Understanding Healthy Sugar & Sweet Flavor
Mild sweets have a balancing and harmonizing effect. There are also different qualities of sweet. Sweets, especially creamy sweets, are deeply satisfying. Sweet vegetable soup is satisfying, but if they are pureed, and made creamy, they have an even more deeply satisfying quality. The natural sweet taste in the modern diet is hard to find, and is poorly promoted. In traditional diets, there was an abundance of mild sweet tastes from grains and starchy vegetables. These flavors were enhanced in different styles and preparations.
Healthy, sweet flavors come from complex sugars found especially in grains and starchy vegetables. There are vegetables that become sweet when cooked (such as onion, daikon, cabbage, and leeks) that complete this list. Beans also add sweetness when they are prepared with sweet vegetables. The complex sugars break down slowly, travel through the entire digestive process and are absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine. During this process, they become alkalized in the duodenum, which enables them to create more alkaline blood. Hence, complex sugars (polysaccharides) give us steady and long-lasting energy.
Unhealthy Sugars Lead to Unhealthy Sweet Cravings
Simple sugars from refined and processed grains, sugar, honey, fructose (especially from agave nectar or high fructose corn syrup), and alcohol can all have adverse effects on health. These simple sugars are absorbed quickly into the blood before passing the duodenum, and create an acidic condition. We need minerals to neutralize the acidity, which dilutes the blood and raises CO2 levels. This in turn overworks the kidneys, heart, and lungs.
Over time, too much simple sugars weakens our resistance to illness, increases inflammation, disturbs the micro biome, and depletes the body of minerals and other valuable nutrients. If we don’t get enough healthy, mild sweets, we tend to crave poor quality sweets available from refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and/or alcohol.
Developing a Healthy Taste for Sweets
There are two main types of simple sugars: disaccharides and monosaccharides. The major disaccharides are sucrose (i.e., white sugar), lactose (i.e., milk-sugar), and maltose (i.e., grain sugar). The major monosaccharides are glucose and fructose. Glucose can be metabolized by every cell in the body (see entry on Good and Bad Carbs), whereas fructose can only be metabolized in the liver.
When coming off an unhealthy diet, the mild sweet taste can often be off-putting. It takes time to rebuild the micro biome and enjoy healthy sweets again. Essentially, we need to become aware of how our own taste for sweets operates, and how to satisfy them in the direction of health.
Sugar and Sweets: The Good
-Healthy food is predominated by a mildly sweet, pleasant, and satisfying taste.
-Any grain or starchy vegetable that is chewed slowly produces a satisfying, sweet taste.
-Some combinations of healthy sweets from grains are: millet and sweet vegetables, polenta and sweet corn, couscous cooked with apple juice and water
-Some naturally sweet soups are made from pureed sweet vegetable soup (sweet potato, squash, or cauliflower)
-Any of the sweet vegetables cooked in various combinations and methods of cooking. The sweet vegetables include: onions, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, cabbage, daikon, leeks, and broccoli and cauliflower in pureed soups.
-Mild sweeteners (in small quantities) include: amasake, brown rice syrup, barley malt, and pure maple syrup*
-Local, seasonal fruits*
*The excessive consumption of concentrated mild sweeteners, sprouted breads, and dried fruits can also have deleterious health effects, especially on digestion and teeth.
Sugar and Sweets: The Bad
-All commercial cakes and pastries, as opposed to home-made ones with healthy, natural ingredients
-Foods with refined sugar and artificial sweeteners (including stevia)
-Foods containing high fructose corn syrup or agave nectar
-Concentrated fruit sugars from tropical fruits including coconut sugar
Cravings for Unhealthy Sweets are created, or enhanced by the excessive use of
-Hard, baked, dry foods such as cookies, crackers, toast, and chips
-Too many reheated or recycled leftover vegetable dishes
-Excessively long-cooked dishes such as whole oats cooked overnight
-A lack of light, refreshing dishes such as blanched vegetables or quick-steams greens, crispy, colorful sautéed vegetables, and refreshing salads
If you are looking for macrobiotic foods that will help with a specific illness, we encourage you to reach out and schedule a macrobiotic consultation with Denny directly. Also, if you want macrobiotic recipe ideas, you can take macrobiotic courses at the SHI Macrobiotics, which is a non-profit macrobiotics institute that Denny founded.
For more interesting articles about nutrition, macrobiotics, and living a healthy lifestyle, please visit Denny’s macrobiotic blog.