The deities of the Greek pantheon maintained their omnipotence in part by feasting upon sweet nectar. The darling of Hindu gods, Ganesh, famously gobbled sweets. And this time of year, Yule logs enchant celebrants with frosted tree rings and meringue mushrooms. For our godly counterparts and so many of us, consuming sweets transcends the mundane as celebratory and even religious rites. And, frankly, making, sharing, and consuming scrumptiousness is one of my favorite pastimes.
I know sugar in your diet is typically a big nutritional no-no. And like so many others, this knowledge used to cause a twinge of guilt every time I indulged. That was then. Today, I realize a little bit of sugar in your diet is nothing to get all worked up about, and it can actually be good for you.
In fact, I am absolutely convinced that mastering the art of eating a sweet is one that will only increase your health and deepen your appreciation for life and its sweet moments.
As someone who works in the beauty industry primarily with doctors, I hear about the negative effects of sugar consumption far too often—diabetes, systemic inflammation, insulin resistance, premature wrinkles, obesity and so forth. Yeah yeah yeah. You don’t need that lecture again.
We all know too much sugar in your diet is not good. But NO sugar?? I don’t think so. Total deprivation is not psychologically good for anyone.
Here is my thought…if you can learn to eat sweets with the best of them, and I mean to really enjoy sweets as they are meant to be enjoyed, not only will you experience more pleasure, but also greater health. The whole “mind-body connection” thing has merit. (Here’s a recent study.) And no, I’m not talking about those treats that are filled to the brim with random superfoods that attempt to mimic (and never succeed at) the real deal. I mean a real sweet. I also mean learning how to pay attention to the whole experience and truly enjoy it, without guilt. And you know what? I bet you will consume less. I bet you’ll also be happier and less stressed from trying to deny your desires…and being happier and less stressed is healthy.
Guidelines for Sweet Consumption Mastery…
- Don’t eat a treat when you are truly hungry.
Real hunger should be satisfied with real, nourishing food. If you are truly hungry and you try to satisfy that hunger with a sweet treat you’ll end up eating way too much. Eat your dinner, then your treat. That’s guideline #1.
- Be a snob
Hey, you get to add sugar in your diet. Not with every meal, but here and there. So you can afford to be snob in the sweets department! This means whatever treat you decide to indulge in you want to make sure it is exactly the thing that will tickle your fancy. And don’t try to trick yourself. You want gummy candy? Don’t try to satisfy that desire with boxfuls of raisins. You want chocolate? Then put down the pound of carob. Treat yourself to something you truly desire. You’ll see. You’ll actually end up eating less.
- Be an UBER snob
Please make sure those sweet treat ingredients are up to snuff. Ideally, they will be organic or biodynamic or non GMO or pesticide free from your local farmer. The best way to ensure this is to make your sweets yourself.
Growing up in the South, it was practically sin not to have some kind of treat and sweet tea in the house at all times. I can’t remember the kitchen of my childhood home without brownies or pound cake in it. Obviously, we don’t always have the time for baking, though if you resolve to only eat sweets you make, you will become a better baker much faster than you anticipate in addition to eating better quality sweets and really enjoying them.
- Focus Focus Focus!
Not unlike sex, driving, or tennis, eating sweets is an activity requiring full focus. If you wouldn’t do it while canoodling, navigating traffic or returning lobs, do not do it while you are consuming sweets. A little light conversation? Fine. But do not go flapping your gums on the telephone with some random person who may be the reason you’re now craving sugar! If you want something sweet more than you want to be on the phone with that person, well that should really tell you something.
Separate and distinguish. Do you want a sweet or a hug? If what you really want is a hug and you think salted caramel gummy goodness will substitute, I can tell you right now that no mountain of salted caramel anything will be big enough. But if you really want a sweet, there is no number of hugs that will satiate that intensifying urge.
My goddess! There are entire books written on the importance of pleasure and psychological health. Take your pleasure as seriously as you do your service and just watch how your life will unfold. If you are not shirking responsibilities or causing harm to yourself or someone else, drop the guilt and just go for it.
A Few Resources for Your Sweet Extravaganza…
For my gluten free sisters, Gluten Free Gourmand is incredible. Missing croissant? Regular chocolate chip cookies? Pie crust? How about organic pizza dough? Pancake mix? Everything is organic. I have tried everything except for the pastry flour. Impeccable and delicious. I made a pie crust for Thanksgiving with their flours and no one was any the wiser that their pumpkin pie was wheat-free. Tee hee hee sneaky sneaky me!
The Leftover Queen is another great gluten free resource.. I’m totally bragging when I say my friend Jenn, a homesteader and historical foodie, runs it. If you have any interest or passion for food and food history I highly recommend you check it out.
For quality, ethically and sustainably grown and procured chocolate, check out Fair Trade USA for a list of all fair trade certified cocoa companies. Chocolate Alchemy is another great resource, an exquisite small company owned by someone who shares my feelings on sourcing…
Beyond Organic is a Clean Cuisine recommendation I have yet to try but as I write this I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my first mail order; Ivy and Andy insist it is the best-tasting dark chocolate they have ever had. Not only is it an artisinal organic chocolate crafted in Italy by 5th generation chocolatiers, it is also infused with flaxseeds and probiotics (I’ll admit, I was a little suspicious of the flaxseeds and probiotics but Ivy’s enthusiasm has eased my mind.)
And, finally know the ingredients to avoid:
- High fructose corn syrup – Ideally you’d avoid corn syrup too – substitute 1:1 with Golden Syrup which is even tastier than Corn Syrup or ¾ cup honey for every cup of corn syrup (I have a hunch that the use of golden syrup and honey instead of corn syrup is why the French and the Brits have better sweets than we do.)
- Processed soy
- Processed vegetable oils (canola oil, “pure” vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, etc.)
- Artificial Colors
- Artificial Flavoring
- Hydrogenated anything
- Any ingredient you can’t easily pronounce or has a number after it like polysorbate 20 or polysorbate 80 often found in ice cream
To notice, to experience, and to create sweetness opens us to the fullness of life. Every opportunity for a sweet moment, whether sugar is involved or not, is an opportunity to more deeply experience gratitude and joy. So really, indulging on occasion is in fact a moral imperative. Happy Holidays!!
Our Guest Author:
Chase Polan is the founder and lead Alchemist of KYPRIS, a natural skin care line boasting organic, sustainably procured, and wild crafted ingredients from land and sea. Currently the line is exclusively sold in doctors’ offices and through the KYPRIS online shop.
Tuesday 18th of December 2012
A great resource for learning how to make chocolate confections at home and how to temper chocolate for dipping:
Chocolates and Confections at home from The Culinary Institute of America