Understanding and Overcoming Sweet Addiction
Just 70 years ago, when the main means of transportation was by bike or on foot, the best way to fuel our energy in order to move, was the combination of fat, sugar and grain.
Today, this previously beneficial combination has become harmful, since the body is not as active as it was before. Our programming (cell memory) however has not changed, causing many of us to build habits based on this cell memory that lead us to an unnecessary and often dangerous overconsumption of cakes, chocolates and sweets, as if this is still a necessity for our bodies. This programming is inevitably both passed down to, and mimicked by, our children. In addition, while refined grains (without the bran) and refined sugar (white sugar), instantly boost our body with energy they do not provide all the nutrients that were contained in their original form.
This means 3 things:
- That the body receives low quality energy (with reduced nutrients).
- Due to the fact that refined sugar and refined grains are assimilated and pass through the blood very quickly (sugar instantly passes through the blood once it is in our mouth), the body becomes over-stimulated. This over stimulation creates an energy rush that results in an instant high energy peak but an energy low later on.
- The over-stimulation turns into addiction over time, as we crave more and more quantities of refined sugar and refined grains to satisfy this energy rush feeling.
Our aim is to treat the craving for sweets/desserts not as a natural need, but as an addiction, and to try to methodically overcome our addiction to white flour and white sugar.
Healthy, Activated Raw Chocolate Vegan Cake by Valya Sweets
The following steps offer an ideal method for training ourselves and our children, in embracing a healthier diet, without sugar.
The 1st step to overcoming sugar addiction
Step one, is to replace flour and sugar in their refined processed form, with their whole, original form. So, gradually, our system will stop craving “fast, cheap energy”
- Instead of white flour, use wholegrain flour.
- Instead of white sugar, use brown sugar.
Each country has its own source of sugar, although the most popular is brown sugar, extracted from sugar cane. Brown coconut sugar and brown palm sugar are two other options. No matter the source of sugar we choose to use, in order to make sure it is not refined, it must be non-crystallized.
In India, this non-crystallized sugar is called 'jaggery' and looks like brown soil or brown soft stone. This form of sugar contains a sufficient amount of the plant’s vitamins, minerals and nutrients. However, jaggery, or brown sugar, are not sustainable if exported in huge quantities all over the world to satisfy the need for “healthy sugar”. Our aim should be to use alternative, local, whole sugars, and if this is not possible, we should use them in moderation until we reach the second step.
The 2nd step to overcoming sugar addiction
After months, or even a year, of desserts free from refined sugar/refined flour, we can then reduce our daily use of brown sugar, and use locally produced natural syrups for sweetening without added sugar, for example, carob syrup, date syrup, palm syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, molasses, etc.
Each country has a sweet fruit or a plant that can be made into a syrup. In Greece, we have carobs and dates that can be made into syrup if boiled over a period of time. This will tune the body, while also offering it some of the nutrients of the plant. It must be noted that syrups might not contain all the nutrients of the plant, and are not considered 'activated' since they have been heated and preserved for several days after production. However, we can opt to include them in our diet as they will provide a sweet taste in a natural, healthy way.
See the PDF in Part 2: Quality 3: Tuned Food for local/seasonal options
From personal experience, I know that it is not easy to overcome an addiction to sweets, so it is okay for those of us that struggle to make a compromise!
Note: the healthiest and most alive sugar is raw honey. Honey is one of the most nutritious and most healing foods on the planet. Unfortunately, misuse and overuse by mankind, has made its consumption morally unacceptable. So, in order to protect the environment and the bees, vegans have excluded it from their diet.
For those that do consume honey or animal products, a general rule might be to consider the well-being of the animals themselves, and select products from producers that care for the animals/bees.
The 3rd step to overcoming sugar addiction
During the third step, our aim should be to reduce the frequency of our sweet consumption, from a daily basis to only a few days a week. This will reduce our addiction. If we can overcome the habits created by our cell memory, we will see that our body does not require sweets every day.
It is essential to define the difference between a sweet taste and a sweet (dessert). A sweet/dessert, is something that contains only the sweet taste. However, we can consume a meal which has a primarily sweet taste in place of a dessert, which will not only satisfy our sweet craving, but also offer us useful nutrition. (See the 'Baked Cake' video below, which can be eaten as a sweet, complete meal).
So, in the third step, our goal will be to avoid eating sweets every day, and to lessen the sweetness of our desserts through sweet tasting meals.
Some ideas might be:
1. Replace sweet syrups with sweet fruit pulp, dried fruit jam or dried fruit.
2. Eat dried fruits with nuts.
3. Get your sugar from natural fresh fruits!
4. Make sweets that are high in nutrients, and become meals rather than deserts.
The last step is the most ideal, because no matter how healthy we make our sweet, it is still unnecessary for our body if it is not nutritious. If, however, it becomes a semi-sweet meal, then not only will it not add unnecessary calories, but it will provide benefits to the body.
When you reach the third step, you will discover that you no longer crave sweets themselves, you only need the sweet taste!
Methods for making Activated Sweets/Desserts
Formulas replace recipes in Activated Vegan Diet, given that we do not always want to use specific ingredients, but want to be able to replace them with ingredients with similar qualities. This allows us to make food and sweets tuned with the country or season of the year or just so we use whatever we have available in our home.
So, when reference is made to “sweet fruit” it doesn’t always have to be a specific fruit but any sweet fruit produced by the country we live in, which is in season. See the PDF included at the end of Part Two for the list of substitutes.
Vegan Sweets/ Dessert Methods at Stage 1
The classic ingredients of a traditional cake are: Milk/eggs/sugar/flour/flavoring/butter/baking powder.
The vegan substitutes of the above would be:
- Instead of milk we can use nut milk
- Instead of eggs (to hold it together) we can use banana, flax-seed or chia seeds
- Instead of sugar we can use any kind of brown, non-crystallized sugar (e.g. jaggery)
- Instead of white flour, we can use whole-wheat flour mixed with brown rice flour or oat flour
- Instead of butter, we can use a local unrefined oil
Therefore, at the first stage of overcoming our sweet addictions, we can re-create traditional cake recipes using the above substitutions for healthier choices.
Healthier Vegan Sweet/Dessert Methods at Stage 2
- Instead of milk we use nut milk or nuts
- Instead of eggs (to hold it together) we use banana, flax-seed or chia seeds
- Instead of sugar we use local natural syrup or dried fruit and dried fruit jam*
- Instead of white wheat flour we use whole-wheat flour mixed with brown rice flour or oat flour
- Instead of butter we use local oil (non-refined)
- Instead of baking powder we use organic soda with some apple vinegar (to avoid baking powder which most of the times doesn’t contain natural ingredients)
*Dried Fruit jam is made by blending any dry sweet fruit (raisins, figs, plums, apricots...) with a bit of water until smooth. An instructional video is included in Part 4: Preparing Activated Sweets and Desserts
Activated Vegan Sweets/ Dessert Methods at Stage 3
At the third stage, our aim should be for our desserts/sweets to be classed as 'activated vegan sweets'.
There are two types of Activated vegan sweets:
- Raw vegan sweets made of dried fruit, fresh fruit, soaked nuts and soaked grains
- Freshly baked desserts made with whole grains (flour) and pulses.
Activated Raw Vegan Fresh Berry Cake by Valya Sweets
The qualities of the Activated Vegan sweets are:
- Alive: Raw or freshly cooked (baked) with natural, whole ingredients
- Tuned: Using local fruit pulp, dried fruit jam, dried fruit, fresh local seasonal fruit
- Complete meals: Using the right combinations so that our activated sweets are rich in nutrients (including protein) and replace a meal instead of coming after a meal.
- Easily digested: We avoid mixing too many ingredients, and we avoid using nuts and nut butters if the activated sweet will be cooked/baked.
Activated vegan sweets can have the form of baked cake, pancake, raw cake, fruit cream, energy ball/bar, puddings etc.
Unlike the recipes that you can find online, activated raw sweets do not mix more than 3 kinds of ingredients, and we do not use additional fats to result in smooth textures, but rely only on raw nut butters. In addition, we must be careful when using nuts in desserts, as their fat becomes damaged when heated and turns into saturated fat, so the nutritional quality is affected and becomes difficult to digest, which is why nuts are best used in raw desserts.
On the contrary, soaked or sprouted pulses add nutrients and make the cake a hearty meal retaining its health benefits. The best pulses that can be used in alternative sweets are those which lack an intense smell, like chickpeas, yellow lentils and black beans.
Chart of the Three Stages of Activated Vegan Desserts