For those of us doing the Sugar Free Challenge this week, we can feel like we are giving up a big part of our diets. It limits us. But we need to understand that white sugar is a new phenomenon. Leaving out white sugar and white flour is hardly extraordinary. Then again, it may be extraordinary in our culture considering that most of the food in the store contains it. But in light of history, we are simply going back to how people used to eat.
According to my dear friend, Wikipedia.
“During the eighteenth century, sugar became enormously popular. Britain, for example, consumed five times as much sugar in 1770 as in 1710.About 1750 sugar surpassed grain as “the most valuable commodity in European trade — it made up a fifth of all European imports and in the last decades of the century four-fifths of the sugar came from the British and French colonies in the West Indies.” The sugar market went through a series of booms. The heightened demand and production of sugar came about to a large extent due to a great change in the eating habits of many Europeans. For example, they began consuming jams, candy, tea, coffee, cocoa, processed foods, and other sweet victuals in much greater numbers.”
In the eighteenth century we saw the beginning of our current typical American diet. When you think of the length of history, we really haven’t had sugar that long. Before that point, sugar cane was used in India, but it took a long time to figure out how to refine it. Refined sugar is the new boy on the block, and it hasn’t had a good reputation ever since it came into the picture!
So, how did people used to eat? I thought the following quote from my husband’s book, 1066: The Year of the Conquest, by David Howarth very enlightening. It speaks of what people had around that time period (1066 A.D.).
” Nor were there many luxuries money could buy. The rich had more food, more drink, and more elegant clothes, but not much more variety. They depended like everyone else on the native products of England – bread, meat, butter and eggs, dried fish in Lent and on Fridays, nothing sweet except honey and the local fruit when it was ripe. Once in a while, perhaps, they acquired a bale of silk or some spices, cloves or pepper, brought at enormous cost along the ancient roads of Asia and through the length of Europe.
Honey and fruit in season. That was about it. They did have sweet food for their sweet tooth, but it wasn’t in so much excess like it is today. It simply wasn’t available.
Now, if you look at any packaged food, it’s very hard to find anything that does not have sugar, corn syrup, or white flour. When we try to cut these things out of our diet, we can be viewed as extreme because in our culture, we are extremely overloaded with these foods. “You can’t eat anything!” ” It doesn’t matter that much.” “You shouldn’t be too extreme”. These are some of the comments one should expect when trying to avoid “normal” American food.
That’s when it’s important to remember, that history is on our side. Avoiding the pitfalls of sugar is not an extreme step, it’s simply turning the clocks back to a more simple, and more nourishing lifestyle.
So, for the many people doing the Sugar Free Challenge this week. Be encouraged that you are not doing a bizarre, extreme action by taking out sugar. Instead, enjoy the food that has been relished for thousands of years while being naturally sugar free.
Questions for Discussion:
1-Do we tend to think of sugar as a “right”- Do we feel deprived when we don’t have it?
2-Do we feel “extreme” when we take out refined foods? How does this effect us socially?
3-How is everyone on the challenge doing so far?