What’s up with SWEETNESS?
The sweet flavor in food is not inherently bad. People have been eating sweet foods in traditional societies as far back as we know. Even mostly carnivore societies will eat things like raw honey, berries or tubers when the season is right. There is a primal desire to seek out sweet foods, and this is not a problem when you have a healthy metabolism and a balanced microbiome. The goal is not to NEVER eat a sweet or starchy food again, the goal is to get you metabolism and microbiome healthy enough to where they will not cause any problems to your health.
When does SWEET become a problem? Foods that are high in sugar are going to cause a problem if your metabolism is not healthy enough to absorb these molecules into the cell optimally. If you are not absorbing sugars properly, you are going have high blood sugar and eventually, insulin resistance. The body is then in a systemically inflamed, crisis state and it will not heal, repair, or detoxify properly. While refined sugar is an obvious culprit for this, if your metabolism is damaged, even natural sugar can trigger this problematic high blood sugar response.
Additionally, highly sweet or starchy foods can cause imbalances in the microbiome. Generally, traditional high starch foods such as rice, potatoes, sourdough bread, cassava, etc. will not CAUSE microbiome imbalance. Usually the microbiome becomes imbalanced through other mechanisms experienced in modern society- high consumption of PROCESSED starches and carbohydrates, as well as exposure to antibiotics and other sterilizing agents. Unfortunately, once you get this imbalance, even traditional, healthy starchy foods can exacerbate this imbalance. This will hijack the craving center of our brain and cause us to crave these sweet and starchy foods that are feeding microbial overgrowth.
Let’s talk about each source of SWEETNESS:
-Refined sugar: this is the biggest problem for most people! It is a not a traditional food, and is associated with global colonization, the transatlantic slave trade, and other travesty’s of human history.
-Raw cane sugar: turbinado sugar, also raw coconut sugar, or muscovado sugar. Because this sugar comes bound up with natural trace minerals (because it is not refined), it is not going to be as problematic for blood sugar levels (since we need those minerals to help us absorb sugars into the cell), but is still going to be an issue if you have major blood sugar issues and will feed microbial imbalance such as parasites and yeast.
-Molasses: this is a byproduct of the sugar industry. I do not recommend it.
-Agave syrup: this is also not a traditional food, but is a refined sugar product. I do not recommend it.
-Maple syrup: this is a natural sugar I would recommend that people use in place of refined sugar. It does contain all the natural trace minerals that helps us absorb the natural sugar. It is still important to use in moderation if you have a history of blood sugar instability, and it can feed microbial overgrowth such as parasites and yeast.
-Raw Honey: this is the natural sugar option I recommend the most. This is because raw honey is full of enzymes, minerals and probiotics and actually show some health benefits! It does not feed bacterial overgrowth. It potentially has some anti fungal properties, but can also feed candida. It can help promote a healthy immune response, but also may trigger blood sugar imbalance in sensitive people and because it is high in fructose it can be hard on the liver when eaten in excess. You should not heat raw honey if you want all the health benefits.
-Sugar alcohols such as allulose and erythritol: I would not recommend these because they are recent inventions, are not traditional foods, and can cause digestive distress in sensitive people. The bonus is that it will not effect blood sugar levels, and so might be used very occasionally for special events if you are on a strict blood sugar balancing diet.
-Monkfruit extract is a fairly recent invention as well, and was not eaten before the 1500s in China. It will not effect blood sugar and will not feed any kind of microbial overgrowth, and so could be used occasionally if you are on a strict blood sugar or microbiome balancing diet.
-Inulin or chicory root extract is a traditional food used in ancient fermentation processes. It is very high in soluble fiber and will not disrupt blood sugar levels. Because it is very high in soluble fiber, it can cause problems to people who are sensitive to FODMAPs and are prone to bloating. It is best to not use it within the first month or two on a microbiome rebalancing diet for this reason, but can be brought in much sooner than other starches. A bonus is that soluble fiber binds to toxins such in our bile system, and can be great addition if you do better with higher amounts of fiber in your diet.
-Stevia extract or stevia leaf: this is a traditional herbs that has been natural used to sweeten food and drinks for thousands of years. It will not disrupt blood sugar and it will not feed any kind of microbial overgrowth, and is generally well tolerated. Just make sure if you buy an extract that it is pure and there are no additional sweeteners added!
All this being said, some people do better COMPLETELY cutting out anything with a sweet flavor, even fruit, for a period of time, to help their palette reset. I ate NOTHING SWEET for over a year to help my palette re calibrate. Even though I now eat things like fruit, honey, or other sweeteners on occasion, this permanently changed my relationship with the sweet flavor and I’m very glad I did it.
I hope this article helps you assess your options for SWEETNESS and what will work best for you!