Over-coming a ‘sweet tooth’
Earlier, I found myself dipping a teaspoon into the jar of chocolate spread (kept in JUST for the kids you understand…and actually it wasn’t a teaspoon, it was my finger, but I was trying to sound civilized and sophisticated and not admit to behaving in a way that my mother would be ashamed of…) and thinking ‘Damn, why am I craving something sweet today? I thought that if I ate enough protein and fat, and ate plenty of good natural healthy food so that I wasn’t hungry, then I wouldn’t still crave sweet things…?’ and I was instantly agitated and cross with myself, and spent the next ten minutes beating myself up mentally for my own weakness.
To be clear, since I gave up grains and other starchy carbs, over two years ago now, my cravings for sweet tastes have subsided a lot, and since I also completely quit refined sugar and foods with sugar and sugar substitutes in them, now over a year ago, my palate has come back to life, and I can taste real food again now, for the first time I can remember since childhood. After a few months living on a 99% sugar-free diet, when I have tasted a bite of ‘normal food’, I have been amazed how sweet everything tastes, because of the sugar and corn syrup the manufacturers add to so many foods these days.
But, I do still get days when I crave sweet things, and this has been bugging me. I now eat a diet high in protein and fairly high in fat (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, avocados) and I thought that such sweet cravings would go, but they have not. I have read how a high-protein diet is supposed to suppress appetite naturally, because protein has been proven to satisfy desire better than other food sources, and I thought that I got all the sweet juicy taste sensations I needed from the fat in my diet…crunchy nuts, delicious roast meats, creamy avocados and so on.
So why do I still crave sweet tastes?
I know a lady, the original yoga goddess type, who lives on lettuce leaves and green juice drinks and sprouted beans and home grown vegetables. This lady is the epitome of the healthy eating stereotype, with decades of good clean healthy living and natural healthy eating under her belt, yet even she admitted to craving a sweet hit at certain times of the month or when she is feeling emotionally down, overworked or tired.
So it seems that whether we are the pure-eating, salad-munching, all-organic yoga goddess type, or the primal meat-eating, high-protein-high-fat, caveman type, we all still suffer from this desire for sweet tastes from time to time. Isn’t there a famous quote…”Chocolate - resistance is futile”, right?
I got to thinking about this desire for sweet tastes, and why none of us can seem to escape from the lure of sweet foods. Maybe I have this figured out now. Originally, Mother Nature only provided sweet tastes in a few key foods - mostly fruit, obviously honey, and to some lesser degree in a few fatty parts of animals (that juicy fat under the crackling when you roast a shoulder of pork is pretty sweet, yummy) and in a few vegetables (juiced carrots are pretty sweet, but you wouldn’t really sit down and eat a load of carrots as a chocolate replacement…well, you can, and I have, but it doesn’t really work very well!).
Mother Nature’s sweet treats
So the main source of sweet tastes in Mother Nature’s world is fruit, and honey. In my opinion, honey was a hard-earned seasonal treat for caveman. Bees make honey as a way of storing energy (food) for the winter, just as other animals bury nuts, so bees store their supplies as honey. To steal honey, caveman would have had to climb trees or cliffs and risk a lot of angry bees trying to sting him, and so in Mother Nature’s grand design, there was never any real risk of caveman (or any other creature, such as bears) over-eating honey, which was only available for a few months each year anyway.
As for fruit, Mother Nature did not design many fruits to look and taste the way they look and taste today. Over the last few hundred years many fruits have been selectively bred (a long slow form of ‘genetic tampering’ or ‘genetic modification’ that’s been around a lot longer than Monsanto has been) to grow larger, sweeter and juicier than they were, naturally, for millions of years when Mother Nature was the farmer. Fruit growers know that we love fat juicy sweet fruits, so they do all they can year after year to make them bigger, fatter, sweeter and juicier than they used to be. As these fruits have become bigger and juicier, so we consume more of those natural sugars each time we eat a piece of fruit. More sugar per snack than Mother Nature intended.
Under Mother Nature’s grand design, she wanted our early ancestors to eat as much fruit as they liked - caveman was helping her, us and all the other animals, by spreading the uneaten or undigested pips and seeds far and wide, propagating the species and helping it’s spread and survival. Also, in recognition of the fact that fruit is sweet and tasty, and many humans, birds, apes and other creatures may clamber around the trees consuming a lot of it, Mother Nature cleverly packed fruit with health-giving vitamins and minerals to aid our digestion of those natural sugars and boost our immune system as an added bonus.
No genetic self-limiting mechanism
I believe Mother Nature saw honey as little more than a rare treat, and fruit as something we could safely eat as much as we liked, again when it was seasonally available, so she had no reason to give us a limiting mechanism on our desire for sweet tastes. No wonder we still crave sweet tastes even when we are not hungry. This explains why even when we have eaten and are full, we still want desert. Mother Nature never expected there would come a day when we would cultivate sugar and refine that sweet taste into an addictive granulated white ‘powder’ (or syrup) which we would then add to almost every food on the planet.
We have no ability, genetically, to ‘un-want’ sweet tastes, because we are designed to want those sweet treats…in harder times, hundreds of thousands of years ago, our desire for those sweet treats drove us on in our daily hunt for food, but in modern times, it’s just making us all fat and diabetic. To adapt genetically to stop wanting sugar will take thousands more years, time we don’t have.
So if I am right, what does this mean for us, now? The average British supermarket sells about 40,000 individual product lines. Food manufacturers add sugar or sugar substitutes to almost everything now, because they know that in doing so, we will eat more, and then go back to the shop and buy more. They make money, we get fat and sick. Breakfast cereal would taste like chewing cardboard if they didn’t add sugar to everything. I bet at least 35,000 of those 40,000 product lines are NOT particularly good for you. They may taste nice, but they are not especially good for you.
Self control must come from education and discipline
So controlling this desire for sweet food really just comes down to what you tell yourself in your own mind. You can choose to say ‘Chocolate coated cereal hoops are delicious and ice cream is yummy and chocolate bars are yummy - I’m stocking up and I don’t care!’ OR, you can choose to say ‘I realise now that all that crap they sell in the supermarket and the convenience store is bad for me, and I am ONLY buying organic fresh meat and fish, organic fresh fruit and vegetables, some eggs and a few nuts and seeds and I am going to avoid everything packaged and bar-coded and everything artificial. If it needs a label to list the ingredients, then it’s not natural so I won’t buy it. My health is more important to me than tasting some sweet crap! I’d rather lose weight and look fabulous and live longer and feel great so from now on I am making sensible healthy choices!’ Whichever message you repeatedly tell yourself, will determine the choices you make.
That’s really it. It’s all down to the story you tell yourself in your head. You won’t make the desire for an occasional sweet treat go away, you just have to acknowledge that the corporate world of ‘Food, Inc.’ does NOT have your health interests and body image at heart, only their profits. Some people are ‘not too fussed’ about sweet things, but that’s a minority, others wallow in obesity and blame it on the ‘family sweet tooth’ they inherited from their mother or father. Most of us, in truth, know that when it comes to chocolate, resistance really is, near enough futile! 🙂
So wise up, understand that we all crave sweet foods from time to time, no matter how clean our diet, and it is wise to keep a reasonably healthy option available, hidden away somewhere, for those emergency moments when you just must taste something sweet. A spoonful of organic honey, a couple of squares or organic dark chocolate, a spoonful of organic all-natural almond or cashew nut butter. Sure, these things are not truly ‘caveman’ foods, but if they stop you buying a Mars Bar at the corner shop, or gorging on cake, then in my opinion, they are a forgivable deviation from the clean living all-natural diet and lifestyle.