Monthly Archives: September 2007

Healthy Tips to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

  • Snack on protein throughout the day. High protein foods can increase the sensation of “feeling full and helps to curb those sugar cravings.
  • Chew foods well before swallowing to bring out the natural sweetness of the food. Complex carbohydrates often taste sweeter when chewed.
  • Integrate sweet tasting vegetables into your diet. Jerusalem artichokes, beets, sugar peas, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes can all be healthy sweet substitutes to manage cravings.
  •  Increase your water intake between meals to increase the sensation of feeling full. Sometimes feelings of hunger are actually misinterpreted for signals that the body is dehydrated.
  • Consume at least 3 meals per day and do not skip meals. Begin each day with breakfast. Missing meals during the day can lead to overeating at night, and often the overeating of junk food. The body requires most of its fuel (calories) during the day to fuel physical activity and support mental capacities. Infrequent eating can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and sugar cravings.
  • Snack throughout the day. Overeating at one meal leads to a sensation of bloating and fullness, then a feeling of emptiness a few hours later. Keeping food in your stomach throughout the day will create a slightly full sensation in your stomach, when slightly full one is less likely to overeat and crave sugar.
  • Eat a piece of fruit, before indulging in a chocolate bar or sugary sweet. Fruit sugars do not affect blood sugar fluctuations like sucrose (white sugar) and the fiber content will help to fill you up.
  •  Introduce variety to your taste buds. Cultivate an appreciation for slightly bitter foods and cut down the amount of sugar and sweeteners used in baking. Over time ones taste buds will become accustomed to less sweet flavors.
  • Substitute an alternative pleasure. The best way to break any habit, including a food craving, is to substitute a healthier option. If emotions trigger overeating or eating of sweets, then identify what conditions trigger your cravings, such as boredom, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and commit to other ways to perk yourself up. Try exercise, a hobby, music, or just close your eyes for a few minutes and visualize something that relaxes you before going back to your every day tasks.
  • Weekend treats. If you mentally resists giving up certain foods, eventually you will eventually give in and fall back into past habits. Instead, just cut down on how frequently and how much you eat and explore substituting some alternatives, such as low fat sorbet and dried fruit. Eventually, as your body learns to identify the difference between super sweet foods and foods containing less sugar, you will begin to crave what’s good for you and many sweet foods will seem far too rich.
  • When your taste buds need a sweet fix, try adding Stevia Leaf into a brewing herbal tea. Or alternatively Stevia can be purchased in a concentrate powder or liquid form and used in baking instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Stevia does not cause blood sugar fluctuations and it doesnot carry any of the health concerns that surround artificial sweeteners. For more information on artificial sweeteners click on the link!

The Amazon Jungle

At the dock, we catch our speedboat to head down the Amazon River; a freighter like tanker was also transporting people traveling to various villages… a very different kind of transportation, hammocks appeared to be the visible option for lying down, looped up and tied in the main foyer, perhaps enough hammocks for 30 passengers. I was as fascinated by the boat, the sleeping quarters and the passengers, as they are of me.The Amazon River is muddy brown coloured, the strong smell of petrol and fish overpower my olfactory senses yet surprisingly, florescent bright pink dolphins also live in these waters and periodically show their bright colors framed against the grey backdrop.

At the edge of the jungle, the lush green of the foliage, heat and out-of-control humidity introduce me to ‘just the beginning’ of the rich jungle life…butterflies, crazy looking bugs, papaya trees, huge mounds of bananas, monkeys, roosters, chickens and foreign insects sporting florescent red, black, bright yellow and indian red colours (with intricate ancient designs on their wings) whiz by. Anthills and ant crossings, with some serious traffic congestion crossour path and huge brown mud-caked-like termite nests are spotted in the lush green tropical trees..

My translator and guide explains that termites are known by the villagers to have insect repellent properties and individuals that reside in the jungle often gather the termites on their arms and rub the insects right in to their skin (apparently, I am told, the termites do not bite humans!). The locals also believe that eating termites is a good treatment for a sore throat. That is a traditional remedy that I will not be trying!

Lunch at the jungle lodge is simple yet delicious…cerviche, camu camu juice (a subtle pink juice, refreshing like our lemonade, but naturally sweet) fried plantains (maduro), steamed yucca, heart of palm (or palmito), rice and beans… a guitarist plays Spanish ballads and traditional Andean tunes…

The jungle is alive with sounds…nature’s orchestra…completely alive and pulsating to its own rhythm… I stop to think, if man believes he has dominance over nature, has mastered and can exert controlover mother earth, then he should spenda night in the jungle!

The Life Force here is awesome, trees are known to slowly move their roots in the direction of moisture and shift their towering tree trunks towards the light and some particularly sensitive jungle plants actually recoil at the contact of a foreign human hand. Then there are the jungle sounds…chirping, cawing, trilling, cooing, a low pitched growling…an endless chatter of community. WOW! Man is but a tiny force (and small voice) compared to the majestic, pulsating life force and strength of voice found in the jungle.

We visit an animal reserve: anacondas, toucans, monkeys, rattlesnakes and alligators. I pick up a tiny alligator, about 2 feet long in length from head to toe…what a nice pet. : )

 I fall in love with a sloth (perhaps one of the slowest animal species in existence), a relatively uninspired-looking koala bear type, with huge friendly eyes and a permanent half grin on its face. Being a vegetarian, it becomes all too evident that the sloths only focus is on eating leaves, which it inhales with great speed compared to all other slow, plodding movements.

After picking one up and petting her wiry, wig-like pelt, I set the sloth back down on the ground; taking advantage of her getaway moment, she begins to move in very slow-motion, arms and legs branched out like a spiders….her half crawling motion is slower than a turtle.

Jungle Markets of Iquitos- Peru

An early morning walk into the market of Iquitos (known to Peruvians as the City of Love), the entrance to the Amazon Jungle; the market area is known in tourist guide books as the’slums’ of Belen but I prefer to think ofthis charming districtas the magical ‘floating city’ of Belen….the community is buzzing with life, morning chatter, live animals and fresh produce of all sorts and colours.

There are 2 seasons in Iquitos, the wet season, or more accurately named, the high water season and the dry season or low water season. Depending largely on the snow melting and the amount of rainfall in the Andean mountains.

In Belen, single room homes with palm tree roofs are built on either basala logs, which float as the water rises, or homes built on stilts to prevent flooding during the rainy or “wet” season; there is no running water or electricity in Belen….

I learn that in the high water season, as the water floods the muddy river banks, Belen is transformed to a floating city; families here typically have 2 canoes which they use to travel from their stilt homes…1 canoe for the parents and the other canoe for the small children, to boat to school.

Wandering into the marketplace, definitely the heart of the city, bustling with life at 6:30 am…WOW….papayas, pineapple, fried plantains, huge avocados and yams the size of an adult thigh, enormous soup pots simmering on open fires, live catfish (cara chama) in wicker baskets and a little old lady singing while twisting the necks of the fish…freshly pressed juices, condiments and powdered herbs stored in plastic bags…

I find the people in the market to be warm, friendly, happy spirits who, of course, are very curious. I doubt that many had ever seen a camera before, let alone seen their picture on a digital camera. After asking permission to take photos, I show them their pictures captured on camera; the results were warm smiles, laughter, looks of surprise and glee. Many women gestured to have pictures taken of their friends and one stall merchant demanded the camera be brought over his way, insisting that his picture be taken also.


Then I find my dream… I turn a corner into a narrow side street and discover the herb market district! Pasaje Paquito. Herbal Medicine of all forms, cats claw, ginger, cinnamon, cactus bulk herbs, tonics, bottles, potions… dried powders and various jungle medicines….

I befriend an herb merchant and his son. He invites me into his small outdoor stall and shows me myrrh gum, paulo santo (a fragrant resinous wood which is burned as incense), potions and amulettes de amore * love potions…

I show the herb merchant my insect bites, memories of some foreign insect attack; the bites still very swollen and red on my leg… he rushes off to find an herbal ointment which he smears on my calf… instantly I feel relief and purchase his ointment…a great interaction / my leg has not felt this good in 4 days!

I later discover that families who live in the Amazon jungle or who fish in the Amazon river can travel up to 1 week in tiny wooden boats (sometimes with 4-5 children on the small boat), camping on the banks of the Amazon river at night -the destination is the large market in Iquitos where theysell their wares, often crates of live fish, bananas, heart of palm or yams.