are not that many sweeteners that work in a different way, and the artificial ones like aspartame have their own drawbacks. Stevia is the most commonly used ‘natural’ sweetener now on the market. Others, like corn syrup, agave nectar, molasses, treacle, malt, brown rice syrup and so on, all contain large amounts of sucrose and are basically sugar in disguise. Then there are the related sugars: lactose, fructose, maltose, dextrose and so on. They are all absorbed quickly into your bloodstream, causing the same demands on your pancreas as glucose sugar.
If you want to reduce your sugar intake, you need to avoid these as well.
There are two issues at work here. When you isolate an ingredient from food, you change the way it is metabolised in the body. It becomes potentially addictive, creating a demand for more, and skewing your perception of how food should really taste. Our ancestors loved sweetness in food because it tells us that this food is a source of energy, but they could only get it in the subtle sweetness of root vegetables and tubers, with occasional fruits and berries in season. Our bodies are comfortable with that; it’s what we’re designed to deal with.
So the first issue is that substituting one sweetener for another doesn’t really solve the problem: it’s just having your cake and eating it. And the second issue is that we really do need to step away from cake altogether.
As an occasional treat, it’s not so bad, but eating sugar every day is simply poisoning us.
We need to re-educate our palates, to appreciate the natural sweetness embedded in food, and stop looking for clever substitutes. Sugar is not ‘the real thing’, and it never was. And paradoxically, bitter-tasting herbs like Dandelion root or Vervain can help us to do this. If you’re addicted to sugar, you may well find the taste of these herbs repulsive at first, but take them regularly and you will change your relationship with sweetness.