Verne Varona’s Top Ten Sugar Craving Strategies

The following could be individual or collective reasons for sugar cravings. Read each suggestion and notice how it applies to your eating or lifestyle. Reducing your desire or addiction for sugar should not require Herculean will power. Becoming conscious of the physiological and lifestyle factors that stimulate sugar cravings should make taming your sweet tooth a piece of cake–so to speak…

1. REDUCE SALT & PRODUCTS WITH SALT The need for dietary salt from natural sources (sun-dried sea salt) is dependent on several factors; a lack of salt can cause fatigue, stimulate a desire to overeat and often result in a craving or animal protein. However, with the availability of good quality sea salt, miso paste, tamari soy sauce and natural pickles, it’s quite easy to overdose. Thirst and a craving for sweet foods is one of the most reliable indicators of excess dietary salt.

2. REDUCE ANIMAL PROTEINThe standard four basic food group propaganda was force-fed to the American public along with the myth that animal protein should be a dietary staple. The meat and potatoes mentality has to re-think its philosophy since established research shows excess animal protein can lead to colon and prostate cancer. If this applies to you eat less in volume (2 to 4 ounce servings) and limit it to three to four times per week (maximum), as opposed to daily.

3. REDUCE FOOD VOLUME Overeating leads to fatigue and sluggishness. This makes a stimulant like sugar (or coffee) more appealing. Eating more frequently will allow you to reduce overeating with a minimum of effort.

4. EAT MORE FREQUENTLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY One of the most common reasons for sugar cravings–especially at night. By skipping meals or waiting long periods you stop supplying your blood with glucose. The blood sugar drops and by the time you finally get around to eating, you’re going nuts for simple sugar. You’re also likely to end up overeating or craving something fatty as a compensation for sugar. Initially, don’t wait more than 31/2 to 4 hours between meals.

5. AVOID EATING PRIOR TO BED If your body’s digesting when it requires much needed rest, you’ll require more sleep, dream excessively and find it difficult awakening with alertness. Good deep sleep will result in wide-awake days. Eating to close to bedtime creates a groggy awakening craving the stimulation of sugar (or caffeine) the following morning. Eat a light evening dinner at least 21/2 to three hours before retiring.

6. AVOID SUGAR This might sound obvious, however, continuing to eat simple sugars results in a falling blood sugar. This stimulates a need for more sugar and the cycle continues. Even though fruit is a simple sugar, switching to fruit instead of sugar is a good first step. Eat the skin of the fruit as well since fiber slows blood sugar elevation.

7. EXERCISE MODERATELY, BUT CONSISTENTLY Daily aerobic exercise will increase circulation and strengthen will power. Brisk walking, biking, light jogging, etc. naturally increases sensitivity to the effects of sugar. Try to get 20 to 30 minutes of some type of pleasurable exercise at least 5 times per week. Enjoy this. It should not be a chore.

8. EMPHASIZE NATURAL WHOLE COMPLEX-CARBOHYDRATES If your daily diet is includes whole grains (brown rice, oats, millet, barley, etc.), vegetables (roots, greens and round vegetables such as squashes, cabbages, etc.) as a primary fuel, you’ll find you automatically crave less sugar. Emphasizing sweet vegetables such as carrots, cooked onions, corn, cabbage, parsnips, squashes, etc., adds a natural sweetness to meals. Introduce some sea vegetables (aka “seaweeds”) for much needed minerals to enrich blood.

9. DON’T SUPPRESS FEELINGS This doesn’t mean you have to broadcast every feeling–only those that matter and to those who really matter to you. Food indulgence, especially with sweets, is a convenient way to anesthetize feelings. Sugar can consume you with sensory pleasure, temporarily providing mental relief from whatever might be stressful. However, sweets can hinder energy levels and mental clarity so in the long run your emotional coping ability becomes compromised.

10. BEWARE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL TRIGGERS The many psychological associations we connect with food have a powerful influence. Beware of family associations, movie rituals, familiar restaurants, childhood habits, etc.

Naturally Sweet Holidays

Healthy alternatives to refined sugar abound. Several natural sweeteners even add some nutrients. Maple syrup contains calcium and potassium, while blackstrap molasses offers calcium and iron, for example. Found in natural products stores, grain-based liquid sweeteners, including amasake from rice, rice syrup, barley malt, and sorghum syrup contain some of the nutrients found in whole grains. Fermenting bacteria in these sweeteners convert grain starches into simple and complex sugars.

Nutty Caramelcorn (Macrojacks)

8 cups organic popped corn (around 1/2 cup before popping)
¼ cup almonds, chopped
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup peanuts
¼ cup raisins
½ to 2/3 cup brown rice syrup
Olive oil (to oil the baking pan and pop the corn)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well until the rice syrup covers everything nicely. If the rice syrup is too sticky, heat it up first or it will crush the popcorn as you are trying to mix the ingredients. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, and watch carefully so that it does not burn. Let cool to harden, about 5 minutes, before removing with a spatula. Soak baking sheet in hot water to remove the hardened sweetener, about 5 minutes.

Utensils: pan to pop corn, baking sheet, wooden spoon, measuring cups

Variations: Substitute puffed or flaked cereals, or crumbled rice cakes for part of the popcorn.

Improving Allergies with a Macrobiotic Diet

When we fill our bodies with toxins and extreme foods, our bodies are unable to detoxify. Suddenly, our body becomes imbalanced and unable to ward off disease.

When a person becomes ill, it means some imbalance can be found in the body. Our bodies can only stand so much before they break down. When we eat things that are unsuitable for us, the body reacts with sneezes, coughing, hives, mucus, diarrhea, vomiting, skin eruptions and anaphylactic shock in its effort to dispel toxins. The more toxins built up, the stronger the reaction will be.

The good news is that balance can be restored by changing one’s diet.

An excessive intake of the following items can increase a person’s susceptibility to allergies:

  • dairy products
  • oily and greasy foods
  • poultry and eggs (especially for skin allergies)
  • refined flour
  • fruits and their juices (especially tropical fruits)
  • sugar, honey, soft drinks
  • fish (especially blue-skin fish for skin allergies)
  • raw foods
  • spices
  • drugs and chemicals

Eating macrobiotically is more than just using health foods. It’s an expression of our respect for nature and our harmony with her. When we change our diets, suddenly all these things that have been the enemy, like cat and dog fur, freshly cut grass, or trees in bloom no longer put our bodies under siege.

Here are several suggestions for allergies:

  1. Minimize oatmeal, flakes, and grits. Avoid baked flour products, especially those with yeast. If you crave bread, have some natural sourdough or unleavened bread on occasion. Stay away from pies, cakes, and pastries for now.
  2. Have miso soup or miso rice every day.
  3. Avoid raw foods in the beginning except good quality natural pickles.
  4. Minimize intake of oil, using it only for lightly sautéed vegetables once or twice a week, if you really desire it. Use dark sesame oil.
  5. Initially reduce your intake of beans and bean products, using smaller portions of the “regular use” beans (azuki, lentil, and chickpeas) only. Among bean products, tofu is the best to use.
  6. Be especially light on all salt seasonings including shoyu, miso, and umeboshi.
  7. Generally avoid nuts and nut or seed butters. Roasted seeds are alright to use.
  8. It’s best to stay away from fruit initially. If you crave it, eat a little bit of cooked, temperate climate, dried fruit. If you crave a sweet taste, first try satisfying it by eating naturally sweet vegetables such as squash, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, etc. You can prepare delicious desserts using grain-based sweeteners, chestnuts, and other non-fruit ingredients. Then, if you still crave an even sweeter taste, eat the fruit.
  9. Minimize animal food, take only white meat fish, once or twice a week at the most and only if you truly desire it.
  10. Avoid spices (including mustard, pepper, and curry).
  11. Make sure to include both lightly cooked foods and well-cooked foods daily.
  12. Good digestion is very important, so it is imperative to chew very well.
  13. Pay particular attention to vigorously scrubbing your body with a hot damp towel once a day for good circulation.

For specific allergies such as hay fever, asthma, hives, eczema, food, and chemical allergies, see a macrobiotic counselor and take cooking lessons to learn specific home remedies and recipes that will improve your condition. From Allergies: Cooking for Health Macrobiotic Food and Cooking Series by Aveline Kushi

tempeh crab cakes

tempeh crab cakes
Originally uploaded by macro808

The new cookbook from Eric and Sanae (Love, Eric and Sanae) has some really yummy looking food in it, so this was an additional recipe that I experimented with over the weekend. The topping is a sundried tomato and basil aioli sauce. I put my hijiki dish over fresh tatsoi from the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Kapi’olani Community College drizzled with some shiitake vinaigrette.

cinnamon rolls

cinnamon rolls
Originally uploaded by macro808

So the raisins I had sitting on my counter fermented into this bubbly stuff. Very fascinating to watch!! I kneaded the dough and let it rise overnight, but it may have needed a warmer spot so that it could have risen a bit more. I also forgot to add the cinnamon (ha ha) and may have left them in the oven a pinch too long, but they still tasted good. It’s always good to try something new and then next time around, I will make them better!

Trying some fermentation

When I went to the KI this summer, I finally purchased this great book about fermenting (Wild Fermentation I think it’s called) that everyone raves about, with recipes for things like honey wine, kimchee, amazake, and much more. I also received this amazing book called Macrobiotic Breads and Sweets as a gift from a Japanese friend last summer that I decided to finally delve into. Deco Nakajima, the author, provides the recipes in English as well as Japanese, and many of the breads are started with traditional starters. So I have a bottle of raisins and water sitting on my counter that I open once a day for 2 to 4 days, and then I will make it either into a raisin loaf (hard crusty bread baked in the oven with a brick) or perhaps some azuki bean and raisin cinnamon rolls. We’ll see. I’m excited to try these new methods that I’ve not yet explored. Hopefully, I can post a picture if it’s successful!! There is also a recipe for mugwort and azuki bean bagles. That sounds soooo good. Not sure where to buy powdered mugwort around Hawaii though.