Stay (Naturally) Sweet, My Friend!

July 22, 2013
Luo han guo
Categories: Recipes

According to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, foods can be categorized into six tastes: salty, bitter, pungent, astringent, sour, and sweet.  When our diet is too heavy in any one of these tastes, our health can become imbalanced.

Ayurveda says that sweet tastes calm our nerves, and make us – well, “sweeter.” The physiological reason for this is that sweet foods boost the delivery of serotonin to the brain, which makes us happy and satisfied.  So in our hurried and stressful lives, it is no wonder that we tend to regularly indulge in sweets to boost our mood and calm us down.   But Americans tend to overdo their quest for sweetness – with the average adult consuming about 156 pounds of added sugars each year (teenage boys consume the most – over 500 calories each day)!  And because the sweetness is followed by a crash, this is how a cycle of dependence or imbalance can begin.

In addition to calming, sweet foods build tissue, so when we have too many sweets, it can quickly lead to weight gain and other health issues.

Overdoing the sweets can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Moodiness
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Increased physical signs of aging
  • Osteoporosis
  • Acidity
  • Cavities
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Adrenal issues
  • Lowered immunity
  • Increased risk of many diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke

Natural vs. Not

Sugar is a very broad term – we have naturally-occurring sugars, which are found in some plant-based foods, dairy, and natural sweeteners, etc.  Then there are the ones that are added to foods.  These can be added during the manufacturing of foods as in candies, sodas, and cakes; or by us – such as the sugar stirred into our coffee and tea.   When sugars are added during manufacturing, we have no control over the amount or the type of sugar that is used – could be high fructose corn syrup, granulated sugars – both of which tend to be genetically modified, spike the blood sugar and offer zero health benefits.  Healthier brands might use better options, but again – they control the amount that is added.  Even savory foods can create a reaction within the body similar to sugar.  When we eat breads and other simple carbs, our blood sugar can spike as high, or even higher than by eating a candy bar.   When we add sweetness ourselves, we can control the amount and type that we use – and so we can make a healthier/natural choice, and use less.

Sweeter Options:

According to Ayurveda, white sugar is poison for all of the three different doshas, or our constitution, see the definition of dosha.   Those with a serious imbalance like diabetes need to be very careful about all kinds of sweets, even those that are natural.  But a little natural sweetness has a place in a healthy person’s diet.  The key is – avoiding the processed or genetically modified types of added sugars, and sticking with the healthier more natural sweet options that preserve the natural minerals. Also, make sure to keep the sweetness in check with the other five tastes to keep your dosha from becoming unbalanced.

Some natural sweet options:  

  • Fruits & some vegetables (realize that certain fruits/vegetables have more natural sugars than others)
  • Stevia (the raw stevia herb is the best option, be cautious about processed kinds)
  • Raw local honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Lucuma
  • Monk fruit (Lo Han Guo)
  • Raw organic agave nectar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Yacon
  • Mesquite
  • Molasses
  • Dried fruits

Reset Your Sweet Tooth:

The more super sweet foods we eat, the less sensitive our taste buds will be to sweets – so the more we need and crave to satisfy our sweet “tooth.”  Also, the more sweet foods we eat, the less effective our body is lowering the blood sugar and delivering the energy to the cells.  This is why taking a vacation from foods that have a lot of added sugars can be a good way to “reset.”  This includes avoiding artificial sweeteners –several hundred times sweeter than sugar, chemical sweeteners stimulate our sweet tooth even more than the white stuff.  Taking a week or two off from all kinds of sweet treats can help you reset your insulin sensitivity, and your sweet tooth.  Focus instead on low sugar fruits (berries and apples), green drinks, and get plenty of healthy fats and proteins to keep cravings in check.

Curious about which dosha you fall under?  See below for more about doshas, and take this dosha quiz from Deepak Chopra.  Understanding your dosha is used in Ayurvedic medicine to make better nutritional choices and to keep a mind/body balance throughout all the seasons.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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