To sweeten or not to sweeten

This is such a huge issue.

Sometimes I think, ‘It’d be easier to give up sugar altogether’, so I resolve to do that.  And I mean it.  And I last a week and I’m proud and I’m going strong and then I’m out shopping and I’ve bought and am eating a block of Dairy Milk.

Recently there’s been a brigade claiming you can cut sugar out of your life without actually giving up sweet things.  What they actually mean is you quit processed white sugar and fructose.

Fructose cannot be processed by the body except by the liver, and what happens to it there is not good.

According to Giuila Enders’s great book ‘Gut’, a third of Germans are fructose intolerant. Did you even know that fructose intolerance was a thing?

Of course, fructose is found naturally in fruit but not many would suggest you quit fruit altogether. Just be aware that the fruits on offer today have been bred to be bigger, juicier and sweeter than our ancestors would have known. Crab apple anybody? Also, fruit is available to us all year round now – and that is a very recent and unnatural development.

So. You’ve quit sugar and replaced it with any number of ‘natural’ sweeteners – Agave, Stevia, Date Syrup, Maple Syrup.  And you’re offered an array of tempting recipes in which to use them and told these treats are healthy.

Agave syrup was the darling of the natural sweetener world for a few years there – until it was realised it was high in fructose.  How embarrassing for all those healthy cookbooks claiming you could use it freely without repercussions.


It may be that some sugars are less damaging than others.  Some do contain less fructose  than others.  Some are less processed than others. However, they are all sweeteners and no matter which way you look at it they will not do your body any good.  And if you’re me, once you’ve started on something sweet and sticky it’\s very hard to stop, no matter how natural the sweetener.

There does seem to be an innate human desire for sugar.  If you don’t believe me, just look at this photo, taken 250ft above ground:


The honey hunters of Nepal may be the most famous (and the most fearless) but you’ll find similar trials being endured to secure sweetness around the world.

Humans love sweet and with good reason.  It’s incredibly calore dense, long lasting, easy to store and will provide an intense burst of energy – and in our hunter-gatherer past that would have made it fantastically useful for, say, catching that deer.

However, our difficulty is that desire for sugar is still there – only in a world where sugar is everywhere, freely available, cheap and you don’t need to scale a 250ft cliff to get it.  Our appetite for it is then no longer kept in check by limited availability, and the more we eat of it, the more we want it.  Sugar in all its forms is as addictive as hell.

I watched my mother being destroyed by Type 2 Diabetes, but no matter how sick it made her, she would still put honey on her toast.  She knew … and yet she couldn’t help herself.  She had never smoked a cigarette in her life – it was sugar that killed her at 64.  Never doubt the addictiveness of sugar.

I read Susie Orbach’s ‘On Eating’ a while back,  and I’m thinking yes, this Intuitive Eating lark sounds great. I just eat whatever I want and in the end I will stop seeing some foods as bad and will stop craving them;  but then I get to the bit where it says, ‘However, if you know a food is a trigger food, avoid it’.  Ah.  I see.  So I can’t actually eat whatever I want whenever I want.

So what’s the answer?

I find I can give up sugar for about a week – and then the craving for it seems to silently and seamlessly take over the controls, and guide my body into obtaining and devouring precisely what it wanted all along.

So I’m thinking there should be a sugar hit built into each 3-day-cycle of my Defatting programme – that way, every few days the craving for sugar is pleasurably satisfied and hopefully kept under control, thus averting the craving sending me out in the driving rain at 10.55pm before the local Spar shuts.

Perhaps a measurable and controllable sugar hit is the answer.

I love the Co-op’s own 85% Dark Chocolate, eaten with almonds.  The mixture of the two just does it for me.  Now obviously, that’s not too dangerous a combination, and gives me my sugar hit regularly in a way that isn’t damaging.

Also, low glycemic fruits like berries and cherries (both of which I’m going to keep in the freezer) can make appearances in smoothies – like my Berry Smoothie (still to be posted) or my Instant Cherry Pie. The only sweetener I will use is Whole Earth, Sweet Granules with Stevia, which will make an appearance in my Protein Chocolate Bark.  It sweetens convincingly without leaving a nasty aftertaste or spiking my blood sugar.  I make no scientific claims for it – you may prefer, and your body may prefer, another or none.

Sweetness really is an inexhaustible topic and it has now exhausted me so I’m going to close this post, but I will make further posts about it when I come across interesting developments that might be useful.

2 thoughts on “To sweeten or not to sweeten

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