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, May 28, 2008

Sugar Beets

Do you know where your sugar comes from? "Sugar cane!" you might say. Actually, there is a high probability that your white refined sugar does NOT come from the sugar cane plant! Much of our sugar actually comes from sugar beets! What is a sugar beet? A sugar beet "is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose... Beet sugar accounts for 30% of the world's sugar production... The United States is one of the world's three largest sugar beet producers."-Wikipedia. For more information about the sugar that may be sitting on your table, go here:

Today I called a local sugar beet factory and asked if they gave tours. I would love to see with my own eyes the steps involved in the sugar refining process, be it sugar cane or sugar beets. There is probably a slight difference in the refining process of each. I was told that since 9/11, they are no longer able to give tours for bio-terrorism reasons. Shucks! I asked if someone who worked there would be interested in an interview and was given the name and phone number of two people at corporate headquarters. Cool! The outcome of this interview is TBA!

Let's not leave out sugar cane. Here is a link to information about sugar cane:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Do Not Be Deceived!

Don't be deceived by the clever terms companies use for sugar in their ingredients lists. Here are some common examples:
Evaporated Cane Juice
Raw Sugar
Dried Cane Juice
Organic Sugar
From my research, I have found that there are some minor differences between these products and white refined sugar, but in the end, it all comes down to sucrose, C12H22O1. Given that sugar spikes blood sugar, causes cavities, relates to a plethora of diseases, lowers the immune system and relates to diabetes, I'm not so sure that the differences in these types of sugars substantiate their intake. The biggest difference between these substances is their finish point in the refining process. Some do not go through chemical bleaching, repeated liquification and crystallization, or added chemicals. Also, organic sugar is grown (90%?) without the use of pesticides and herbicides. While there is integrity at these points, the fact is that these sugars still wage war on our bodies and immune systems. Don't be deceived! Another way to put it is, does our body require any product of the sugar refining process for health and wellness? I think most would agree that we would be better off without ingesting any product of the sugar refining process. The gamble we all take is eating something our body does not require.

Raw Sugar: Raw sugar is coarse, tan to brown-colored sugar (sucrose) which results from the first processing of cane or beet sugar. True "raw sugar" cannot be sold in the USA because it contains impurities such as soil, mold yeast, bacteria, and wax. When further processed to remove the impurities it is sold as turbinado sugar. --http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/nspired/sunspire/faq.d2w/report#gsweet

Evaporated Cane Juice:
is used more widely across the globe and is gaining currency as a euphemism for refined white sugar.

Dried Cane Juice/Organic Evaporated Cane Juice: http://www.certifiedorganicevaporatedcanejuice.com/
(Sorry to not give you my synopsis on this product. Are there molecular differences and health variables for choosing cane juice over white refined sugar? At this point, I am uncertain what the main differences are between these two products.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Washington DC and Why Vegans Eat More Sugar Than Meat-Eaters

It is possible to travel and not consume sugar! I've eaten at the same restaurant in Washington, DC three days in a row. "Big Buns" restaurant gives you the option of having your meat or fish on a bun (NO!) or in a salad bowl (YES!). Miraculously enough, the garlic herb hot sauce had no sugar either! I've hit a couple of grocery stores for fruit and while we were in New York, I bought fruit off the street. While I have been pretty alert and active, I have witnessed those around me (you know who you are!) crash immediately after a sugar rush from: donuts, milkshakes, mochas, brownies, ice cream, etc. Last night at Old Ebbots, a classic restaurant one block from the White House, I watched three hungry people devour two gigantic desserts. I sat and chewed on ice cubes, feeling slightly left out, but also very happy that I have gotten to this point. I was truly happy for the taste sensations of others, while maintaining balanced blood sugar.

One strange result of not eating sugar but getting coffee in the morning, is that I have to order milk for my latte, and not soy. Most soy milk that coffee shops use have cane juice, sugar, etc. I don't like milk but I must have my coffee and/or latte in the morning! I am concluding that vegans and vegetarians must, by default, consume more sugar, strictly because the milk and meat alternatives mostly all have sugar! This is a serious fault in the so-called "health-food" industry. Now that I think about it, I've had to search quite hard for alternative milk products that don't have sugar, and I have had to give up on tofu hot dogs, processed vegan chicken products, and my favorite product made by Gardenburger: Vegetarian BBQ Ribs, dripping with sugar-laden barbeque sauce. That was my favorite!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sugar-Free Travel: Is it Possible?

Is it possible to travel through 22 states, and at the mercy of restaurants consume no sugar? Hopefully there will be plenty of grocery stores along the way. I'll eat all fresh fruit if I have to. I'm going to be such a nuisance to eat with-especially in Boston, New York and DC! Maybe I will find a way to smuggle in healthy snack bars wherever we go. This will be interesting!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Glycemic Index and The Difficulty in Being Sugar-Free

In my quest to research all I can about sugar and use alternative, "healthy" sweeteners, I have come across a lot of variables having to do with health. One example is honey. It is natural. I eat it non-pasteurized so that it still contains active enzymes/bacteria that have proven health benefits. (The downside with non-pasteurized honey is that it crystallizes sitting on the shelf, but can be heated to liquefy it again.) However, I did some research this morning and found that honey has a high glycemic index--(which, as a reminder, "the glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers—the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response," courtesy of http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm).

Certain organizations promote honey as only having a glycemic index (GI) of 5o, which is considered low. Others have found that honey is about as bad as white refined sugar in this respect, with a GI of 83, which is high. Here is an interesting piece of research I found: http://www.mendosa.com/diabetes_update_22.htm. Scroll down to where it says, "Is Honey Really Low Glycemic?" There are some great leads to research that has been done on this. My concern is that I have found honey to be a great alternative to white refined sugar, but if it causes my blood sugar to sky-rocket, is it really a healthy alternative to sugar?

If you would like to see the USDA's breakdown of nutrients/types of sugars in honey, go here: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/cgi-bin/list_nut_edit.pl. It is fascinating! I had no idea that honey contained sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose and galactose!

Also, I looked up a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which concludes, "...there is often no difference in responses [blood sugar responses] between foods containing added sugars and those containing naturally-occurring sugars," http://journals.cambridge.org/action/quickSearch#.

Is my plight in vain? Am I cheating myself of the benefits of a "sugar-free" diet if I continue to eat other kinds of sweeteners that aren't much healthier? Part of my goal was to see how easy/hard it is to achieve eating food without refined sugars in them. I have found that most packaged foods contain sugar and that it is very difficult to be sugar-free in an uncontrolled food environment like a restaurant, cafe, someone else's house, group function, etc. My hang-up at the moment is do I cut out other sweeteners that are practically as bad as white sugar? I wonder how I would feel if I only ate fruit and vegetable sugars and not honey or maple syrup or other sugar substitutes? Could I go without the desserts that those sweeteners have allowed me so far? I have to think about it. I could really use suggestions/comments at this point! Help!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Best Sugar-Free SUGAR COOKIES

It all started this morning at 8am in the mall. I had some time to kill so I wandered in before my appointments. I've always enjoyed the quiet ambiance of the mall with a handful of seniors walking their laps before the stores open. I was looking for a comfortable bench that overlooked the ice skating rink (there was an early morning training session that was fun to watch). As I walked through the mall, I passed a row of decadent sweet shops: the caramel corn shop, Cinnabon, the homemade pretzel shop and Mrs. Fields cookies. As I walked, I almost ran into a giant sign that stood in the middle of the walkway. I wasn't paying attention--I was craving the aromas of Cinnabon and freshly baked cookies.

As I looked up at the sign in front of me, I read it and gasped out loud. I wished someone was there with me to share in the experience. I really took it to heart in light of my no-sugar year. The sign was bordered with pictures of chocolate chip cookies and the huge words in the middle said,


Someone has blatantly tapped into the psychology of why we eat cookies and is now using that secret to show us that it's okay. Later on in my day, I parallel parked downtown and decided to eat my lunch in my car. As I sat there eating cheese, a hard-boiled egg and almonds, a semi-truck drove slowly by and I watched it drive away staring at the quote on the back of the truck. In gigantic block letters, I read, "PLEASE PASS THE COOKIES!" I wish.

In honor of my day today, I am going to post this delicious cookie recipe.

Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies

1 ½ C. flour

¾ C. butter

¼ C. honey

* Combine flour and butter in food processor (or mixer) until fine. Drizzle in honey while pulsing until mixture pulls together. Roll out and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes. So good, you’ll never want to eat another cut-out cookie with sugar again! You can also add a flavor extract. Be creative! Almond extract, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon etc.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bobcats and Book Clubs

The funniest thing happened last night! I was preparing some fruit for dinner and I happened to glance up and look outside. I saw some movement along the edge of the backyard, and what I initially thought was a dog ended up being a giant bobcat! (To back up a little bit, we are now staying out in the country for a few weeks, in Battleground, Washington.) I yelled for everyone to look and no one could believe it! Jeff promptly ran outside to get our dog who would not win a fight with that animal. The bobcat ran off and my mom immediately got on the phone to her neighbor to see if she had seen it. She had not seen it, and then asked my mom to let me know that she was having a book club meeting and that I was invited. By a very strange coincidence, her book club was discussing the very book I am in the middle of reading right now, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," by Michael Pollan. So after dinner I went next door and joined a great group of people! We had a lot of fun discussing the book and various topics that came up relating to issues in the book. One of which was corn syrup. Several chapters of the book are dedicated to corn: the history of, past and current production, statistics, politics, etc. Someone mentioned that corn syrup is known to be highly addictive. Someone also mentioned that corn products seem to be in most packaged items, especially corn syrup. Then someone else said they thought high fructose corn syrup has trans fats. These are great questions! Anyway, I really enjoyed discussing the book's issues and hearing other people's thoughts and experiences.