Earlier this year I read David Gillespie's Sweet Poison. It was a fascinating read and helped reinforce the healthy eating that I've been doing all year anyway- initially it was in preparation for my planned extravagances in Paris, and now post Paris it is to repair those indulgences, and push the boundaries a little bit more.
Sugar certainly has become a hot topic this year. It's not just David Gillespie advising us to give it up. Everyone it seems is giving up sugar. I read about it every day on Facebook, it's filling the newspapers, and more and more bloggers extolling the virtues of giving up sugar. There was a great Catalyst program a few weeks ago about the dangers of sugar. It's said to be toxic, make us fat and stupid, give us cancer, and now make us look old (although that article if you actually read it says that diabetics look older), so it's certainly worth considering the sugar in our diets.
Sarah Wilson's book is a large part of this trend, so I was very interested to read it. I don't watch all that much tv so didn't know of Sarah Wilson before this book. I Quit Sugar started as many things do as a personal journey. Sarah had two thyroid disorders- Graves disease and Hashimotos thyroiditis, and had put on 12 kilograms that she couldn't shift. She tried cutting out fructose by way of added sugars and loved it, she lost the weight and felt much better. The book (initially an ebook), the website and now the online 8 week program grew out of her obvious enthusiasm for a sugar free life.
Sarah tells us that we were designed to eat 5-9 teaspoons of sugar a day. Five for women, nine for men. Yet our modern, western low-fat diet is giving us much more sugar than that. We are eating a kilo of sugar a week, when 150 years ago we ate basically no sugar. Sarah is actually urging us to cook at home, with a variety of nutritious whole foods- she advises loading up on vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, and healthy grains.
Plus there's a whole lot of coconut here- coconut is the new black it seems. I'm keen to find out more about this too. We've been told to avoid coconut for a long time too, it seems almost naughty to think about using it more.
I bought the book because I like cookbooks, I have an interest in learning about all this sugar stuff, and it's a pretty book too look at, and is loaded with lots of delicious looking recipes that I'd like to cook anyway. Summery quinoa tabboleh, coco-nutty granola, almond butter bark, a terrific range of pestos- coriander, kale, broccoli, basil. There are tips for basics such as poaching eggs, cooking quinoa, sprouting legumes and making your own nut butters. The IQS website has a great range of recipes too, some of which are in the book, some not.
But it all gets very confusing for me when looking at the dessert recipes and the whole sweetener debate. Table sugar of whatever variety is half glucose and half fructose, and it is this frucotse that the sugar quitting people are trying to avoid. The arguments linking sugar consumption and obesity certainly seems to make sense.
The quit sugar people I've come across so far aren't trying to banish all gustatory pleasures and don't appear to wish to subsist entirely on lentils and cabbage. So they use all manner of sugar replacements to make sweet treats. These sugar replacements are often quite high GI. A low GI diet makes logical sense to me, smoothing out blood sugar peaks, or at least it has in the past, and I'm not sure what to believe about all this anymore. The low GI people and the quitting sugar people are often at loggerheads about these issues. Quite openly and it can get a bit nasty at times. I know that both camps mean well, and are trying to get all of us to eat better, lose weight and be healthier, and I know that public debate about food and health is a good thing, but some consensus would be nice (it can get even more confusing) for the non-biochemists amongst us. It's a fascinating debate, and it will be interesting to see where it will go in the next few years.
I don't like that the quitting sugar philosophy can make some people anxious about eating fruit, but I think they're getting the wrong end of the stick. Sarah Wilson does suggest (temporarily) giving up fruit for the first six weeks of her program to help modify eating habits and lose the cravings most of us have for sweetness. She specifically warns against demonising fruit or any legitimately nutritious foods. She then reintroduces low-fructose fruits in week 6- kiwifruit, grapefruit, honeydew melon, blueberries and raspberries. She does advise avoiding high-fructose fruits such as grapes, apples, mangoes and bananas. However, the IQS program does quite rightly consign fruit juice to the same category as soft drinks.
I'm not sure that I'm ready to quit sugar all together, or that I will ever want to, but I Quit Sugar has made me more mindful of sugar in general and fructose in particular, and given me lots of interesting recipes to try.
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking,
a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads