It’s taken some discipline, but I’ve done some serious taming of my former white-sugar habit. Oh, there were the binge-eating years when it was all junk all the time. Needing food to cope with the various challenges in my life at that time (stressful job, unhappy relationship), I considered the cookie aisle of the supermarket my oyster, and I dove in regularly. But it didn’t end there. Oh, the fun I had at donut shops, baking cookies at home from those tubes of dough, and I confess, like most binge-eaters, sometimes the dough didn’t make it to the cookie sheet.
When I embarked on my transformation journey in 2009, the changes I made with food choices were gradual because I wanted habits I could live with. Dieting or anything that resembled it was out. The gradual changes such as eliminating gluten and cow dairy gave way to significant weight loss. And I still ingested white sugar along the transformational path. But as my weight got closer to its setpoint and as I entered that physiologically bewildering phase of life known as menopause, it became clear that more fine-tuning of the food choices was needed. Another way of looking at it was, I had unofficially made gluten-free cupcakes (with a mountain of sugary butter frosting) its own food group. No, I didn’t overeat them in terms of quantity, but the frequency was regular. And my nutritionist Nancy Guberti revealed that my organic acid test showed I had an inordinately high level of bad bacteria lining my stomach – so much so that it created a barrier that effectively blocked nutrient absorption.
My sugar intake had gotten out of control, and believe me, it doesn’t take much to exceed Guberti’s suggested 30-35 grams per day in the culture we live in. Sugar is EVERYWHERE: in drinks, condiments, crackers, and of course, desserts.
I’m not trying to take away all of your fun, but it’s time to start looking at what’s thrust onto the supermarket shelves and restaurant menus with a more discerning eye. Sure it tastes good, but what about what happens during and after digestion? Even moderate amounts of sugary drinks are enough to start the production of fat-depositing enzymes into the liver, according to a study published this year by the American Liver Foundation.
And if this news weren’t sobering enough, there’s research linking sugar to Alzheimer’s disease. New York Times writer Mark Bittman did a brilliant and descriptive essay on the subject in 2012 titled “Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?” Read it only if you’re ready to wake from the culture-induced trance that sugar is just harmless fun. And if you didn’t know that back in 2005 doctors and scientists began categorizing Alzheimer’s as the Type 3 Diabetes, well, wake up and smell the unsweetened iced coffee!
Ah, but it’s not all gloom and doom where the world of sugar and desserts are concerned. And that’s a big part of why I wrote my second book, “Sweet Comfort,” which has 44 recipes made without white sugar. Most use coconut palm sugar, stevia, or the beloved date…one of the most delicious and nutritious ways to sweeten since the dawning of the first date tree in ancient Mesopotamia.
Since I’m always in recipe development mode, the following recipe for date milk isn’t in the book, it’s HERE, for you to enjoy! I love this sweet drink in the morning for a shot of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. It’s perfect to tote along on a road trip or during an afternoon of errands. The choices at most convenience stores, drive thrus, and restaurants are sub-standard as far as I’m concerned. Food and drink has to do more than just taste good, it must do something FOR me. And this lovely, simple recipe does both.
12 ounce of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons shelled hemp hearts
Place all ingredients in a large bottle, shake well, and soak overnight, either refrigerated or unrefrigerated. (I prefer non-chilled drinks, but if cold’s your thing, by all means chill it)
The next morning, place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and blend for about a minute or until creamy. Pour into a glass or a road-worthy container and enjoy.