Sunday, March 14, 2010
Stevia Sweet Sips
In classical Indian cooking, six tastes are recognized, and every meal will have some of each (in different proportions based on body type and other variables): sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent.
Sweet is what I want to talk about. It's good to know that sweet is necessary; not evil. If you try to cut out all sweetness from your diet it will be counter-productive.
Ayurveda is classical Indian wellness science; it teaches that food is how we sustain (or undermine) wellness in the body. Iyengar tells us in Light on Life (written after a lifetime of study and practice when he was past 80) that "annamaya" is the first layer of material self, sustained by food, making up the food body, corresponding to the earth and water of planets. This is old stuff - he didn't make it up (he just lived it his whole life and wrote about it in English, bless him.)
But people's attraction to sweet-tasting foods is so strong, wired from baby-hood, that it's easy to be caught and misled by sweet tastes. For instance, we already know that refined sugars are addictive. Thanks, reader Rebekah for helping us understand that from your perspective.
But there are many ways to include sweetness in your healthy diet that are non-addictive and appropriate to your nutritional needs.
Here are just a few: fruit, meat, grains, nuts, milk, sweet potatoes and white potatoes, hard squashes, beets, carrots, teas. Fruits - dried, fresh, and juice - can be used lots of ways.
The pineapple - papaya - strawberry blender juice drink described in my last post is a rewarding blast of fruit sugar when you need a boost - you'll feel like you must have been very good to deserve such a treat.
Here are three other "sweet sips" for your satisfaction. They use the naturally sweet additive stevia, which is sold as a powder in health food stores; I buy it in packets. Stevia is a product made from the "sweet leaf" plant, which can grow in Texas (I've seen it and tasted the leaf - it's sweet.)
1.) Hibiscus tea: sour, sweet, astringent
Dried culinary hibiscus flowers are sold by the bag in Mexican grocery stores under the name "Jamaica." Pour boiling water over three or four of the buds to make three cups; they steep easily and create a very rich tea. Sweeten with a packet of stevia (I use one packet per cup, then add more tea when I've drunk about half a cup.)
2.) Tamarind tea: sour, sweet
3.) Sweet Almond Milk: sweet
Add a few drops of almond extract to a cup of low fat or skim milk. Sweeten with a packet of stevia. For a refreshing cold treat, put it in the blender with a few ice cubes and make a shake.
Also: When you're out and want a treat, Starbucks has a great one. Try a low-fat or fat-free "steamer," which is milk frothed up with steam, with a sugar-free flavoring. My favorite is hazelnut. I can't recommend artificially sweetened foods, but I must admit they fit my lifestyle sometimes.
P.S. The top photo of the stevia plant is from wikipedia.