Sweetness, beyond refined sugar

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Another in a series of posts dedicated to Blog-a-Thon To End Sugar Addiction, which started Tuesday and ends on Monday, Halloween Day, perhaps America foremost sugar-driven holiday.

One reason I know that refined sugar is a problem for me, but not my foremost food problem, is that the very first step I took toward the defined food plan that I follow today was to give it up. That was almost 25 years ago, triggered by a suggestion from someone I knew briefly and whose name I long ago forgot.

I can assure you, purely a sugar addict would not have been so cavalier.

At the time, it seemed a small hill to climb because I was more concerned about volume than substance, and I knew I could merely switch from donuts to bagels on my nightly stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. (I know today that, almost certainly, those bagels had refined sugar in them, but that’s a different story.

In the very long time since, largely under the guidance of the sage nutritionist Theresa Wright, I have added literally dozens of levels and adjustments to my food plan, but I’ve never gone back to unbridled refined sugar, even in times of weakness or outright relapse. Which is not to say I didn’t strive to satisfy the innate desire for sweetness that all humans share.

* I went through periods of using dried fruits, which, of course, are a form of (very lightly) processed sugar.
* I dabbled in sugarless candies, both over-the-counter and boutique chocolates. Omigosh, please do not do this; the results are neither pleasing nor pretty. They wreak havoc on the intestinal tract.
* For a while, I sanctioned various “no sugar added” products, including store-bought half gallons of ice cream and specialty shop frozen yogurt.

In none of these cases was I able to use them moderately, even though at those times, I was already eating huge quantities of refined-grain products, so it wasn't a volume issue. The only thing that has consistently worked for me is to include these substances among my restrictions. (In the ‘80s movie “War Games,” nuclear crisis is averted when the computer learns that the only way to win is not to play. It’s like that.)

So have I been left to live a sad, boring life without sweet sensation? No! (As in: “No, really.”) There is enormous sweetness in whole foods, simply prepared. My favorite way to prepare vegetables now is roasting. With a little bit of oil, with or without other flavorings such as garlic or ginger, turnips, carrots, parsnips, green beans, and others turn practically into ambrosia. This is just one example.

To those for whom that seems a downright lie — they’ve had that stuff and can’t fathom the thrill — I’d point out that one effect of the processed-food industries’ inclusion of refined sugar in practically everything is to mute natural sweetness.  In the world of addiction assessment, that's known as increased tolerance, needing a greater dose to achieve the same effect, is actually one of the seven clinical criteria for assessing addiction. No, really.

I’d also point out that humankind met its need for sweetness long before sugar was refined. Yes, life itself is possible without refined sugar.

Next: You might actually prefer life without refined sugar. No, really.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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