The two month quit sugar challenge

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A married couple go low-sugar for two months to see what happens to their bodies and moods… words by Tamara Pitelen. 

Is sugar the sweet poison claimed by some? Is the amount of processed sugar in the modern diet responsible for everything from diabetes and obesity to cancer? How difficult is it to cut refined sugar out of your life and what happens if you do? That’s what we’re aiming to find out with a two-month low sugar diet. Our low sugar diet will begin in two days on the first of the month. My husband Adrian and I are preparing by doing some research on what we can and can’t eat for the next two months. It’s been surprising. His whole breakfast needs to change, Adrian always thought he ate a good healthy breakfast, namely a bowl of bran flakes with semi-skimmed milk, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a strawberry yogurt. It’s all got to go! On low- sugar, the idea is that we eat only foods that have between three to five grams of sugar per 100gms and anything we drink has zero grams of sugar per 100gms. The bran flakes have about 20gms of sugar per 100gms, the yogurt has 10gms of sugar per 100gms and the orange juice is basically all sugar.

If Adrian ate the whole orange, it would be ok but juicing it is basically like throwing away all the nutrition and fibre and just keeping the sugar, we’re told. Who’s telling us this? All manner of anti-sugar zealots including David Gillespie, an Australian man who lost 40kgs apparently effortlessly by going low sugar and then wrote a best-selling book about it called Sweet Poison:  How sugar makes you fat. Is he right? Juicing zealots like Jason Vale would probably say no but since we’re doing the low sugar experiment, we’ll take David’s advice for now. And he’s not the only one. Sugar is the new fat.

US Doctor Mark Hyman says: “For years, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that fat causes heart attacks and raises cholesterol, and that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories. “They are not empty calories. Sugar calories are deadly calories. Sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia, and is the leading cause of liver failure in America.”

I’m a bit horrified at the sugar content of some ordinary foods. Breakfast cereals are ridiculous, just about every cereal on the supermarket shelf is off limits, they’re all packed with sugar. The only exceptions are rolled oats and Weet-bix. Soy milk, that’s got to go because of the added cane sugar. Cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me so I’m trying goat’s milk. Might try almond milk too. So, what’s our new low-sugar breakfast? Weet-bix, which has about four grams of sugar per 100gms; full fat milk; full fat natural yogurt, and a wheat-grass shot. On weekends, it’s bacon and eggs.

Day 7

Adrian says his appetite has increased and he’s craving coffee. We’re told this is normal because when your body wants a sugar hit it’ll urge you to have something that it would normally get sugar from – Adrian doesn’t drink much coffee but when he does he always puts in a teaspoon of sugar. Is his body creating a coffee craving to get that teaspoon of sugar?

Day 14

More disappointments for Adrian today, he’s realised he can’t have coffee with whitener like Coffee Mate and he can’t have the office tea that’s made with Rainbow milk nor the so-called diet hot chocolate drinks. They’re all loaded with sugar.

Day 15

Weigh in number one, Adrian has lost 2.8kgs and I’ve lost 1.4kgs. Crikey. It’s almost too easy. Will it continue? We’ll see…

Day 22

Whoops. We fell off the wagon during a trip to the UK. White crackers, bread, cider, Baileys… and it’s showing on the scales. Almost back to square one.

Day 23

Everywhere I turn these days, I read something else about the evils of sugar. I smell a trend. Fat is apparently coming back into favor. I’ve just read an article that claims fat may have nothing to do with heart disease! That it’s been wrongly blamed all this time. Poor fat. It was in the 1960s that scientists were scratching their heads trying to explain the alarming rise in heart disease levels. A scientist called Ancel Keys grabbed the headlines by claiming fat was the number one killer. The food industry spied an opportunity and before long our supermarket shelves were swamped with low fat products – everything from yogurts to mayonnaise, biscuits and desserts. There was one man banging a different drum though, UK Professor John Yudkin who wrote a book called Pure, White and Deadly in 1972. He said the rise in heart disease correlated to the rise in the consumption of sugar. Unfortunately, Yudkin became the target of a powerful sugar industry, he was basically black- listed and discredited by sugar-funded opponents. A more recent anti-sugar militant is Professor Robert Lustig whose Youtube video Sugar: The Bitter Truth has had over four million hits. He’s now rehabilitating Yudkin’s reputation. It’s at a time when obesity rates in the UK are now 10 times what they were in the 70s and the amount of sugar eaten has increased by 31 per cent since 1990 because of the ‘invisible’ sugar added to products like tomato sauce, soft-drinks, yogurt, baked beans, etc.

Day 28

Definitely feeling better somehow – can’t quite put my finger on how I feel better. Wish I could say the weight was falling off though… to be continued!

Results of the Quit Sugar challenge will be posted here soon.

QUITTING SUGAR FAQS

Can I eat fruit?

Yes, whole fruit. No, fruit juice. Some recommend that when you first kick sugar, you should go ‘no fruit’ then introduce it again in a couple of months or at least stick to low sugar fruit like berries, kiwifruit and melon while avoiding the high sugar fruit like grapes, apples and bananas. It’s up to you but if you do choose to keep fruit just make sure you eat the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit (sorry).

Can I drink milk?

Yes. Milk is ok as long as you’re not intolerant to it but it’s got to be full fat milk according to the low-sugar- brigade because skimmed has too much sugar.

Is this just a low carb diet?

No. Carbohydrates are fine. In fact you must make sure you get plenty of good carbs like vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, lentils, legumes…) because that will reduce the cravings for sugary sweets.

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