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It’s 3 in the afternoon, and you are in the office. After half a day of intensive number crunching, research, and meetings, you start feeling tired and bored.
At this moment, your work bestie comes by, handing you a cookie.
Yum, this gets you excited! But you know you sort of have some discipline to follow.
So within the next 2 minutes, all you do is debating in mind: “should I have it, or not?”
Eventually, you think “I’ll just indulge once.” And within minutes, the cookie is down in your stomach.
Usually, the story doesn’t stop here.
After having that first cookie, a thought comes up: “since I’ve already broken the rule for today, I’ll just forget about the disciplines for now and start over tomorrow.”
Then you ask your bestie for another, or walk to the fully loaded, colorful vending machine conveniently standing at the corner, crying for dollars.
How many time did it happen when you can’t talk yourself out of enjoying a piece of sweetness?
The question makes your stomach churn.
The truth is, the level of sugar consumption in America is a world wonder just like the Niagara Fall.
According to Euromonitor, the average American eats 126.4g sugar per day. That’s close to 5 times of the amount eaten by an average person in China (28.3g). The American Heart Association recommends a woman to have 25g sugar a day, men 35g.
Just to be clear, “sugar” means those added sugar here.
And the consequence of the ultra-high sugar intake on the country level? 70% obesity rate.
You might be battling with sugar craving day in and day out too.
And I’m gonna tell you one thing, which can end this nightmare NOW, without self-deprivation.
EAT BITTER FOODS.
Don’t feel tricked yet. The truth is you are eating many bitter foods and probably loving them now, including cauliflower, bitter melon, lime, grapefruit, broccoli, orange, Chinese herbal tea, arugula, olives, Brussel sprouts, sweet potato, cranberries, and kale.
Except for one or two of them that might be a bit exotic, most are closely accessible in any supermarkets and grocery stores.
They are considered bitter foods for the bitter elements in their flavor. And bitter, besides yummy, can help you naturally lose weight and forget your sugar craving.
“Unbelievable! Yet how can you be sure about it?” — You ask.
At tell you my story first, then the science story later so that you get to see it from different perspectives.
As I mentioned before, I grew up eating a lot of home-cooked foods with a great variety of vegetables and fruits.
One of them has been particularly off-putting to me – the bitter melon. When eaten alone, the melon was so bitter that I dreaded it almost like the medicine (medicine in China weren’t sugarcoated as much).
But my parents persistently cooked it twice a week because of my grandma who lived with us and had high blood sugar at that time.
Bitter Melon Cooked With Fermented Beans – My Mom’s Most Delicious Bitter Melon Dish.
Many Chinese know that the bitter melon was the remedy for lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol. The belief comes from the millennia-old Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) scripts that have been relied upon and tested by generations and generations for thousands of years.
Luckily, my mom – like most moms in China – had a way to make it mouthwatering. In fact, when cooked right and paired with the right ingredients, the melon gives such a calming feel, and the bitter tastants, which become subtle all in sudden, can enhance the flavors and aroma of the entire dish!
Most surprisingly, I could feel that I didn’t desire candies anymore. And it was so memorable because my mom would always joke with me when passing by the candy aisle in the stores: “once we pass this aisle, we aren’t coming back. Think twice.” Then I’d still move ahead.
This super power of bitter melon, as I slid back into the Chinese-style eating when I was naturally losing weight, reappeared glaringly.
And not to mention my grandma’s blood sugar were lowered.
Much later, Organic Authority published this article that summarized benefits of bitter melons.
Other than the bitter melon, another bitter food that I have every-day experience with is the herbal tea.
How do I use bitterness to combat my sugar craving on the daily basis?
Well, many ways. You can include them in the dish you make, or use them to make smoothies.
Amongst all, here’s my favorite: the “Teassert” technique.
In Asia, people aren’t strange with the idea of pairing herbal tea with a light dose of dessert, and we have a name for it – “teassert” (茶点）
The picture below was taken back in 2009 by the window in our living room in Nanjing. My dad and I loved having this small setup every Saturday afternoon by the view of the Qinhuai River – a city moss that was constructed around the old fortress at least 1600 years ago.
We would chat about everything – from life experience, health, history, culture, and new technologies to the Taoism philosophy (Lao Tzu from 5th Century BC and late Dr. Wayne Dyer’s teaching), and the tea with the teassert had to be a part of every breezy, joyous conversation.
Each bite of teassert is followed by a few sips of the herbal tea. And the sweet, dissolved in the fragrance of the freshly made tea, never lingers.
Craving is out of sight.
Tea with teassert in Japanese setting.
Tea with teassert in Korean setting.
In fact, the “teassert” culture is all over East Asia. But if the benefits of bitter foods to curb sugar craving were just from my personal experience, I wouldn’t have devoted an entire section to this seemingly unusual idea.
And it didn’t take me long to see the meeting place among the ancient Chinese wisdom, the Western science, and my 31-year food and health experience and observations.
In 2013, a study called “A Spoonful of Bitter Helps the Sugar Response to Go Down” by researchers at University of Texas was published in Neuron – a leading Science publication.
This study showed how “the bitter tastants turn off the drive to consume sugar” through the suppression of the sugar neuron activity.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers not only once again confirmed bitter food inhibits sugar craving but also discovered on the deep level how both bitter-sensitive cells and sugar-sensitive cells played a role in it.
By then, bitter foods’ ability to put off sugar craving became not only an established argument but also a foregone conclusion.
And it doesn’t stop here.
In another 2013 study “Facial Affective Reactions To Bitter-Tasting Foods And Body Mass In Adults”, scientists confirmed that dislike of bitter foods is linked to higher body mass.
The research specifically looked at why people who are overweight or at the risk of becoming overweight eat differently than the thinner people.
The result validates the hypothesis that liking bitter-flavored foods means the tendency to eat a lot healthier foods.
There are many other studies around the similar topic with cohesive, consistent conclusions. And if you are interested, check out the NIH (National Institute of Health) site to have a look.
P.S. Tea and teasserts can both help you slim down naturally. To know how to correctly use tea to lose weight, visit my post The Best Green Tea Tips for Losing 24 In A year Naturally.