Sweet Sustenance

"The difference between sugar addiciton and narcotic addiction is largely one of degree." ? William Dufty, Sugar Blues.

For years I struggled with the sugar habit from hell, so I empathize with the vast majority of the population struggling with one now. Although most will deny their habit, one only needs to check the number of aisles in the local supermarket stacked with sugared foods ? at least half ? to know we have a problem.

My parents did not allow everyday sugar eating, so when we visited our grandparents at Christmas time, sugar and chemical laden ice-cream with packet custard was a real boon. However, the third "bon bon" lolly was always turned down with a groan, our digestions just couldn't take too much sugar without complaining painfully. I am ever grateful that my parents were strict with our sugar intake because it was not until puberty that I really began to eat sugared foods.

Expanding my experience with my new found freedom, I found all sorts of culinary wonders. I remember sucking instant coffee through a Tim Tam straw or four ? shudder ? during those all night study sessions at university. I had a full blown sugar addiction which lead into all sorts of other addictions (another story).

Next was the ultimate exploration of dietary boundaries, the quest into vegetarianism and veganism. Originally, this was a political decision, as it is for many people, based on my newfound (and half-baked) understanding of ecology and animal rights. Pretty soon I had also convinced myself this was the healthy way to go. Even when my chinese medicine professor warned me my "spleen" needed meat, I was too stubborn to listen, while I chugged down capuccinos and scoffed chocolate mudcake almost daily.

Of course, the more I avoided animal protein and fat, the more I craved sugar, and the more I ate sugary foods, the more I damaged my digestion and the more I needed protein and fat to repair it. Sound familiar?

I was to suffer a lot more before I came to my senses: a pregnancy filled with unexplainable pain, tiredness, depression and horrific candida symptoms followed by a disastrous two day labour and my body refusing to repair a perineal tear. eeeww! I started the Candida diet vegetarian style. I was a conscientious vegetarian, rigorously dedicated to food combining and proper preparation of grains and nuts. It was just not enough, no matter how much plant based protein I packed away, I couldn't keep up with the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Protein deficiency leads to cravings especially for sweet foods so I struggled for a year or so with slight food addictions. Bread always led to sugar as did caffeine, and Candida infestations recurred over and over again. Finding it virtually impossible to enjoy a vegetarian diet without sugar and bread, I finally began to eat more animal foods to abate my cravings ? and heal my "spleen" (chinese medicine speak for digestion).

I found raw milk products and bought organic meat. Every time I felt a desire for refined carbohydrates, I ate a spoonful of raw cream or a chunk of organic ham (with lots of fat) or cheese. Eventually I had replaced all refined carbohydrates with small amounts of unrefined honey, maple syrup, buckwheat and rice. I found I could consume home made sweet treats without addiction and I could easily let go of bread. These days you couldn't persuade me to let refined sugar pass my lips and I very rarely eat bread.

There are many alternatives to refined sugar, one of which is Rapadura. After reading about this wonderful alternative, I wished I could buy it here in Australia. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that Rapadura is being imported by the company who imports Rapunzel Organic Chocolate. Since I follow my parents' lead and ban all refined sugars from my house, I am ecstatic to be able to occasionally offer biscuits and sweets made with Rapadura to our kids.

What is Rapadura?

Historically, sugar was made by pressing the juice from the cane and boiling away the water. The product retained its critical vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients.

With industrialisation came new ways to employ less people, the new sugar technology was born. Now sugar was made by dividing the cane juice into two subtances; ultra-refined, 99.6% pure sucrose and nutrient-dense molasses which was fed to animals. The sucrose portion is easily dried, stores for longer, pours easier and transports easier, making it more economical in terms of human labour and wastage. Modern manufacture of sugar from cane juice also employs a potpourri of chemicals such as sulphur dioxide, lime, phosphoric acid, bleaching agents & viscosity reducers.

What refined crap can I cook with todayThis new type of sugar was marketed well. It was white, a very important colour to the growing western middle class mid-last century. To have white goods, white flour, white sliced bread, white gloves was the height of social success. By the mid 1950s it was considered shameful if your mother made her own brown bread or you had an old fashioned ice box.

Unfortunately white sugar ? any refined sugar ? creates havoc within our bodies and like anything refined, it is highly addictive. Once refined, sugar is no longer a food, it is a drug. And today, most of the western world is addicted. (One wonders if the supermarket chains would stay in business without pushing it.)

Rapadura along with a traditional indian medicine called Jaggery, are the only sweeteners made from sugar cane that are not refined. They are squeezed, dried, and ground, that's it. The juice is not separated, dried and then reunited with its more nutritious counterpart (molasses) in artifcial proportions as are raw, brown and black sugar, demerara and sucanat.

Rapadura delivers vitamins, minerals and other trace elements as well as the sweet taste that all humans desire, and need. We have sweet taste buds for good reason. Sweet foods in nature provide us with high quality vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium. As long as we balance the sweet taste with the other four (sour, bitter, salty and pungent), according to chinese medicine, we will maintain good health.

Rapadura is made from organically grown sugar cane from Colombia and Brazil through fair trade programs. For this reason it is more expensive than other sugars which degrade our soils, our water, and our bodies not to mention the standard of living of the 3rd world farmers who grow the stuff. It's worth it to buy Rapadura from your local healthfood shop. You can buy it in bulk or packaged, in chocolate (Rapunzel) or drinks (Santa Cruz soft drinks), even the Ozganics range of sauces have dried cane juice.

Use it by substituting 1 for 1 with raw sugar in recipes using whole foods such as eggs, butter, cream and other whole milk products, nuts, coconut, arrowroot, fruit and eat the result knowing you are eating a whole food. It tastes mildly like toffee due to the molasses content. I have been known to eat Rapunzel chocolate for breakfast with a spoonful of raw cream and a glass of raw milk, no insulin spike and no need to eat again for hours. I wouldn't recomend this as a daily practice of course, just a bit of fun. Naturally sweetened foods should still only be eaten once or twice weekly. This is easy to achieve without a the chemical addiction eating sucrose develops.

Joanne Hay is the editor and major contributor for online Natural Health Magazine http://www.nourished.com.au - she is a Kinesiologist specializing in nutrition and a mother of three.

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