ME: How are you doing in your quest to regain your health by giving up sugar?
YOU: Not well at all. I asked for 1 simple thing to improve my health, and you gave me something impossible. Sugar is in everything.
ME: Correction, you asked for the most effective thing, not the easiest or simplest.
YOU: But all of my food has sugar. I read every label on everything in my kitchen, and it all has sugar listed. I wouldn't be able to eat anything if I gave up sugar.
ME: This is excellent! You have learned the most important lesson about getting off sugar: It won't be easy. Huge financial conglomerates with sophisticated marketing plans will fight you every step of the way. They use sugar to make their products more alluring, to enrich their own bank account. If you go with the flow, you will be choosing between sugar or more sugar. If you want to get off sugar, you have to get in charge of your own life, ignore the advertising, and choose your food wisely.
YOU: How do I choose my food wisely? It all has sugar.
ME: You mean, all of the food you have been buying has added sugar. Even in today's grocery stores you can have a great diet, with good tasting food, that doesn't have added sugar. If you buy food without labels, you won't be getting added sugar.
YOU: Everything has a label!
ME: Not everything. Buy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat. Buy high quality, tasty food that hasn't been processed.
YOU: But even fruit has sugar. Why is that any different than food with "added sugar"?
ME: Food with added sugar usually has much more sugar. For example an orange only has 9 grams of (natural) sugar. Yet a candy bar has 27 grams of (added) sugar. An Orange Soda has 44 grams of (added) sugar. Do you see the difference?
YOU: OK, so the candy bar is triple the sugar and the Orange Soda is 5 times the sugar. So what?
ME: Well here is the important part. When you eat an orange, the sugar comes embedded in a matrix of fiber. This fiber slows the absorption of the sugar. Added sugar doesn't come in that fiber matrix and hence absorbs very rapidly.
YOU: Does that really matter?
ME: Yes, it really does. If you want to eat something sweet, if you choose the orange instead of the soda, you have already reduced your sugar by 80%. And when you do eat the orange, the fiber would slow the absorption of the sugar and it would take about 2 hours to get the sugar from the orange into your blood stream. But when you drink the soda, the sugar will absorb very rapidly, in just 15 to 30 minutes. So drinking a soda gets 5 times as much sugar into your blood stream in 1/4 or 1/8 of the time. Multiply the greater amount of sugar, by the faster absorption time and you can see that drinking soda exposes your body to 20 to 40 times as much sugar in the hour after drinking the soda, compared to eating the orange. That means that per unit of time, the natural sugar is 95% or 97.5% less than the added sugar. Your body just can't handle that extra sugar without producing inflammation, which leads to all the illnesses Americans are plagued with.
YOU: OK, so I will definitely quit soda. I can switch to juice.
ME: I'm sorry but fruit juice is no better than soda. You may not know this, but it takes 5 oranges to make one 12 ounce glass of orange juice. That means the orange juice has the same amount of sugar as the Orange Soda. A person wouldn't eat 5 oranges, but they end up drinking 5 oranges if they pour themselves a glass of OJ.
YOU: I never realized that.
ME: Then you have the same fiber problem. Juice is made by removing the fiber, so the sugar absorbs very rapidly, just like added sugar. Fruit juice and pop have about the same amount of sugar, so even though juice technically isn't "added sugar", fruit juice isn't any better than pop.
YOU: What am I supposed to drink?
ME: If you're thirsty, drink some water. If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit, with all of the fiber as nature made it. You may not know this either: fruit juice, just like soda, contributes to obesity, whereas whole fruit does not.
YOU: Giving up sugar involves a lot more than I thought!
ME: Yes, getting off sugar and getting healthy is quite a project! It's like swimming up stream in a river of advertising designed to get you to eat sugar. The only way to succeed is to get out of the river, and choose your own path!
The pay off for getting off the sugar mill is huge.
Americans eat more sugar than any other 1st world country.
And Americans have worse health than every other 1st world country.
Sadly, Americans keep increasing their sugar consumption.
Americans eat more sugar now than we did 50 years ago.
And Americans health is worse than it was 50 years ago. Today, we have more cancer, more obesity, more diabetes, more metabolic syndrome, more depression, and more anxiety, just to name a few.
If you want to be healthy, you need to take control and apply the information we have. And that information tells us that sugar causes, or contributes significantly, to all of the major diseases and illnesses Americans suffer from.
YOU: I'm tired of feeling miserable. I want to be healthy. I want to be really healthy! What should my next step be?
ME: Get rid of all your food that has added sugar. Clean out your kitchen. Throw the bad stuff out! Re-stock your kitchen with only good food. Buy lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts. Get a good selection of eggs, fish and meat. Find some good grain options.
YOU: Are there any good grain options?
ME: A few. Most people will want to have some bread in their diet, and grains can supply a lot of good nutrients. Sourdough bread is probably the best option. Sourdough doesn't need sugar and you can find some great tasting whole wheat sourdough. There are lot's of recipes to make your own, or you can buy commercially produced sourdough bread with no sugar on the label.
YOU: Any other good bread choices?
ME: Well start reading labels and let me know what you find. I have seen Ezekiel bread without any added sugar, but it is hard to find. Sourdough is probably your best bet for bread, and is readily available. And sourdough itself has some benefits other breads don't have.
YOU: I'll give it a try. Are there any other tricks of the trade, I need to know?
ME: Some people go by the "5th place" rule when picking out a bread.
YOU: What's that?
ME: It's kind of a compromise. The ingredients on the label are listed in order of decreasing amount. So if sugar is the 1st or 2nd ingredient on the list, it is a pretty high amount. The 5th place rule says, if sugar is #5 on the list, or lower, the amount is too small to matter.
YOU: Do you agree with that?
ME: In an emergency, maybe.
YOU: I heard the sugar in bread is just to feed the yeast anyway.
ME: Some people will tell you that the sugar on bread's list of ingredients doesn't matter, because the yeast eats the sugar when the bread is rising. But that is not really true. The yeast only decreases the sugar by about 10%, so if sugar is high on the list to start with, the yeast won't change that very much.
YOU: Are there any other good grain options?
ME: Yes. Brown rice is nutritious and tasty. Quinoa is a healthy choice and is one of the few plant sources that supplies a complete protein. YOU: Are whole grains really better than white flour or white rice?
ME: Yes, there are studies that show that simply switching to whole grains decreases obesity and diabetes.
There are also some good granola products, without added sugar, but read the label! Try to find something that has all whole grains, seeds and nuts, without added sweetener.
YOU: What about the fake sweeteners? Are they OK to use?
ME: Exercise caution. The concern with the sugar alternatives is that they may keep the sugar cravings alive. Also food with artificial sweeteners tends to be highly processed with lots of other additives which may not be the type of food you want to eat.
YOU: So you avoid all of them?
ME: Not necessarily, but I do advise caution. Erythritol seems OK, if you really want to use a sugar alternative, but it may give you gas or diarrhea. Stevia, a very low calorie herbal sweetener is considered safe, but not everybody likes the taste. Monk fruit concentrate seems safe and may have a better taste. I personally like Monk fruit concentrate.
However the most recent word on Splenda is not good. JAMA just published a study a couple weeks ago, showing that Splenda (sucralose) stimulated appetite and people ended up eating more food overall. That means you actually end up gaining weight if you use Splenda. Most Americans don't need an additive that makes them gain weight.
YOU: I'm going to succeed this time. I'm making my own choices. I'm choosing health! This is my plan.
I will read every label. If sugar is in the list of ingredients, I'm throwing it out.
If I'm thirsty, I will drink water. No soda, no juice, no sugary beverages.
I will be cautious with artificial sweeteners, and avoid Splenda (sucralose) for sure.
I will focus on variety: vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, dairy, eggs and meat.
ME: I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress!
If you are reading this, you can tell all of us about your progress in the comments section below. Sharing your progress and insights will benefit others!