By Betsy Bruns
The evolution of the sweet tooth is thought to be centered around the idea that, over generations, we have linked a sweet taste with high-energy foods, which would have helped our ancestors survive.
Sourcing foods with high energy density meant less time foraging for food. It’s been observed that our ability to taste or to perceive “sweet” is weaker than our ability to perceive “bitter”. The perception of “bitter” is thought to be an evolutionary strategy of quickly identifying plants that contain potentially harmful toxins (produced as secondary plant compounds). This evolved into a low tolerance to “bitter” and a higher tolerance to “sweet” — which might have encouraged our ancestors to actively seek out sweet-tasting foods.
When that sweet tooth comes calling, visions of sugar plums don’t typically dance in our head. It’s usually cheesecake, brownies, or ice cream.
In the modern world, if struck with a sweet craving, eating an apple or orange may seem more like a punishment than a reward. But if we have a better understanding of how our bodies respond to what we consume, we can use this knowledge to empower us to make healthy swaps that result in feeling gratified instead of penalized. Consider if one is truly hungry (the kind of deep pang in the gut that is almost painful), that a handful of raisins would be nirvana. So if fruit doesn’t seem satisfying, you may be experiencing withdrawals from processed sugar or carbs instead of true hunger.
When it comes to processed foods, what we eat today we will crave tomorrow. Why? Because white sugar and white flour create an addictive response in the neurotransmitters of the brain. When consumed, feel good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin flood the blood stream. Once those are gone, the body sends out a signal for more in the form of a craving.
Whole foods, like fruit on the other hand, nourish the body and will not overly activate an addictive response. For example, have you ever gorged on apples? Likely not, as we tend to eat whole foods in moderation and not overeat them because the addictive response is not triggered.
What makes eating fruit even sweeter, is the health benefits that eating it brings. In 2012, a study involving 500 researchers in 50 countries on the leading causes of death and disease was published. It was reported that here in the U.S., our biggest killer was our diet, and the number one risk was not eating enough fruit. Around the world, low fruit intake was estimated to be responsible for nearly 5 million deaths a year.
While you can get your daily fruit by eating it right off the vine, you can also whip it up into delicious desserts or appetizers that you just might dream about.
Banana Ice Cream
This recipe is incredibly easy to make and so good for you. Bananas are a significant source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and prebiotics. Prebiotics feed probiotics, which are the good bacteria found in your gut. Bananas can help to improve yeast and urinary tract infections (UTIs), treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and reduce lactose intoleranceand allergy symptoms.
Makes 2 servings
4 peeled and frozen ripe bananas cut into chunks
Place frozen bananas into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy, with a consistency resembling soft-serve ice cream. Ad splashes of plant-based milk if needed to process. Feel free to mix in your favorite flavorings such as cocoa powder, cinnamon, fruit, or nut butter.
Vegan “Taffy Apple” Grapes
A friend brought taffy apple grapes made with melted white chocolate to a 4th of July party, and I had to try one. They were delicious and tasted just like a caramel apple. I knew I needed to create a version that was whole food plant-based and just as dreamy. This hits the mark according to my taste testers.
The star element of this simple treat is the date-based caramel sauce. Dates have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. You won’t find that in white chocolate. Dates can help prevent chronic inflammation due to the high phenolic content. Their high fiber and phenolic content can also aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and help regulate the immune system.
2 cups soft pitted dates (soak in warm water first if dates are hard and stiff)
1 can lite coconut milk (1 to 1.5 cups of other plant milk can be substituted, but caramel may not be as thick)
½ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
2 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add dates, coconut milk, salt, tapioca, and vanilla to high-speed blender or food processer and blend to a thick and creamy consistency. This will make a lovely caramel sauce, and you will have plenty extra for a fruit dip or to top oatmeal or banana ice cream.
Spear grapes with toothpicks, dip into caramel sauce and roll in the chopped nuts. You can serve immediately, or chill, or freeze.
Recipe and photo by Betsy Bruns
Recipe and photo PCRM
Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food or helping clients tap away stress and cravings with EFT, she’s soaking up nature and dreaming of ways to make life more delicious for all beings. Visit www.Vegsetter.com.