There’s a good reason humans have a sweet tooth – in our ancestral environment, it’s a good indicator that there’s a bunch of easily used calories and fuel in a substance.
Humans are essentially designed to like sweet things. Entire species have built their survival on the fact that we (and other animals) like to eat their fruit and will spread their seeds and pips further afield.
However – this is a major health problem when food manufacturers stuff dozens of chemically and heat processed sugar variants into every food you can think of.
An average healthy human tends to have around a tablespoon of sugar in the bloodstream. Any more and the body secretes insulin, a hormone that’s approximately one billion year old, common in all mammals, one of whose tasks is fuel storage for survival.
The fact that insulin can be found that far back should give you a clue that it works – insulin takes sugars (and other fuels in varying degrees) and stores them as fat for later.
Evolutionarily this makes great survival sense – you don’t know where you’re next meal’s coming from, so you better store some for emergencies.
Only in many folks, ‘for later’ never comes and the body keeps on shoveling the excess into more and more, better filled fat cells. Cancer cells for example can have 17 times the receptor sites for sugar than normal cells.
Now the good news – there are now available easily online several excellent natural sweeteners (made from you know… plants!;). They are all on the low glycemic side and have different flavours.
Agave nectar – comes from a cactus that looks like a giant aloe vera bush. Also called the century plant. Agave nectar is the extracted sap, and lends a nice sweet flavour to smoothies, consistency like a runny honey with clear gold colour. Can also get a darker, stronger version.
Stevia – Paraguayan plant approximately 180,000x sweeter than cane sugar. Used in tiny quantities. Can have slightly bitter aftertaste. Used in Japan in Diet Coke because they had the sense to make aspartame illegal due to it’s dubious health records. Zero calories, helpful herbally for people with sugar sensitivities and cheap to grow yourself.
Flavoured Stevia’s can also now be found in little dropper bottles for easy squirting into drinks and food. Given it’s sweet, totally safe, calorie free, helpful medicinally and cheap you might be wondering why it’s so hard to get in the UK and has been the subject of numerous court cases in the US. (Hint – there’s several billion at stake each year from sale of synthetic sweeteners)
Manuka Honey – honey is an amazing food. Manuka honey is used in New Zealand on burn survivors as it helps heal skin conditions really fast. The most enzyme rich food on the planet, honey’s taste great and are easy to add to food. People with sugar problems would be better with Stevia.
Yacon root syrup – similar properties to Agave but with a lower glycemic rating. Sugar molecules range from tiny (like refined sugar and fructose in fruit) through to huge long chain poly-saccharides, which are large, branching swirl sugar molecules.
The short chains taste really sweet and the flavour changes towards bitter then longer the molecule chain gets. Yacon is right about the point between ‘sweet enough to be real tasty’ in things but long enough that the GI is low and the poly-saccharides have the immune enhancing effect that they do.
Super-herbs like Reishi or Gynostemna gain their power from these long chain sugars, but don’t tend to taste sweet, Reishi can be quite bitter. When ingested, the polysaccharides plug into receptors in the white blood cells and basically turbo-charges them.
Maple sap – this delicious substance, the real maple syrup, is tappable straight from the tree’s. Try it if you find a local source.
See how many of these you can track down and try in the next week!