As a holistic nutritionist who works with men and women from around the world trying to revamp their health through simple lifestyle changes, one thing I KNOW to be true is that not one of us is alone in our food addiction. Not one.
I’m telling you, even the clients I have who assure me they absolutely do not harbor a love for sugar (or cheese, or bread) are eventually surprised by how hard it is to part with their regular lunchtime 20 oz. Dr. Pepper and Subway sandwich.
Thanks to my undergraduate study of psychology, the withdrawal effects my body experienced upon choosing to give up sugar for 9 months after my cancer diagnosis came as no surprise. After all, I was familiar with sugar’s effect on the brain—I had read the study about drug-addicted lab mice choosing sugar over cocaine and understood the nature of our brain’s “reward center”—I was, however, surprised by the other biological reactions my body experienced… Namely, the experience of my “untreatable” chronic illnesses (which I had been plagued with for 10+ years) disappearing…
And let me tell ya…watching my body come back to life after years of being severely limited by a slew of mystery illnesses was a joy unlike any other. To put it in perspective, I’d say it caused a reaction within similar to that of these kids on Christmas . . . x100. For real though, running my first mile after being forced to quit sports (and eventually becoming nearly bed ridden) due to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) was one of the happiest moments of my life…and I have holistic nutrition to thank.
I know—without a shred of doubt—that I harbor an intense love (and addiction) for sugar. For the 9 months I went without, I felt it, and the moment sugar hit my lips again, I felt it even more.
Today I keep this addiction under control simply by practicing good ol’ fashioned self-control. And no, I don’t do this because I’m afraid of “wearing my dessert on my hips” (I happen to love my “celebration” hips—reminders of all the great nights I’ve spent sipping wine and enjoying sweet treats with loved ones) or because I believe all dessert is unhealthy. I do it because I know if I don’t, I’m going to lose control, eat an entire chocolate cake, and feel pretty terrible afterwards.
Point blank: the strong health I enjoy today is dependent upon the self-control I practice (in a lot of areas of life, not simply sugar alone), so yes, I practice self-control around sugar daily. . . hourly. . . RIGHT NOW (as I stare at the plate of brownies I just photographed for this post). Yes, sometimes I fall short and cross over my boundaries, but overall, I do a pretty good job of staying “in line”. Oh, and yes, I totally, 150% still enjoy dessert on the regular and believe you should too.
Life is sweeter with celebration, and celebration is sweeter with sugar.
So…when it comes to my personal food addictions, chocolate EVERYTHING is on my list. In fact, my list contains nothing but chocolate desserts. At the top of my chocolatey food addiction list? Youuuu guessed it. BROWNIES.
Why? Well, my personal belief stems from the story my mother told me growing up whenever she made us kiddos brownies (which means I heard it once a week): “When I was pregnant with you SaraBeth, I always craved brownies! So I made them all the time, and always ate an extra one just for you.”
In yoga they tell me the fetal position (a pose we end up in while transitioning from “Savasana” to seated position at the end of class) is comforting because it brings to mind memories of the womb . . . I say I’d rather eat a brownie.
So yeah, I love brownies. You get it, I know you do, and yet I feel obliged to continue on with more brownie stories . . . but alas, my “self-control” is kicking in (you’re welcome), so I’ll just move straight on to the point. Which is that for the past few months I’ve been on a quest to whip up the ULTIMATE batch of gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, added sugar-free, and STILL tastey brownies . . . and by golly I think I finally did it!
Wondering why THESE brownies are the brownies I have decided to share with the world? Well firstly, because their ingredients are top notch (for real, there is not a single ingredient I winced at whilst adding to my mixing bowl—not an easy task for a holistic nutritionist); they’re RAW (meaning uncooked and nutrient dense); they’re moist and even kind of gooey (despite being “uncooked”); they hold together (meaning I can drop ’em in my purse for future snacking and not end up with a baggy full of chocolate crumbs); OH, and most importantly . . . THEY TASTE LIKE MY CHILDHOOD #comfortfood.
Before I break down the recipe though, please allow me to indulge my inner-nutrition nerd by throwing a little spotlight on three ingredients you may be unfamiliar with:
A potent source of molybdenum—a nutrient needed by the enzyme responsible for converting toxic sulfites into healthy sulfates. When the body’s conversion of sulfites to sulfates is lacking, damage to the nervous system may occur (aka, these brownies will make an excellent addition to your next wine night).
Studies show ingesting cacao may actually slow down the production of signaling molecules involved in inflammation. PLUS, cacao is a known aphrodisiac. So next time you find yourself bummed out with a bum knee (me this fall after marathon training brought me to the couch), buy a bag of cacao powder and go crazy! (starting with this recipe, obvi)
This fun little star-shaped spice is a great source of shikimic acid—an ingredient used in the manufacturing of oseltamivir (Tamiflu), a prescription flu-fighting medication. Overall, star anise may be a helpful dietary assistant when trying to fight bacteria, yeast, or fungi.