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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Artificial Sugar Sweeteners: Part 1: "Splenda"

"SUCRALOSE (aka Splenda) is 600 times as sweet as table sugar. It has overtaken Equal as the most popular artificial sweetener.
  • It was discovered in 1976. Put simply, it is made by chlorinating sugar! Yes, it's manufacture involves the same chemical found in swimming pools. How could this be? It was discovered through a misunderstanding. Two Tate & Lyle scientists were looking for a way to test chlorinated sugars as chemical intermediates when there was a gross misunderstanding. Leslie Hough asked his young Indian colleague Shashikant Phadnis to test the powder. Phadnis thought Hough said "taste," and he did--it was very sweet! A final sweetener formula was developed within a year.
  • Sucralose is composed of 50 percent phenylalaline, 40 percent aspartic acid, and 10 percent methyl alcohol.
  • Sucralose mixed with maltodextrin and dextrose (both made from corn) as bulking agents is sold internationally as Splenda.
  • In 1998 it was approved by the U.S. FDA; as of 2006 it has been approved in more than sixty countries.
  • In 2000 concerns over safety surfaced, including lack of long-term studies.
  • Whole Foods Market took an official stand that it will not carry any products containing sucralose because, as the company points out, most of the studies were commissioned by organizations that had a financial interest in the approval of sucralose.
  • Reported symptoms of sensitivity to this compound include headaches, dizziness/balance problems, mood swings, vomiting and nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, seizures and convulsions, and changes in vision. Concerns have also been raised regarding its effect on the thymus gland, crucial to proper immune system functioning.
  • Sucralose can be found in more than 4,500 food and beverage products.
  • Marketed in the United States as a "no-calorie sweetener," Splenda does contain 96 calories a cup, approximately eight times fewer than sugar by volume."
-"Get the Sugar Out" by Ann Louise Gittlleman, pgs. 56-57

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Diabetes Association Accepts Money from Soft Drink Company

Check out this article about the American Diabetes Association accepting a multi-million dollar alliance with Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. This beverage company "is still the third-largest soft drink manufacturer in the world and a major producer of sugary candy."
"In exchange for that sum of money, Cadbury-Schweppes can put the ADA's [American Diabetes Assocation] label on all of its diet soda products."
The American Diabetes Association chief medical and scientific officer, "Khan", denied that there is a link between sugar and diabetes. "Khan's statements denying that sugar can cause diabetes came in the same week that the Journal of Pediatrics published a study blaming much of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes on over-consumption of sugary sodas."

The article mentions the tobacco industry and it's denial of nicotine causing certain diseases. It makes you wonder where people stop caring about health, and begin caring about money.

Keep in mind, this article is from 2005, but still very interesting.

To validate this article, I went to the Cadbury Schweppes website and searched for the American Diabetes Assocation alliance. True enough, they have this agreement through 2008. Here is the link to see for yourself: http://www.cadburyschweppes.com/NR/rdonlyres/941D94D0-73F0-4F6B-A519-2AB92A6CC22D/0/Programmes_and_Partnerships.pdf

UPDATE! I just found this video (April 21, 2008).
"Control Your Diabetes By Simply Limiting Your Carbohydrates"
by, askyourholisticdoctor.com

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sugary Kisses

Last night I cooked dinner for four, and I made a mistake. It was last minute, and there was no way I was going to have time to make any more manicotti. What I did was pour spaghetti sauce all over each one, forgetting that the sauce had sugar in it. I found out after the pizza fiasco that a lot of times marinara and pizza sauces have sugar to neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce. I usually only buy a brand of marinara that doesn't use sugar, but for some reason, this was all we had while I was cooking dinner. I knew I wouldn't be able to sit there at dinner and just have a green salad. So I made the decision to eat some manicotti anyway, after spending several minutes trying to discreetly scrape off as much of the sauce as I could. I felt so guilty taking my first bite. Conversation flowed freely around the table as I sat in my secret bubble of guilt. Then I had an amazing thought that set me free of my guilt. First of all, after scraping all of the sauce off my manicotti, I probably ingested a total of 5 little granules of sugar, maybe less. Secondly, it occurred to me that I probably ingest a lot more sugar than that every time I kiss my husband. He is chocolate's biggest fan. He eats it two or three times a day or more. Breakfast is literally a piece of bread with thickly spread peanut butter topped with a pile of chocolate chips. Then, he usually has a mocha sometime around breakfast or lunch. Lastly, in the evening when he returns home from work, he grazes through the cupboards and freezer and refrigerator eating anything that has chocolate or is chocolate. Given that we kiss all of the time, surely I am picking up sugar molecules second-hand. I can do nothing about this fact. I am not willing to give up kissing my husband and it goes without saying that Jeff is not willing to give up chocolate. I know all of this sounds silly, but see how hard it is to go without sugar?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Being Responsible (and Cravings for Pie)

Recently, I've become bored with not eating sugar. It has gotten easier, now that I am in my 3rd month. There are so many alternatives to sugar that I don't feel like I'm missing anything (except donuts.....I love donuts so much. I dream about them. I want to feel that greasy, crusty outside as I bite into the chewy middle. If I ever decide to go without sugar forever, the one exception I may allow myself might be donuts-or one donut a year, or one donut a month.....).

Even though going without sugar has lost its climactic fervor, there are still challenges. Reading labels is key, obviously, and sometimes I just don't want to read a label! Sometimes it's because I know what I will read, and other times I just don't want to feel discouraged. All of this is forcing me to eat healthier and to eat less packaged foods in general. Jeff has challenged me to read all labels, regardless. He pointed out, in not so many words, that if I don't read a label, I am not going forth responsibly. Back when my mom was in the hospital was a different story. Reading a label then may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. I could have had a nervous breakdown at any moment. But now, if I consider not reading a label, it is laziness and dishonesty to myself and everyone that I tell, "I am not eating white refined sugar!" So, I have no choice in this matter. It is starting to feel like a little monkey on my back, but at the same time, I want to be able to look back on this experience and know that I did everything possible to refrain from the white stuff.

On a different note, rather than running to the store when I had a snack attack a few days ago, I decided to try baking. It all started one day when I began craving pie. I've never craved it before. I like berry and apple pies, but I never think about eating one unless it is offered for dessert. Well, that all changed not too long ago when I became obsessed thinking about a berry-rhubarb pie. Nothing could satiate my craving. I would sit there enjoying my imagination's rendition of the flakiest crust and tart rhubarb countered by sweet, fresh strawberries. Over and over I pictured this. Jeff found me in Fred Meyer standing over the boxed pies, staring. I must have been in a trance. It was then I realized I had to eat a pie. So, I bought ingredients (frozen rasberries and strawberries, whole wheat flour) and that night I made a berry pie. The crust was not flaky. It was very hard and crunchy. The filling was great, however. I used date sugar in place of white sugar. The only thing I didn't get was the tart sensation. Making the pie took a while so I decided to make whole wheat, grain-sweetened chocolate chip cookies. Those were delicious and gone in two days. However, I have been eating my berry pie every morning for breakfast with my coffee and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sugar: An Inexpensive Sedative

Jeff and I just returned from a refreshing, 5-day vacation. We hot tubbed, swam, threw snowballs, photographed eagles and moose, ate delicious food, and drove around adventuring through deep snow in a Jeep rental. You learn a lot spending 24 hours a day with someone. At some point I realized something about myself. That I have become really hyper. I don't squirm in my seat or fidget when I'm idle, but I think I have a lot more energy these days. More than a couple times I would really get to talking fast about something that excites me, and Jeff would say, "Whoa! Slow down, there!" Or I would list all of the things I wanted to do that day like: hike, ski, visit the animal shelter, walk around, feed the geese, visit the animal shelter, drive up to a ridge, etc. At some point I think I became annoying, especially to myself. Where was this energy coming from? Was it because we were on vacation? Was I sleeping better? Could it be all the fish I consumed over the 5-day span of time? Then I realized that it must be lack of sugar, i.e. I am not experiencing great rises or dips in my blood sugar levels. I am actually feeling relatively sane. After thinking all of this through, I told Jeff that maybe I should start eating sugar again. Overall, it makes a great sedative!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Glycemic Index, Oh My!

I may be going about this all wrong. Not that I shouldn't have given up sugar. That was a good thing. But it has been brought to my attention lately that one of the key factors why sugar is so bad for our health is its "glycemic index". Here is the definition:

"The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health."

Here's more:

"Recent studies from Harvard School of Public Health indicate that the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the GI of the overall diet. In 1999, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended that people in industrialised countries base their diets on low-GI foods in order to prevent the most common diseases of affluence, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity." (http://www.glycemicindex.com/)

The irony is that if you research causes of diabetes on a diabetes website, they are always defending sugar for some reason, as not a cause for diabetes. Like this: "Myth #3: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. No. Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors." (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-myths.jsp)

While I agree that one thing is probably not responsible for causing diabetes, including sugar, it seems inherently linked. But that is not my area of expertise.

I write about glycemic index because I think it is closely related to why I chose to go without sugar in the first place. I don't want to ingest foods that ..."with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels." This means I should be aware of other foods that have a high glycemic index. These include refined foods like white flour, various forms of sugar, and other grains that are not "whole" grains. Not that I would venture to go without all refined foods, but I am most curious about the glycemic index of foods, now. It seems inherently important to my overall goal which is to make wise food choices based on nutritional value.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sugar in the Shower

I used sugar in the shower today! I bought a sugar scrub (that smells just like chocolate cake) for my husband who is the chocoholic. His face was glowing after his shower and he recommended that I try the scrub. "Is this going against my resolution against white refined sugar?" I thought. But of course it was not, as I was not going to ingest it, but just scrub my face with it. So I did. It was truly amazing. The scrub has a blend of sugar and nice organic oils which made my face really shiny and soft. I think it would be really funny to keep sugar around the house to scrub our faces with but not to eat.

Also, I found a really interesting ingredient today in Safeway's bulk foods section. The chocolate almonds had a sign on the ingredients list that said, "Sweetened with FruitSource". Then, it listed the ingredients of FruitSource, which are brown rice syrup and concentrated grape juice. What a relief! I tried one chocolate covered almond and found it to be delicious! Hurray for FruitSource! Hurray for Safeway for providing a healthy alternative to white refined sugar!