Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Yogurt's Broken Halo

Do you consider store-bought yogurt a healthy food?

Do you have any idea how much sugar companies add to yogurt?

It's maddening when I think about the American Heart Association's recommendation for daily sugar intake:

Children (age 2-18) should eat less than 25 grams of sugar daily (less than 6 teaspoons).
Women should eat no more than approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.
Men should eat no more than approximately 9 teaspoons of sugar daily.

Four grams is equal to one teaspoon!

I'm so mad I'm considering Ben & Jerry's for breakfast. My neighbor made some yogurt the other day using bacteria and milk. She added nothing else (possibly a pinch of sugar to feed the bacteria?) and the outcome was incredible. It was refreshing, sweet (lactose in milk is naturally sweet) and satisfying.

So why are so many yogurt companies adding 20+ grams of sugar to each little cup of yogurt?! (And I'm talking about the healthier yogurts, organic, found at health food stores, etc.) For the same reason sugar is added to anything--we will remember how much yummier this brand is over this brand and we will gravitate towards the sweeter one. Naturally.

Examples of the healthiest yogurts I could find, but not healthy in terms of added sugars:

Nancy's
Whole Milk Yogurt Plain: 1 container (8oz) = 180 calories, 16 grams sugar (from milk)

Nancy's
Nonfat Yogurt Plain: 1 container = 120 calories, 17 grams sugar (from milk)

Nancy's
Organic Cultured Soy Unsweetened Plain: 1 container (6oz) = 80 calories, 0 grams sugar

Brown Cow (American Humane Certified)
Strawberry Nonfat: 1 container  = 130 calories, 23 grams sugar (evaporated cane juice)
Chocolate Nonfat: 1 container

Redwood Hill Farm (Goat Milk Yogurt)
Vanilla: 1 container (170g) = 140 calories, 5g fat, 14g sugars (maple syrup)

Wallaby Organic
Key Lime Lowfat: 1 container = 150 calories, 2.5g fat, 22 grams of sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)

Stonyfield Organic
Chocolate Underground 0% Fat: 1 container = 150 calories, 0g fat, 29 grams sugar (naturally milled organic sugar)

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream: 1/2 cup = 260 calories, 15 g fat and 25 grams sugar. This is less sugar than one container of Stonyfield chocolate yogurt. OMG.


Livid! The organic yogurts have a lot of added sugar and the sugar-free yogurts either are not organic or have scary artificial sugar substitutes. And soy? Not a huge fan anymore but at least no one is getting milked to make soy yogurt.

The ONLY brand of yogurt that I have found to be both organic and lightly sweetened is Nancy's. However, recently agave nectar has been substituted for honey in a few of Nancy's yogurts. Bad move! Sadly, this yogurt is difficult to find everywhere. I've lived on the west coast, east coast and a few places in between in the last five years and have not always been able to find Nancy's. Write or call your grocery store and request it.

Also, if you're as mad as I am about the tremendous amount of sugars added to yogurts, write to the companies. Or make your own (check out this wonderful book!)

The biggest take away I hope you get from this article is that YOGURT HAS A BROKEN HALO! MOST STORE BOUGHT YOGURT CONTAINERS HAVE YOUR ENTIRE DAY'S WORTH OF SUGAR. WORTH IT??



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sugar and Sleepiness

I haven't blogged in a while (2 years...?) because I've been experimenting with sugar. Sugar as it relates to my sleep cycle. Motivation. Naps. Nightmares.

My suspicions have been confirmed, and now it's time to share what I learned. For the record, my experiences obviously don't mean this is what is happening to everyone, however, they could represent what others of you might be experiencing. I would love to hear from you either way!

I have determined that when I eat sugar at night (anytime after 7 or 8pm) I have a more difficult time going to sleep. It may be this restless going in and out of sleep and/or accompanied by nightmares. Why is this so?

I get sleepy during the day at different times so I have spent the last several years experimenting with meals, specific foods and noting when I get tired. I will most likely always be tired after a very large meal. So I have stopped eating large meals unless I'm at home and can roll onto the couch to catch a quick snore. Otherwise, especially days I have a busy schedule, I will not eat any sugar (check the label on your yogurt, my friends!) AND I'll only eat small amounts of what I do eat. For instance I will have my morning cup of drip coffee and a small dish of nuts and fruit. Then I will pack an apple or banana and more nuts and sometimes string cheese. If it's going to be a really long day I will also make a no-sugar, vegan protein shake with water and frozen fruit and bring it with. These small bits of food keep me slightly hungry and therefore less tired.

No matter what, I take an afternoon nap, but it's always a great day when I get to choose the time of day instead of my body saying, "Sleep now or you are going to collapse! Yes, right here on this bench in the west wing of this crowded museum in front of everyone! Sleep, now!"

Side note: I have memories of working at my first real job (babysitting only paid $3/hr in the 80's so not so much a real job) in an office as a file clerk. Mom dropped me off after school and I spent the afternoon filing and sharing the nice ladies' M&M's they had in crystal dishes on their desks. I wondered if they put them out mostly for visitors or for themselves, because they always seemed happy when I took some but often by 5pm the dishes were empty. Now I can say I've been in similar jobs where I've been sitting and it's the afternoon and I ate too much lunch and anything with sugar seems like a fix.

For me, sugar is directly related to feeling tired and sometimes the need to nap right away. Without exception those Sunday morning donuts with coffee gift me with a few minutes to get from the kitchen table back to bed to nap it off. On long road trips I'll stay alert and peppy if I nibble on carrots instead of Skittles. If Jeff sees me open a bag of candy on the road he moans because he knows I'll be asleep in a few minutes and all conversation comes to a screeching halt.

I'll write more later about different kinds of sugar but for now, for this article, I'll just say that any food with added sugar is a serious threat to my wakefulness. Does anyone relate to this?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Refined Sugar VS Natural Sugars = They Are All Still Added Sugars!

I thought I was a rockstar for not eating refined sugar and allowing "natural sugars" but they still caused a spike in my blood sugar and a horrible sleepy spell afterward.

If knowing is half the battle, then I'm part way there. Though it was difficult to cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups because they are in everything, it's not like I couldn't satisfy my sweet tooth on a cookie made with honey or date sugar or molasses. Yes my tolerance for sweet changed but I still ingested added sugars regularly.

It's easier to discuss this now while I have no agenda. I'm not totally sugar-free anymore. I keep this blog because I know it's helped people with their sugar-free goals. I still have people email me after all these years.

I may not be 100% sugar-free but I do have a deeper understanding of added sugars in general and that has crushed the life out of all those natural sweeteners that cost me so much money. Seriously, when was the last time I paid $10 for date sugar or $15 for ground maple sugar? It's been years! I usually choose a coconut sugar or honey or dried fruit to sweeten a recipe with and I'm unwilling to spend the money on those specialty sugars anymore because they no longer have the halo. They are still added sugars. And don't get me started on agave nectar. This little gem lines the shelves at all co-ops and health food stores and enjoys its glory--not because it's healthy! But because it's dreamy as a sugar substitute in baking AND it sells! It's got approximately the same fructose amount as high-fructose corn syrup! Bleh, I can't even stand it.




Monday, August 3, 2015

I'm So Famous It Hurts

I'd like to think that's how my grandmother thought of me. Ha!

When she passed away my aunt found this collage of articles in her home and thought I might like to have it. I had no idea my grandmother kept these, much less made a collage out of them. I have no idea what to do with all these long forgotten snippets of interviews and being on the front page of a newspaper with Leonardo Di Caprio.



Friday, November 8, 2013

The Sugar Blaaaaaahhhhhs

My stomach's bloated.

I lack motivation.

My butt feels too big.

I'm skipping the gym.

Can't concentrate on homework.

I want to curl up in a blanket and eat donuts and cry.

I wanted a little bit of sugar once in a while. The routine has evolved to epic sugar proportions: I wake up and pour my coffee and gather a handful of cookies to eat with my coffee. Because there is nothing tastier. But nothing squelches motivation like a belly full of sugar rot.

For lunch I will probably eat a giant, colorful salad. Then the sugar craving will kick in and I will hunt around the kitchen for something sweetly satisfying. It almost feels okay because my lunch was so healthy.

One handful of chocolate covered almonds becomes two or three handfuls. Then I get so sleepy I have to nap it off.

When I wake up from napping, I search around for chocolate almond stragglers. Remnants.

I skip dinner because I don't want calories from both a healthy dinner and the inevitable ice cream.

My joints hurt. I have to carefully stretch my back when I get myself off the couch. It's bedtime and yet just one more chocolate beckons me, just one more spoonful of ice cream.

Why am I in this perpetual loop?

I need the angel on my right shoulder, because for now I can only hear the devil on my left.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why Results of Sugar Studies are Unclear


                                          

Who is willing to go without sugar, even with financial incentives? Even on behalf of sugar research, who would the control groups be?

  • People who are going to lie--"Sure I'll go without sugar for 6 months for your study!"
  • People who go into it honestly, but fail--"Um, Mr. Researcher, I, uh, had an accident the other day, and then the day after that, and, uh, I failed."

I am concluding that there are two types of people. The liars and the failures. Kidding. There are a great number of people across the globe giving up sugar for weeks and months and years at a time, but how are the researchers going to pinpoint these perfect candidates for their studies? It seems to me like studies are done locally by the institutions performing them. This local cohort of people I would tend to believe fall into one of the above two categories. 

My oh so brilliant solution? Researchers ought to hire a savvy social media person to collect contact info on people around the globe who are, on their own, giving up sugar. These people blog and use other social media outlets to share their experiences. I think this is our best shot at collecting accurate stats about sugar and human health. 

"Since the latter part of the twentieth century, it has been questioned whether a diet high in sugars, especially refined sugars, is bad for health. Sugar has been linked to obesity and suspected of being implicated in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, macular degeneration and tooth decay. Numerous studies have been undertaken to try to clarify the position but the results remain largely unclear, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that do not consume sugars."
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar)

As an afterthought, I suppose another way to go about studying sugar's effect on human health would be to categorize groups of people by how much sugar they consume. Then require your control group to eat a certain amount of sugar, additionally. Gross thought.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sugar & Weight Gain






This may not come as a surprise to those of you battling sugar: A new study found that eating less sugar is linked with weight loss and eating more sugar is linked with weight gain.

A study or did they just read my blog? :)

One of my nutrition heroes, Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, comments, "Sugars from whole fruits have not been linked with weight gain."

Such simple, wise advice. Now, let's eat whole fruits and give up added sugars, shall we? It's soooo hard to do.

Lately I've been satisfying my pesty sweet tooth with big chunks of fresh pineapple. Seriously, you are not going to crave Ben & Jerry's or cookie dough after chewing on these juicy, sweet morsels. I would know because it seems like I have to go to the ends of the earth to douse my sugar cravings. Or just eat pineapple. Treat yourself to a whole one. Cut off the skin and around the fibrous core. It's good for digestion and it's full of nutrients.

I think I need this cupcake t-shirt....it captures the vibe quite well.