It seems unimaginable for those of us who have loved sugar, or who may still be going through the pains of a sugar break up, but at some point you’ll react to food that is overly sweet in the same way you’d react to licking a salt tab! True, studies like this one show it takes only about a month of eating less sugar to experience the sweetness in foods much more intensely. But a month into a lower-carb diet, there are always plenty of opportunities to backslide and quickly readjust to greater intensity.
I think it takes quite a bit longer to get to a place where you still crave food that contains sugar, but you cannot stand the taste of overly sweet food, including the sugar in savory foods (which I lament here). And I believe getting to this place represents a serious benchmark….I hesitate to call it a point of no return (“never say never,” as they say), so until I find an appropriate term, I’m referring to it as passing the marshmallow-pasta test— which I took, with zero planning, recently.
First, as one might assume, it involves sampling a marshmallow—either store bought or homemade/artisanal. Take a small bite and eat it sloooowly. After the initial, uniquely identifiable flavor of vanilla passes over your tongue, I am betting you will notice, in a way you never have before, that you are eating pure (albeit) chewy sugar: it won’t be cookie-level crystallized but I think you’ll still get the sense you are eating granules of sugar straight up. I sure did… and when I said to my fully-sugared friend, “I can’t even eat this it’s so sugary,” she said, “and I didn’t even notice the sugar….now that’s scary.” So if you really don’t want another bite, you’ve passed half the test.
If you wanted to finish the marshmallow, or eat a whole bag, you have a long way to go. But you can take some unconventional/counterintuitive advice and use chocolate to reset your palate! Incidentally, I am now eager to making an alternative version of the original style marshmallows which were based on the roots of the marshmallow plant.
Next, at the end of a delicious low-carb meal, try a small portion of pasta, ideally homemade but if not, at least cooked al dente and if possible, made of semolina (aka durum wheat, which is coarser, more protein-y and less gluten-y that standard pasta flour) and with no added salt—though maybe add a dash of unsalted butter or olive oil if you like. This will allow you to taste the flavor of the pasta. Again, eat slooowly. If you are able to experience a natural, almost nutty flavor and you feel exactly like you are eating dessert, you have passed the second half of the test, and congratulations! This means you’ll likely even find vegetables like cauliflower and eggplant—roasted in olive oil but no salt—to be moderately sweet treats. It also means that if you eat more sugar than you are used to in one sitting (as I did while writing this) you will feel nauseous (as I do now, argh) so…. once you’ve passed the marshmallow-pasta test, there really may be no turning back!