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, September 22, 2014

Yogurt's Broken Halo

Do you have any idea how much sugar is added to yogurt?

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 even 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.

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 
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.

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.




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.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Yummy Sugar Substitutes

I've quit sugar enough times to know that it can't (shouldn't) be done without the right substitutes in your cupboards. This just takes a little bit of planning.

If you've already quit sugar but haven't stocked up on substitutes, it's not too late but I recommend you hustle to your local grocery store.  Do not delay! A health food store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's would be best. Being prepared with substitutes can make the difference between reaching your goal of staying off the white stuff or giving in and re-starting the icky cycle.

FAVORITE SUGAR SUBSTITUTES

Zesty Nacho Kale Chips at Trader Joe's. So good you might eat the whole bag! And if you do (pull out the little packet of silica gel, first) that's 300 kale calories, with some healthy cashew and beet powder goodness. These seriously rock and satisfy the need to nosh...and keep noshing.

Hot Tea. Splurge on the most exciting flavors of tea. Tea has a wide price range, but don't be frugal here. Buy that Red Velvet Chocolate tea and you will feel so much better sipping on that rather than crying over a chocolate cake you've just devoured. For me, something about the heat satisfies all on its own.

Dark Chocolate Honey Mints at Trader Joe's. Only three ingredients: honey, chocolate liquor and oil of peppermint. If you like York peppermint patties, you will love these. The peppermint is so strong that you can only have one or two at a time. And it's honey, not white refined sugar, although the "sugars" in three small patties still equals 17 grams.

Dried Fruit Leathers from Trader's. About 50 cents each, but so good and made with just fruit. Sometimes if my sweet tooth is really buggin', I will need to eat two or three leathers to feel satisfied....but I've avoided white refined sugar!

Fresh Fruit washed and cut. For me the fruits that really satisfy a sugar craving are: mango, pineapple, crunchy apples with almond butter or cheese, dried fruit like prunes or apples.

Fresh Veggies washed and cut. Crunchy, juicy peppers in hummus, carrots with almond butter, cucumbers, celery, etc. If I've taken the time to have these prepared then it's so easy to grab them. If not, I'm likely to talk myself out of washing and cutting and finding the right sized container first.

Juice. (My favorite: Grape Juice). Although this is a kind of sugar, at least it's from fruit and not the white refined stuff. It contains nutrients that white sugar can't speak of. I like to pour myself a very small glass and sip it. It's so sweet and nice and cold that I don't need Ben & Jerry's after all.

Popcorn. So many different flavors of microwave popcorn (read labels!), but of course best popped fresh with minimal butter and salt added. Spray some soy sauce and then sprinkle nutritional yeast/garlic spices for a real treat.

*  Remember this, the goodies you are using as sugar substitutes must be good. They must really make you excited. Do not hesitate to overstock your kitchen with goodness.

**  Lastly, a word on the existing junk food in your pantry. I don't necessarily recommend throwing it all out. If you're anything like me, you kind of need to know it's there and that you're really avoiding it daily. Other family members are NOT quitting sugar with you so the junk food is theirs. I try to find a happy medium here. I don't like Oreos in my cupboard because they are a food I might break my sugar fast for. On the other hand, other junk food like candy or chocolate chips or whatever don't tempt me as much. If you do choose to throw out every last piece of tempting junk food, just brace yourself for when you are in the presence of these things: friends' homes, restaurants, mom and dad's house, etc. It might prove to be more difficult because you haven't had practice with avoiding them up front.

Sugar-free feels AMAZING!






Monday, July 30, 2012

Toothpaste Heaven: Earthpaste



I like foods that have few ingredients. The less, the better. I love how an apple has one ingredient. Same with a beet and a blueberry. I also lean towards body and bath products with fewer ingredients. The more ingredients something has the more likely it seems to have "bad" ingredients.

Toothpaste, for instance.

I had been using my husband's favorite toothpaste, Arm & Hammer's COMPLETE CARE with baking soda and peroxide. The ingredients seemed better than other toothpastes I have seen with added sugars. (Yes, dextrose and sucrose for instance!) However, there are still several ingredients that I can't pronounce. Chemicals? Unfortunately, in doing some looking around for toothpaste ingredients online, I discovered that major brands like Crest and AquaFresh don't post their ingredients online. Weird! (Or they make them difficult to find, as I could not find them.)

Thanks to Earthpaste, I now have a toothpaste with five ingredients. Five. Not only that, the paste is so healthy you can eat/swallow it! Earthpaste sent me samples of all three flavors of their toothpaste: Wintergreen, Peppermint and Cinnamon. All three are delicious and refreshing.

Earthpaste ingredients: clay, xylitol, sea salt, menthol and tea tree oil. Oh, and water, which I am not counting as an ingredient. (Watermelon is full of water but I still consider watermelon having only one ingredient.)

Arm & Hammer COMPLETE CARE ingredients: Sodium fluoride, baking soda, PEG-8, PEG/PPG-116/66, copolymer, sodium carbonate peroxide, silica, water, sodium saccharin, flavor, zinc citrate trihydrate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate.

Although not foamy (no sodium lauryl sulfate), Earthpaste packs a menthol punch and leaves my teeth feeling clean and fresh.

My teeth? It's hard to say if the toothpaste has made a difference yet. I've only been using it for the past few weeks.

Bottom line: I am not using artificial ingredients that might be harmful if swallowed. My mouth is a mucous membrane that I want to treat with care and natural ingredients.




Friday, June 22, 2012

Trouble with Your Teeth? Me Too, and I Don't Drink Soda.

I am freakishly regimented when it comes to oral hygiene. I always have been because a) I don't want halitosis b) I don't enjoy getting cavities and c) I dread getting my cavities drilled out and filled. I have never been to the dentist for a cleaning and exam, in all my 36 years, and been told "Congratulations! You have no cavities!" Rather, every single time I get an exam (not regularly, mind you, but regularly enough) I am told I have at least one cavity, but usually two or more. "Oh they're small, good thing we caught them early......" 

What?!?! 

I never drink soda (maybe one root beer every three years?), I gave up refined sugar for years, and brush my teeth every morning and night, and floss every single night. I should be the poster girl for excellent oral health based on my actions. 

Instead, cavities. Enamel erosion.

(Not my teeth, but you get the picture.)

This also chaps my hide: ever since I was a kid, dentists have told me that I brushed too hard and that's why my enamel is eroding. That baffled me because I brushed the way they always showed me: nice, soft circular motions for 1-2 minutes with an "Extra Soft" toothbrush. 

A few years ago a dentist told me that my cavities had nothing to do with my oral hygiene. What?!? He told me that my cavities and enamel erosion were 100% based on the acidity of my mouth. So naturally I  re-examined my diet, bought a book about pH and drank water with lemon* regularly. 

Maybe I'm not drinking enough lemon water. Maybe I should eat lemons. Although it's been almost a year and a half since I visited the dentist, I can feel a few problem teeth that need attention sooner than later. I just dread the inevitable. I feel like Sisyphus!

Then this morning I came across this blog. I don't know if I have Celiac disease or not (I don't like that it's considered a disease....it seems like the body's natural way of just rejecting certain foods. I bet 1000's of years ago it was unheard of, but now that we are fudging around with the science of foods, GMO's, pesticides, etc...?).

Thanks to cookitallergyfree.com for the Steps Known to Promote Enamel Growth, some of which include: getting adequate vitamins, using natural toothpastes and eating unrefined salt instead of the pure white stuff. I have never had a dentist tell me these things. I have, however, come home with prescription "gum creams" to smear on my eroding enamel. Somehow that stuff never made it on my gums... I have come home with little bottles of "dental rinses" that ultimately sting my tongue and hurt my overly sensitive mouth. The best I've been able to come up with on my own is lemon water and a baking soda rinse after brushing, in an effort to alkalize my mouth. 

Since I know I can kick the sugar habit (not that I'm currently doing the best job....) I know that I will be able to kick the foods known to promote enamel loss. Most of those foods I don't eat or drink anyway, but I do eat grains, cereals (healthy, I thought....) and use commercial toothpastes. Thanks to another wonderful blog, I just learned a lot about homemade toothpastes and Earthpaste, an "amazingly natural toothpaste" made with only four ingredients: Redmond clay, Xylitol, essential oils and unrefined salt. 

What?!? Is it possible to cut a few more things from my diet, switch toothpastes and expect healthier teeth and gums? For the skeptics out there, the thing is, nothing else is working for me.