Sugar from the perspective of TCM - how to (really) sweeten life

Cukr dle tradiční čínské medicíny

“Europe is drowning in cheap sugar”... newspapers flood us with these and similar headlines in recent days. We can expect that sweets and candies will be even cheaper and more attractive ... How does Chinese medicine look at this “sweet flood”? Can life really be deadly sweet?

 

According to traditional Chinese medicine, sugar in its concentrated form has a huge yin and expanding effect. On the one hand, it brings relaxation to the body, but at the same time it carries with it excessive moisture and also weakens the spleen energy. Therefore, sugar should be substantially avoided by those dominated by moisture or have a weakened spleen.

 

“Refined” sugar

Sugar is really harmful in any form – whether pure and simple or contained in any product. At first glance, unrefined (brown) sugar gives a “healthier” impression. In reality, however, it differs from white only in its colour and higher content of minerals and trace elements. However, saccharose (a disaccharide composed of fructose and glucose) remains a basic element. It is stored in our liver as an “(un)needed” reserve substance (glycogen), and our body gains weight and loses freshness and internal passableness. We may not even realize it, but when we eat bread and follow with fruit juice and add some snacks from the fast food - there is sugar everywhere. The more (hidden) sugar we eat, the more we get used to it and subconsciously look for it. Then it is difficult to get out of such a vicious circle.

 

How to sweeten life

Fortunately, however, there are many other alternatives to sugar today, especially when we visit health food stores. You can choose, for example, barley malt (Sladěnka), date or plum syrup, etc. However, the universal rule always holds true (in the West and East): Keep within limits! It is ideal to perceive the natural sweetness of food and use sweetening only occasionally. If we are overloaded with sugar, then on the opposite side of the scale we have a number of so-called civilization diseases - from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. To avoid such outcomes, it is best to start gradually reducing sugar consumption – NOW!

 

Practical advice

If you're really addicted to sugar and can't imagine missing it in the most exuberant imagination, you can focus on the quality of the things you consume. We can recommend e.g. “raw chocolate”, which is made from unroasted cocoa beans. It is sweet due to natural syrups, it is non-pasteurized, gluten-free and lactose-free, hand-processed and the whole raw process is supervised by the highest BIO certification.

 

Sugar and natural sweeteners

Each of us has a “sweet tooth” and the sweet taste is something completely natural. If we treat ourselves with naturally sweet meals, or sometimes we add a good cake or quality dessert to a balanced diet, everything is fine. But if we thaw a semi-finished product in the microwave, drink a 2 litre of lemonade with dinner, then we cannot be surprised that, in “developed” countries, such a food intake can make life “deadly sweet”. 

 

Artificial sweeteners

At first glance, various foods promise us zero or very low calories. At the same time, they contain chemicals guaranteeing high sweetness. Among the nutritional experts, the prevailing opinion today is that such artificial sweeteners are harmful to health and, on the contrary, stimulate the habit of sweetening things. Scientific studies also show that these “sweetened” foods do not help to fight obesity at all. Ideally, we should therefore avoid them completely.

 

White bread

Simple sugars result in a number of adverse reactions in our metabolism. However, products made of white flour are similarly addictive and unhealthy. Therefore, it is most appropriate to limit consumption of both.  

 

Jaggery

It is dried cane juice and it is probably the most suitable variant among sugars. You can expect a darker colour and caramel flavour (thanks to molasses jaggery retains trace elements).

 

“Sladovit” and “Sladěnka”

Both are extracts of germinated cereals (barley) and, in addition to minerals and simple sugars, also contain compound sugars. “Sladěnka” tastes a little bit like honey and has a relatively strong aroma and taste (not everyone may like it). “Sladovit” is a loose extract of malt with a finer taste, that is why it is suitable, for example, for baking.

 

Rice, maple or agave syrup

In all cases, these are extracts of simple sugars with a significant amount of trace elements. It is therefore preferable to use them for sweetening rather than regular sugar. Because they contain more fructose, they are also recommended for diabetics. On the other hand, in the long run, higher fructose intake has similarly risky effects as saccharose (although this is done by other mechanisms).

 

Honey

Bees give us a unique blend of simple sugars with lots of trace elements, enzymes, and other healthy substances. It is certainly appropriate to use it in adequate amounts. Especially in the form of bee pollenroyal jelly or propolis. In children, however, we should only start with honey after the age of 3. Ideally we should buy honey directly from bee-keepers to avoid various undesirable substances due to unclear origin of the product (e.g. bees were treated with antibiotics, etc.).

 

Stevia

Plant containing naturally sweet glycosides. You can use the extract to sweeten cold meals or when you cook food. It will not harm health for sure - only increased consumption can also support the habit of sweetening.

 

Dry fruits

If you would like to treat small children with sweets, quality dried fruit is the best choice. We can either eat it directly, or soak it, mix it and use with bakery products, or as a topping.

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