Over the years I have learned that the amount of sugar we eat in North America is not normal, nor is it helping us. To change this and scale back on the sweet stuff will require a good amount of determination and some experimentation.
Gary Taubes states in his book, Good Calories Bad Calories, that sugar consumption for the typical American was less than 15 pounds a year in the 1830’s. That is 10 times less than North Americans typically consume today. The amount of sugar consumed by North Americans grew to 100 pounds in the 1920’s and to 150 pounds (including high-fructose corn syrup) by the end of the century. Obesity and diabetes rates go up as the amount of sugar available to people increased. Deaths due to diabetes also went down in times when people were rationing sugar consumption, such as during World Wars I and II.
When I first read this, I really began to question the foods I think are normal. It was one of the first times I thought that the abundance of ready made, extra sugary delights is not normal. And I finally understood that if I eat the same amount that North Americans typically eat, then I will be subjecting myself to the same risks for obesity and diabetes.
How might someone “survive” on the amount of sugar that was available to people in the 1830’s? How much is this per day anyways? It is around 18 grams a day, a little over a tablespoon. That includes what is in jams, breads, cereals, preserves, sauces, seasonings, drinks and the usual sugary deliciousnesses of cookies, cakes, etc.! Perhaps this even included medications, since these used to be preserved with sugar. And if you consider that on special days such as birthdays and holidays, there might have been highly sweetened celebratory treats to be enjoyed. This would mean that the daily amounts would be even less to compensate for these sweet special days. Perhaps on some days people consumed no sugar. Imagine!
I have yet to be able to consume less than 15 pounds of sugar a year. At some point, I would like to try this and see what happens. I know it is a good idea and it would be good for me. At this point, I keep the less than one tablespoon per day idea in mind. I know this is not an easy thing to do.
What if I were to grab my pen and paper, walk through a typical grocery store, map it out and then colour all the aisles with products containing sugar? My hunch is that I would end up colouring every isle except for parts of the produce and meat section. My point is that it is not likely an easy thing to stay away from products containing sugar. In the end, I find that it is important to try.
And, that leads me here. My wacky, very low sugar hot chocolate. This is a drink that is somewhat like a latté. Creamy, flavourful and fun. It is not sugary, but it is still really special and it will make a nice treat.
Hot chocolate, my way
(makes 2 servings)
2 cups of almond breeze unsweetened chocolate non-dairy beverage
1/4 cup organic coconut milk
1 heaping tablespoon fair trade cocoa powder
1 stick of cinnamon
3 cardamom pods, cracked open
1 tsp licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
1/4 tsp cayenne
Carefully bring to a gentle boil and then simmer the above ingredients, in a covered pot, over the lowest heat for 20 minutes.
Strain and add 20 g of fair trade 85% cocoa chocolate bar. Stir until it is completely mixed and pour a cup for yourself and a friend.
* I usually leave the spices in the pan and strain the hot chocolate as I pour a cup. This way, the spices infuse for a good long while. Yum.
** I can make this the fast way substituting the whole spices with powders of 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp licorice and 1/4 tsp cayenne. This leaves out the simmering and infusing. Just heat and serve.
Some of the reasoning behind the recipe.
Cinnamon adds a sweet taste and some have shown that it helps regulate blood sugar. Cardamom gives me joy! Licorice is very sweet tasting and it is also an adaptogen that helps normalize adrenal function. It is often used as a formula harmonizer. Cayenne acts as a neuro-stimulant and it is also an anti-inflammatory. All of the spices used will aid in digestion. The combination of chocolate and spices in this drink energizes me.
Tammy Schmidt, Montreal
- Chocolate: An Affair to Remember (wholefoodsmarket.com)