Interview by Ms Rebecca Schärli for her Matura thesis
• Is chocolate a topic in your counselling sessions?
Yes, when it comes to the topic of what sweets you can eat. Most people like to eat chocolate.
• How much chocolate can I eat?
Vata and Pitta constitutions can eat some chocolate, Kapha constitutions should choose an alternative but rather leave it out. Otherwise in masses. If someone absolutely wants to eat chocolate, I recommend black chocolate, as it contains less to no milk. Alternatives to milk chocolate are chocolates made from soy, rice, oats or almonds. However, you should look for organic quality and make sure that the soy it contains is not genetically modified. The consumption of alternative chocolate should be appropriate to the dosha type. Milk and sugar do not go together in that the combination clogs the shrotas (fine bodily channels of the body) through mucus. This in turn leads to the absorption of food and the release of waste products not being able to proceed adequately. This results in metabolic waste products (Ama) in the tissues.
• Do you (not) forbid your clients sweets?
No, I do not forbid anything. I only recommend something. If something tastes good, it can even be considered “food for the soul” in some situations. Then the person is more satisfied than if they forbid everything that is not good for them. To say that something is unhealthy is also wrong. It is always a question of consuming in moderation. Industrial sugar and other artificial additives should be avoided. Ayurveda is also about which constitutional type (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) something suits. At what time and in what atmosphere something is eaten. How the food is prepared, what quality it has, etc. There are also plenty of chocolate alternatives.
• The WHO recommends a maximum of 50 grams of sugar per day. Do you think these recommendations make sense?
Here I do not allow myself to give an answer, as I am not a nutritionist. Again, there are plenty of alternatives to industrial white sugar, which is not recommended from an Ayurvedic point of view. The alternatives are fruits, dried fruits or sweet vegetables. There is palm sugar, date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, raw cane sugar and certainly several others. Every recommended food in Ayurveda is based on the constitutional type.
• Where do you see possibilities to avoid sweetness?
First of all, sweetness should be defined. Fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, etc. can be sweet. The taste component sweet should be present in every meal, along with sour, salty, spicy, bitter and tart. Again, it is a matter of moderation and paying attention to the constitutional type (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Which and how much sugar I recommend to a client becomes apparent after an anamnesis discussion. Ayurvedic nutritional counselling is holistic and individually oriented. In Ayurveda, nothing can be determined in a general way. That is the uniqueness of Ayurveda and for me therefore so interesting and lively. With certain illnesses, you should avoid sweets as much as possible or reduce them considerably.
• Which sugar alternatives do you find useful?
Palm sugar, date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, raw cane sugar. Fruit (especially steamed), fruits, dried fruits. And constitutional.
• Have you heard of Cacao juice as a sweetener for chocolate? Lindt recently launched such a chocolate.
No. You are welcome to enlighten me on that.
• Do you recommend giving up sugar completely for a certain period of time?
In the case of certain illnesses, such as fungal infections of the skin and mucous membranes, cancer, very severe tooth decay, sugar addiction. But the body also needs sugar as a source of energy, especially for the brain.
• Many new chocolate products are sweetened with such alternatives. Is there a need for “new” or “healthy” chocolate at all the time?
Basically, Ayurveda recommends fresh, untreated food. Chocolate is a treated product. Therefore, a healthy chocolate is only relatively healthy. The alternative or new chocolates make sense because, if vegan, they are without milk. Black chocolate also has its health aspects because of its ingredients.
• Is a chocolate without household sugar automatically “healthy”?
No. The chocolate bean is very bitter and is fermented and treated with many chemicals to make it more palatable. Due to the lactic acid fermentation, the chocolate has a heating and thus Pitta-increasing effect. It is therefore not recommended in summer. Other additives that may be present should also be taken into account.
• What positive points do you see in conventional chocolate?
Chocolate is a stimulant, which has a mood-lifting, stimulating and calming effect due to the tryptophan it contains, a precursor of serotonin, and theobromine, an active ingredient similar to caffeine. Dark chocolate also contains (heart-protecting) antioxidants. So chocolate clearly has positive properties. In Ayurveda, sweet chocolate is assigned to Vata and Pitta, and bitter-sweet chocolate to Kapha. But as already mentioned, in large amounts.
• Does “healthy” chocolate also have dangers?
If a product is described as healthy, this could tempt people to consume it in large quantities. There could also be a danger that the origin and method of production of chocolate and the addition of additives will no longer be questioned.
• What would your dream chocolate look like?
My dream chocolate would only be my dream chocolate to a certain extent. But if I am to name it that, then it would be one that is organic and without artificial additives or unnecessary additives. It is also made from Demeter milk and is attuned to the doshatype (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) and its digestive fire (Agni) and state of health. It would be good to add spices that support the digestion of the chocolate. Some salt, cumin, chilli etc. And alternative sweeteners. In my opinion, these already exist. But as I said, there is probably no such thing as a healthy chocolate.
• Is the preference for sweet taste more innate or learned?
Both. Now we are getting into a completely different area. Ayurveda speaks of a prakriti (innate constitution) and a vikriti (acquired constitution). The prakriti is everything that we bring with us from birth. The vikriti is everything we acquire in the course of life. If a person is in the Prakriti Vata or Pitta, he needs the sweet taste to stay balanced and healthy. For Kapha constitution, the sweet taste is not beneficial and therefore to be kept as low as possible. If a person discovers sweetness to compensate for any psychological deficiencies or acquires it through external influences, this person can also develop a preference for sweet things, but this is detrimental to his health. In this respect, the preference for sweets is innate and acquired. However, an innate preference for sweets can also turn into an acquired preference for sweets if the above criteria apply. In this respect, careful consumption of sweets is always recommended.
• Have you noticed a change in eating habits with regard to chocolate and sugar?
To some extent. People who consciously pay attention to healthy food are more likely to switch to vegan chocolate or an alternative sweetener. Of course, this is also a matter of taste. There are people who would like to switch to vegan chocolate, for example, but don’t like the taste or don’t want to give up the positive properties of chocolate.
• Sugar consumption has risen sharply in the last 120 years, especially in recent times, because sugar is cheap and easily available. Should we counteract this development?
In principle, we should strive for a conscious and healthy diet. However, individuals must be willing and open to change. One can sensitise people, which is already happening on various levels anyway. Be it through medicine, alternative medicine, nutritional science, etc. Reference to the magazine Oliv issue 6/21: The majority of the National Council approves the text on the Slow Food Switzerland initiative “Youth and Nutrition”. imparting specialist knowledge in schools and sustainability goals. In addition, Switzerland introduces an obligation to declare the origin of bread and other baked goods. There are plenty of alternative sweets and sweeteners.
• Some Swiss companies have committed to reducing the sugar content in their products. Is that enough or are the steps too small?
This is a good approach, although there is probably still too much sugar in the products. It also depends on the type of sugar. I already observe considerable steps towards health in food production and think we are on a good path there. There will certainly always be both. Healthy and unhealthy food. The citizen has a say in what is sold on the market, even though many may not be aware of it.
• Should more be done at the political level in terms of prevention?
I think that politics is already making a difference in this respect. However, it is also a prerequisite that the citizens want a change, because they would have to let go of habits and incur higher costs, which are ultimately borne by the consumer. Many people are not prepared to take this on themselves. Or they simply cannot do it for financial reasons. See also article from the magazine Oliv 6/21.
• Is there anything else you would like to add that you think is important for the topic and has not yet been mentioned?
Basically, a change in lifestyle, no matter in which area, should be considered and treated sensitively and individually. No dogmas should be set up, no prohibitions and regulations should be made. People automatically block themselves against change. After all, who likes to be told what to do? We should set a good example and make alternative food affordable. It would be very nice if a global rethink took place.
A big thank you once again to Ms Schärli for your trust.