You know the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, I definitely judged “I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook” but its cover, or at least its title. Give up sugar? For 8 weeks? Eek! That sounds like a lot of work and not a lot of good (or at least tasty) eating. But even the World Health Organization has joined the sugar reduction trend so when Crown Publishing sent me a copy I tried to keep an open mind.
The book, written by Australian television personality Sarah Wilson, is a guide to slowly giving up sugar, welcoming in fat, and finding a place of balance in your body. Over 8 weeks you start to cut back on sugar then quit it all together, spend a couple of weeks without any sweetness to help reset your tastebuds and your cravings, then slowly add in a little natural sweetness as you’d like. The idea is that a little natural sugar (such as those found in fruits and brown rice syrup) goes a long ways, so long as you break your body’s processed sugar habit.
I read through the book and it sounded plausible, if not actually appealing. But when I got to the recipe section—108 healthy, inspiring meals, snacks, and desserts—I was convinced that “I Quit Sugar” deserved a place on my bookshelf. The recipes are absolutely divine. So far I’ve made two soups—a warm one with sweet potato, lentils, onion, and a blend of spices and a cool one with avocado, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro. And I have the ingredients for a few more: fluffy squash and chia muffins, cashews chia pudding, and coconut curry meatballs, to name a few. These aren’t necessarily items I would expect to have sugar in them, but it is a good reminder that by focusing on eating good stuff I might naturally start to eat less sugar, which is a concept that’s a lot easier to digest then simply going cold-turkey on sweets.
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We know sugar intake is linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases and that reducing sugar intake can have positive effects on overall health. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a decision that shows it agrees wholeheartedly, advising people to halve the amount of sugar in their diet, from a recommended 10-percent to five-percent.
This dramatic shift is the first change in recommendation since 2002. “It is a tragedy that it has taken 10 years for the WHO to think about changing their recommendation on sugar,” nutritionist and campaigner Katharine Jenner told BBC News. We totally agree.
Though the change has taken a while, it’s sure to make some waves now that it’s arrived. Here’s what you can expect:
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Around the holidays I found myself suffering from a cold. Since going gluten-free and dairy-free, it’s an anomaly for me to need an anti-histamine or decongestant. Knowing how sugar impacts the immune system, I assumed one of the culprits must be the holiday sweets I was consuming, even though it was in moderation. When I received the book the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo as a Christmas gift, I decided that I would give the program a try starting January 1.
Last year around this same time, I completed approximately 16 weeks of a three-level allergy-detox (stopping when I had lost too much weight). The programs did not seem all that different so I didn’t think it would be that difficult to go 21 days.
One of the most important things I have learned about dietary change is that restriction can lead to binging. If we feel limited, desire increases and takes on more importance. During my allergy detox, while I constantly had to check my list of approved foods, I was able to eat as much steak and eggs or bacon burgers (no bun) as I needed to. While I realize not everyone agrees, I don’t have a problem with eating fats.
Pamela Reilly, ND, CNHP, MH, CWHP, is a Naturopathic Physician and speaker that I trust with my own health and wellness. She designed the allergy-detox program that I completed last year. She clarifies that “if an eating style is extremely restrictive it is not intended to be permanent.”
I do think part of the secret to success is making sure that you do not feel restricted and finding indulgences when you need them. Sometimes you really do just need to make it just a few more hours before the craving subsides. On the other hand, over indulging does not do your body any favors.
Even if the indulgence is something like grapefruit—too much of even a good thing is still too much. Reilly believes that “people who truly want to change react really well to restrictions”; however, she adds that she “always provides substitutes when telling people to remove something” because she believes “it’s a lot healthier to function from an abundance mindset and to focus on the benefits and not what you are eliminating.”
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Americans love fad diets. There is a long history of attaching ourselves to the next fad, dating back to the Vinegar diet in 1820. (No wonder I am constantly being asked to find a quick fix to the growing obesity epidemic in our country.) However, this is not the case in Europe where food culture and traditions hold fast against the deep pockets of the weight loss industry. Europeans have an innate sense to diet sensibly without falling victim to the 40 billion dollar weight loss industry that we Americans buy into year after year.
Luckily, the tide may be turning in the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced an initiative against deceptive claims made by marketers of fad weight loss products. From food additives to dietary supplements, the government is making a move to intervene and crack down on deceptive and misleading propaganda.
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If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to decrease your consumption of processed sugar. New research published in the journal Nature Medicine shows a link between processed sugar and cancer cells. Though it is not the first study to find a correlation between the two, this particular study is the first to suggest sugar as a way to detect cancer in the body.
The detection method, called glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer (glucoCEST), was discovered when scientists from University College London were experimenting with a new cancer detection method involving a unique form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The scientists programmed an MRI scanner to look specifically for glucose, and found that cancer tumors lit up brightly when scanned in this way due to their high sugar content. “The method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumors, which require the injection of radioactive material,” said Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, the lead researcher of the study in a release.
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