Sugar has become public enemy No. 1 lately, but the latest attempt to cut the sweet takes a surprising approach. Nestlé says it will cut the sugar in its candy by 40 percent by 2018 — but it'll all taste just a sweet. Is this some kind of a magic trick?
Maybe, if you believe in the magic of science. The new sugar strategy is a trick on the senses. Nestlé is formulating a new structure for sugar that releases more sweetness in the mouth and less in your digestive system.
"It is sugar," Dr. Stefan Catsicas, the company’s chief technology officer, reassured The New York Times. "But it is assembled differently, so it can disassemble easily in your mouth with less going into your gastrointestinal tract." He compares regular sugar to a shoebox made of sugar, filled with sugar. The new sugar is made of the same stuff, but is more of a globe shape — and then he declined to elaborate further because of the patent pending, and we're still thoroughly confused about how this sugar works. Shoebox? Globe? What?
Speaking for myself, I wish candy companies would be daring enough to reduce the regular sugar in their foods, period. The real problem, I think, is that the American palate is keyed way too sweet. Sugar is in everything because we expect it to be — it's in our salad dressing, our barbecue sauce, our hamburgers for crying out loud.
When I spoke with the creators of a popular new energy bar recently, I asked if they were thinking of creating a savory version. Nope. They said market testing showed people want their food sweet.
Keep in mind, also, that this new sugar formulation is only for Nestlé's candy. They say at this time you can't use it in soda (which is where we get most of our excess sugar) or other foods.
I'm also skeptical of this new approach to sugar because just about every other attempt to un-sugar sugar seems to come with some other harmful side effect. Why do we keep thinking we're going to find the golden get-out-of-diabetes-jail-free card without having to give up sweetness? Life is bitter, people! Get used to it!
Sorry. I'm ranting now.
Look, I'm happy for any changes that make food less harmful for us. But I'm not jumping up to high-five anyone any time soon. Yes, it's hard to turn the Big Ship Sugar around on a dime. This effort will have to happen through small, incremental, intelligent steps. But part of the solution, sorry people, is to stop expecting food to be so sweet. There's no escaping that. Food companies help every time they dare to reduce the sugar in their non-dessert foods.
In the meantime, this is yet another advantage you have when you buy less prepared foods and do your own cooking when you can. And I promise you, reduce the sweetness in your food and as you become used to it, you'll discover, little by little, that your food will start to taste better in a multitude of exciting different ways.
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