By: Kara Yorkhall L.Ac., MAOM, FABORM
Hearts, Love and Sugar (Or sugar in the form of chocolate!)
Sugar- many of you have shared with me your love/hate relationship with this food, and like most of us in our modern world, I can relate. For me, 2020 started with multiple disease diagnoses which prompted me to take a closer look at my diet. And then Covid-19 hit, and in an effort to help regulate my immune system I made a decision to eliminate refined sugar.
I have known for many years that refined cane sugar had a negative effect on how I felt. It could make my joints feel achy, my mood less stable, it could give me a headache and it could increase PMS. But it could also make me feel… SO. MUCH. BETTER. In the short-term sugar could lift weariness, loneliness, frustration, overwhelm, just to name a few. Right? Those painful emotions would lessen with a rush of that familiar happy sugar feeling. And then it’s so tempting to keep coming back for more, especially in the dark days of a Minnesota winter, sugar can be a comforting companion.
Chinese medicine dietary therapy emphasizes the importance of having a balance of the 5 flavors- sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and bitter. The sweet flavor can be valuable for nourishing Blood and Yin. But the problem is that we WAY over-consume this flavor in the modern world. In 1700 we consumed about one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sugar/year per person. By 1800 it was up to about 10 kilograms/year, and by 1900 up to 40. Where are we now? At about 80 kilograms of sugar/year per person. (That’s about 175 pounds of sugar!)
As you are probably already aware high sugar consumption can lead to all sorts of disease processes, including fertility and pregnancy challenges. But I don’t think we are going to think our way out of compulsively eating sugar. Sugar has an addictive quality and so addressing sugar consumption holistically is really important.
And- it’s so important NOT to feel deprived (at least most of the time :)).
The feeling of being deprived can create restriction and rigidity in our mind and body and that’s not what we want either. Plus, we all need a little bit of that sweet flavor as part of our daily food and beverage intake.
But, like anything, once we get it out of our system, our body can remember how to live without it. So typically, cutting it out entirely, even for a short while is all you need, and then you can work to create some different structures to support your new habit to become routine. (Your constitution can make a big difference in how easy this part is, so be gentle with yourself!)
When you have a craving for something sweet, see if you can satisfy it with one of the options below:
- Baked sweet potatoes in the oven, topped with butter and salt
- Dates, figs or other dried fruit (watch for added sugar)
- Basmati Rice with honey, walnuts and a touch of salt (or making Rice pudding if you have time)
- Plain fruit or fruit dipped in honey
- Hot tea with honey and non-dairy milk
- Rolling yummy things like coconut flakes, cocoa, cacao or unsweetened chocolate chips, nut butter, almond flour, coconut oil and honey, etc into a ball, and eating raw or baked
Lastly, some wise advice from one of my teachers- don’t let any dietary restrictions become too rigid. Most of us do not thrive on the all or nothing approach. When you step outside your own ‘guidelines’- ENJOY it! Sit down and savor every bite, mindfully and slowly, and DON’T feel bad about it. I’m going for 1 kilogram in 2021. 🙂