Thursday 9 July 2015

Cut the crack #1

Last month, I focussed on reducing salt in our diets. This month, we are going to have a bash at sugar. Interesting fact  - we are all addicted to sugar. We eat too much salt – that’s a taste thing, and it’s difficult to get rid of. Especially when we eat out, or use pre-packaged or convenience foods. But once we have eliminated salt, and are used to it, that’s pretty much it. Done. Our tastes change, and we can naturally avoid salty things without too much pain and suffering.

Sugar is very different. When we don’t get our fix of sugar, we go a little crazy. There is a chemical reaction in our brains with sugar. And that’s what makes this particular addiction so hard to break. Sugar is easier to spot in things. It’s therefore easier to avoid. But your body will fight you every step of the way. The more you try to deprive it, the more your body will demand it.

But there’s good news. Seriously good news. I bet you didn’t know that if you succeed in cutting out the sugar,
your appetite is far more healthy.  You are very satisfied with far less food. And you don’t crave the bad things as much. When you eat a bit of sugar, you find it increases your hunger. Weird but true! It happened to me.

This is the one thing that Banting and I agree on, by the way. The theory is that when we were healthy cavemen, we only came across sugar very occasionally. When we did, we gorged. But it was so seldom, it didn’t have a long term effect on us. We went back to normal and ate no sugar at all.

I attempted a sugar detox through the “I Quit Sugar” program. I bought the book, and did the program. I loved the way that Sarah Wilson challenges you to try it. She tells you to take small steps, and just see how you feel. It feels so good, she tells you, that you will want to do this. So week one was simple – cut out all added sugar. No fruit juices, no sugar in things like tea and coffee etc. Week 2 started getting more difficult- Operation Add Fat. Huh? Yes. Not sugar, but fat. Not for me, I decided. Week 3 - quit sugar completely. This is where things got interesting for me. I have high blood pressure. Therefore I need to watch my cholesterol. And there is the debate. What causes high cholesterol and increases your chances of heart disease and strokes. Is it fat? Or is it sugar?

I have never been of the view that you can eat as much fat as you like. Interestingly, when I was on a very low sugar and low carb diet, a little fat didn’t seem to affect me. I could eat a bit more, and I was fine. But I still worried about my cholesterol, which wasn’t high, but not at safe levels either.

So when I reached week 3 and had to quit sugar completely, I was cautiously pondering increasing the fat. The truth was that when I had avocados, coconut oil and the non-salty fats I was comfortable with, it did help with those sugar cravings. And I felt great. But I didn’t go overboard. Just a bit more fat. And I had already cut out the refined carbs, in any case.

The next few weeks were much less hard. The program gradually cut all remaining sugar (even sugar in fruit) out completely. Sounds too radical? It is. And you cannot live like this. But the interesting thing was that once the addiction was broken, I felt so much better. And then I could re-introduce the better sugars back. In small quantities. Wow, what a journey, and what a ride.

I went for a cholesterol check-up shortly after this, and was completely startled to discover that my count had fallen from a very stubborn, but not too bad 5.1 to an astounding 3.6. That was enough to make me a believer.

And now, a year later? Well I wish I could tell you that I don’t indulge. But the truth is that I too have picked up some bad habits I need to address. So I am starting July by just saying no to sweet snacks. I’ll take my sugar in fruit and that’s it, thanks. And those cereal bars and dried fruits that are just laden with sugar – no more, goodbye to you too. An apple a day. And maybe some strawberries. (It is Wimbledon after all.)

Some recipes to get you started –Sugar free smoothie for breakfast – 1 banana, about 5 strawberries, some raspberries if you have them and some plain yoghurt. Blitz it up and enjoy. Add a little milk if it is too thick for your taste.  Make your own granola cereal. This recipe is on the I quit sugar website. Check it out.  I use some oats in place of all the coconut, but it’s real good. 

You may also like: My food Journey - how it all started, or Cut the crack #2

More Recipes


nataliesimmons said...

Bev, you are a much more disciplined person than I am #morning runs, but I find the sugar thing interesting. I am not really drawn to sweet things at all, I struggle to eat fruit, but love vegetables. I crave salty stuff. I can resist chocolate with ease, but not a packet of crisps! Yet I do have about 5 cups of coffee a day with a generous spoonful of sugar in. I know that is quite a lot, and I realise I am getting hidden sugars, but I think that having that bit of sugar in my coffee satisfies my sugar needs. I don't like coffee without sugar and find if I try to cut it I then start to want to eat other sweet stuff.

Bev Bouwer said...

That is very interesting. The AHA (American Heart Association) says women need 6 tsp sugar per day.(9 for men). So if you are completely sure you are not getting more than a tsp from other sources, that is fine. 4g sugar is a teaspoon, and the foods that are laden with sugar are the fat free ones, because they replace the fat with sugar. Most sauces (sweet chilli, tomato,salad dressings) are also culprits. Think that is my article next week!