Here is the results of an unintentional experiment, but first some background. This is Megan, my neighbors daughter, who is an exchange student in Russia. The family had been trying to get healthier before Megan left. Megan read an article I posted on facebook, and sent me this message. I got so excited, because it is further proof of everything I have been taught and believe about nutrition, and what is currently going on in the American diet.
“When I first arrived in Russia I expected the food to be not great because all the people I had talked to about Russian food had said that it was really bland, but it was actually kind of true.
On my first day with my host family I remember drinking ‘compoat’ (it’s made by soaking assorted berries in a jar of water) and thinking “Oh no the first thing they give to me tastes like dirt!” Later I had tea, and I remembered putting almost 3 spoons of sugar in it because it just had a weird ‘blah but not water’ to me otherwise.
Now I drink tea without any sugar because it tastes fine, and ‘compoat’ is a really sweet tasty drink now. It’s been six months since I have arrived, but I’ve drank pop (soda) less than six times my entire time here and it now seems so fake and nasty.
After thinking about this I realized the reason why, Russians really don’t add anything to their drinks or food and processed food is rare. Americans use more processed, and this food contains lots of artificial sweeteners. The article said: “We’re ‘Infantilizing’ our taste sense – Artificial sweeteners are a hundredfold sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). By getting ourselves used to so much sweet, normal sweet flavors, of fruit for example, become bland and so do other healthful foods such as grains and vegetables, thus reducing our willingness to consume them and ultimately the quality of our diet.”
My sense of taste has changed dramatically in the past few months. Now the taste of an orange or even an apple is so sweet, whereas in the US it was basically ‘meh’. I really do think it was because almost anything I wanted to drink had 25 grams of sugar in it. I was thinking about what I drink nowadays, and on the average day I drink 4 cups of (caffeine free) tea, plus 1 liter from my water bottle. I was kind of worried about the Russian way of drinking so much tea, so I looked it up and according to the University of Maryland Health Center 2 – 3 cups of green tea per day is actually recommended because it helps the body in many ways, and since my family drinks the un-caffeinated kind it’s even better.
I guess the absence of artificial sweeteners for this long of a period of time has allowed me to regain my sense of taste, realize what foods really taste like, and lose +30 lbs along the way. I definitely plan on bringing home a bunch of Russian recipes and using them at home, because Russian food really isn’t bland; it’s just that American travelers are accustomed to so much more sweetness than most natural foods have.”
And there you have it, while unintentional, a successful experiment in changing eating habits. Thank you Megan for letting me share this.