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Don't pour some sugar on me

Why I quit sugar

By Rick MenezesPublished 2 months ago 5 min read

I must admit, I promised myself I wouldn't watch another one of those "the-food-corporations-are-out-to-get-us" documentaries after I gained 6 kilograms (13,23 pounds) after becoming a vegan for a year. I gave that up because I felt like crap the whole time and decided that a balanced diet including some meat and fish just worked fine for me even though I really feel bad for the animals. My free advice to those that want to try the modern vegan meatless options - check the calories on those “healthy” Vegan meat alternatives, green does not equate to lean unless you eat produce only.

The 2014 documentary by Damon Gameau "That Sugar Film", piqued my interest as I had been working out 30 minutes a day for 12 months and was still battling to lose the last couple of kilo's that I gained on my vegan diet - the scale would just not budge. I thought sugar was okay, I mean its vegan isn't it? The documentary gave some basic information on the sugar vs fat debate and as all "the-food-corporations-are-out-to-get-us" documentaries alluded to how sugar was the real scourge of our modern society, causing everything from brain fog to our teeth rotting and falling out, which turned out to be true if you look at the latest recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the US. The real revelation for me was Gameau’s experiment on himself, where he went from a healthy diet based on minimally processed foods to a “healthy diet” including a fair number of processed foods (with hidden free sugars) and the resulting impact on his health and mental state. It was not good, so armed with this new knowledge and with the goal to get my BMI and waistline in check, the girls and I (my wife and two daughters - not Hugh Hefner), decided to cut sugar out and see what happens.

The first question is what are free sugars? According to Wikipedia added or free sugars are defined as: “Added sugars or free sugars are sugar carbohydrates (caloric sweeteners) added to food and beverages at some point before their consumption.[1] These include added carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides), and more broadly, sugars naturally present in honey, syrup, and fruits.[2][3] They can take multiple chemical forms, including sucrose, glucose, fructose, and dextrose”.

The next question is what does excessive amounts of free sugar do to your body? According to MedicalNewsToday (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319991#why-cut-out-sugar) too much added sugar can place you at a greater risk for heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. The other health conditions may include mental disorders and depression as per the Whitehall II study which had a sample size of over 10 000 people and started in the mid-eighties, where researchers found that increased sugar intake led to a direct increase of CMD’s (common mental disorders) and depression. ‘Cross-sectional analyses showed positive associations. In prospective analyses, men in the highest tertile of sugar intake from sweet food/beverages had a 23% increased odds of incident CMD after 5 years (95% CI: 1.02, 1.48) independent of health behaviours, socio-demographic and diet-related factors, adiposity and other diseases’. National Library of Medicine. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532289).

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons of free sugar for a man and 6 teaspoons of sugar for a woman. I will admit this is actually a lot more difficult to achieve on a “normal” diet than you would think - I quickly realised that; if it is processed it contains sugar. Yes really! Just check the labeling, there is huge amounts of added sugar in everything from staples like bread to even those "healthy breakfasts" (again in the green boxes). To give you an example of how difficult it is to avoid excess sugar - a standard breakfast of "health cereal" and a cup of coffee with two sugars, means that you already had four sugars and that is before you leave the house!

I decided to change things up and started drinking my coffee with no sugar and cut out my daily soda (500ml Coke about 10,5g of sugar) and avoided all processed foods including mass produced bread, this meant buying my loaf of brown bread from the local bakery instead and buying only fresh produce and meat. Our meal plans remained the same except for cutting out the weekly take away. This minor change led to my wife and I dropping just over a kilo or (two and a half lbs) on the scale in seven days! This concurred exactly with what Gameau had achieved in a month and with no additional workouts in the gym.

I am not a nutritionist or medical doctor, but I am guessing that this life choice may be beneficial for me and my family going forward, although it is not necessarily going to be easy especially over the festive period! Below are the pros and cons that I have personally experienced from cutting out free sugars and moving over to a diet that has less processed foods:

My pros of eating less free sugars and processed foods:

1. You can lose weight if you need to.

2. You feel better and ironically the less sugar you eat the less you crave it.

3. You save at the till. Eating healthy whole foods is budget friendly.

4. It is good for the environment as you have less packaging to throw away.

5. As a parent you do not have to worry about you or your kids having sugar rushes and the ensuing crashes ever again.

My cons of eating less free sugars and processed food:

1. You must learn to cook from scratch.

2. You have withdrawals in the beginning that suck.

3. You can mostly only drink water, certain kombuchas, or coffee or tea as everything else has added sugar or sweeteners.

4. You cannot really snack on anything but fruit and nuts.

5. Your kids may hate you.

This is still an ongoing experiment and I suggest you do your own investigations on what works for you, but ultimately if eating less sugar leads to less diabetes and less depression in the world that could be a good thing.


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