We love sugar. The sweetness it brings us is heavenly. But sugar could also be dangerous to our health. We all know that it’s always beneficial to reduce sugar intake for our health. But it’s hard to do so because we tend to believe that more sugar means more deliciousness, and it increases satisfaction. Sugar is such a big source of joy that it’s too painful to give up.
But is it true? Does more sugar deliver deliciousness and make us happy? Maybe not. David Zinchenko’s “Zero Belly Diet” gives you a not so-friendly perspective on excess food, including sugar:
Eating too much causes a shift in the way our genes behave – and triggers a vicious cycle, in which more belly fat you gain, the harder it is for you to stop eating.
In his more recent book, “Zero Sugar Diet,” he encourages us to see excess sugar as an “enemy,” like a deadly virus. It is so because bad bacteria in our gut feeds off sugar, propagates and can ruin the health of our digestive system and affect the microbial community.
This is scary. Whereas the right amount of sugar is a great source of energy and happiness, it can suddenly become toxic and capable of damaging our digestive system, if we ignore the threshold and continue eating it.
How does that happen?
One of the reasons is because our body was not designed to ingest so much sugar. For 99.99999% of the past 100,000 years of history, humans have lived with no refined sugar. Refined sugar was virtually non-existent in the world until Europeans started a sugar cane plantation in the Caribbean Islands in the 15th century. Although 600 years seems a long time, our body evolves at a much, much slower pace.
The same is true for wheat, although it has a longer history than sugar. Therefore it’s not surprising that some of us are allergic or intolerant to sugar and/or wheat. And it’s not surprising either that our digestive system can be confused and messed up when we take in too much sugar. Since neither sugar nor wheat existed when our body was originally designed, it’s unrealistic to expect it to handle them perfectly.
It’s as if you are trying to run Minecraft on an old, small Windows 95 computer: since the computer was not designed to run a big game app, it can use up its CPU memory immediately and completely freeze. We all know how the CPU usage reaches almost 100% in a second when a computer is ovewhelmed. The same thing can happen to our body when too much sugar is ingested into it.
When your body gets confused, it can start sending the wrong signals, such as “it’s not enough; I need to eat more.” When this happens you may well be eating sugar not because it’s delicious and makes you happy, but simply because it is tricking your body system. And it can happen rather easily. If you want sweets, even when you are not hungry, sugar may be already controlling you. How do we stop this?
There are many diet books you can follow, including Zinchenko’s, which are focused on health benefits of cutting out sugar. But you can also consider changing your eating habits as a way to re-define your own standard for “deliciousness.”
Given the fact that humans have lived without sugar for most of their history, our taste buds are still very capable of finding deliciousness from far less amounts of sugar. It’s just a matter of re-training and re-tuning our taste buds, which have been pampered and numbed from too much “guilty” food.
Sticking to “deliciousness” will make your diet a bit easier because you don’t have to be torn apart between the pleasure and guilt of eating sugar. By simply re-adjusting your deliciousness standard, you can automatically synchronize the pleasure of eating sugar and the healthy amount of sugar intake. There is no “giving up” component in it.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to re-adjust the deliciousness standard. I grew up in Japan eating food that used much less sugar, compared to the American standard. But the food with much less sugar never bothered me; it simply helped me train my taste buds so that they could find deliciousness in food with a low sugar content. Japanese food is usually considered healthy, but it’s also considered sensible and delicious. Healthy food can also be delicious – there are no trade-offs. Believe me, less sugar is definitely more delicious – once your taste buds are trained.
The easiest way to experiment with the effect of sugar subtraction on deliciousness is to stay away from sugar for a week. (If that’s too long, try three days.) Then try sweets with a low sugar content, compared to your standard. Now that your taste buds are cleansed, aroused and concentrated from the detox effect, they should be able to detect any hint of deliciousness even from a small amount of ingredients. You will be surprised how much joy you can get from “less.”