Sunday, January 8, 2017

More about less sugar

“This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of this time and is easy to obtain.” — Paul Van Der Velpen, head of the Public Health Service of Amsterdam

THE SIGHT of myself February 1, 2016 was the last straw. I decided something had to be done, and I embarked upon a weight-loss program. Paul decided to participate as well for which I was grateful; it's a heck of a lot easier to keep to a diet if you're not the only one in the house who's doing it.

I weighed 118 at the time which — inexplicably to me — is considered normal for my height, but as I wrote in March, I've been me for a long time now, and I know what I'm supposed to look like and how much weight my frame was built to carry. Besides, being at a healthy weight isn't just about a number on the scale. Where excess weight is carried is also important. Visceral fat, also known as organ fat and commonly called belly fat, i
s the unhealthiest; I wanted to lose that.

I wrongly believed that the best route would be to exercise the weight off, and I could have . . . I did it once before 10 years or so ago, but that's harder to sustain and maintain. Many reference sources pin the ratio for effective, sustainable weight loss as 85% dependent on what we eat and 15% on exercise. 
Certainly there are many important reasons to exercise, but research indicates that losing or gaining weight is much more reliant long term on what we eat.

Another misconception about weigh gain is that fatty food is the culprit. Some fats are definitely healthier than others, but the body needs at least a certain amount of fat. It's actually refined sugar that's the demon. 

How did it work out for Paul and me? At the time I wrote the initial post about our slimming regimen, I had lost 12 pounds, and Paul had lost 15. That was in mid-March. By mid-May, or earlier, I had lost 20 pounds, and Paul had lost 30. We've both maintained our reduced weight in the eight months since then.

Below is a piece from The New York Times on the evils of sugar, and how much . . . how very very very MUCH of it we consume as a nation. I'm lucky in that I never learned to like sugary drinks — sodas, lemonade, sweet tea and the like, and I don't like alcohol. Those were things I didn't have to cut out, but boy howdy, did I ever have a sweet tooth in other ways! Pie, cookies, cake, ice cream, candy . . . not only was I unable to resist all of that, I actively craved it.

The key to the program we are on is a lean and green dinner plus frequent low-glycemic index, low-calorie, low-sugar snacks. One of the biggest benefits for me besides the weight loss itself has been the cessation of that sugar craving. It's gone.

In the article I've attached for you, David Leonhardt talks about a good (50) and an ideal number
(25) of grams of sugar per day. I'm pretty much in that range every day. I didn't know I was until I read this article and checked, and in so doing I discovered that one of the things that shoots my numbers up is the brand of yogurt I've been eating. It's low-fat and pretty low-calorie, but it has 25 grams of sugar. I'm changing brands.

A Month Without Sugar

By David Leonhardt

December 30, 2016

It is in chicken stock, sliced cheese, bacon and smoked salmon, in mustard and salad dressing, in crackers and nearly every single brand of sandwich bread. It is all around us — in obvious ways and hidden ones — and it is utterly delicious.

It’s sugar, in its many forms: powdered sugar, honey, corn syrup, you name it. The kind you eat matters less than people once thought, scientific research suggests, and the amount matters much more. Our national sugar habit is the driving force behind the diabetes and obesity epidemics and may be a contributing factor to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Like me, you’ve probably just finished a couple of weeks in which you have eaten a whole lot of tasty sugar. Don’t feel too guilty about it. But if you feel a little guilty about it, I’d like to make a suggestion.

Choose a month this year — a full 30 days, starting now or later — and commit to eating no added sweeteners. Go cold turkey, for one month.

I have done so in each of the last two years, and it has led to permanent changes in my eating habits. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. It reset my sugar-addled taste buds and opened my eyes to the many products that needlessly contain sugar. I now know which brands of chicken stock, bacon, smoked salmon, mustard and hot sauce contain added sugar and which do not.

I know that Triscuits and pita bread are our friends. They have only a few ingredients, and no sugar. Wheat Thins and most packaged sandwich breads, on the other hand, have an ingredient list that evokes high school chemistry class, including added sugars.

If you give up sugar for a month, you’ll become part of a growing anti-sugar movement. Research increasingly indicates that an overabundance of simple carbohydrates, and sugar in particular, is the No. 1 problem in modern diets. An aggressive, well-financed campaign by the sugar industry masked this reality for years. Big Sugar instead placed the blame on fats — which seem, after all, as if they should cause obesity.

But fats tend to have more nutritional value than sugar, and sugar is far easier to overeat. Put it this way: Would you find it easier to eat two steaks or two pieces of cake?

Fortunately, the growing understanding of sugar’s dangers has led to a backlash, both in politics and in our diets. Taxes on sweetened drinks — and soda is probably the most efficient delivery system for sugar — have recently passed in Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland, San Francisco and Boulder, Colo. Mexico and France now have one as well, and Ireland and Britain soon will.

Even before the taxes, Americans were cutting back on sugar. Since 1999, per capita consumption of added sweeteners has fallen about 14 percent, according to the Agriculture Department.

Yet it needs to drop a lot more — another 40 percent or so — to return to a healthy level. “Most public authorities think everybody would be healthier eating less sugar,” says Marion Nestle of N.Y.U. “There is tons of evidence.”

A good long-term limit for most adults is no more than 50 grams (or about 12 teaspoons) of added sugars per day, and closer to 25 is healthier. A single 16-ounce bottle of Coke has 52 grams.

You don’t have to cut out sugar for a month to eat less of it, of course. But it can be difficult to reduce your consumption in scattered little ways. You can usually find an excuse to say yes to the plate of cookies at a friend’s house or the candy jar during a meeting. Eliminating added sugar gives you a new baseline and forces you to make changes. Once you do, you’ll probably decide to keep some of your new habits.

My breakfasts, for example, have completely changed. Over the past few decades, typical breakfasts in this country have become “lower-fat versions of dessert,” as Gary Taubes, the author of a new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” puts it.

Mine used to revolve around cereal and granola, which are almost always sweetened. Now I eat a combination of eggs, nuts, fruit, plain yogurt and some well-spiced vegetables. It feels decadent, yet it’s actually healthier than a big bowl of granola.

How should you define sugar during your month? I recommend the definition used by Whole 30, a popular food regimen (which eliminates many things in addition to sugar). The sugar that occurs naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy is allowed. “Nobody eats too much of those,” Nestle says, “not with the fiber and vitamins and minerals they have.”

But every single added sweetener is verboten. No sugar, no corn syrup, no maple syrup, no honey, no fancy-pants agave. Read every ingredient list, looking especially for words that end in “-ose.” Don’t trust the Nutrition Facts table next to the ingredient list, because “0 g” of sugar on that list really means “less than 0.5 g.” Get comfortable asking questions in restaurants. And avoid the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, too.

Part of the goal, remember, is to relearn how a diet that isn’t dominated by sweeteners tastes. I’ve always liked fruit, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was during the month. When I needed a midday treat, a Honeycrisp apple, a few Trader Joe’s apricots or a snack bar that fit the no-sugar bill saved me.

Finally, be careful not to violate the spirit of the month while sticking to the formal rules: Have only one small glass of juice a day, and eat very little with added fruit juices.

There were certainly times when I didn’t enjoy the experience. I missed ice cream, chocolate squares, Chinese restaurants and cocktails. But I also knew that I’d get to enjoy them all again.

The unpleasant parts of a month without sugar are temporary, and they’re tolerable. Some of the benefits continue long after the month is over. If you try it and your experience is anything like mine, I predict that your new normal will feel healthier and no less enjoyable than the old.

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1 comment:

  1. We broke with our program over the holidays. I made candy and baked cookies and we split a cinnamon roll and lots of holiday stuff. We both noticed that it's hard now to say no to it. So we're weaning away from it again. It is addictive! And when a food says 'low fat' chances are that it's loaded with either sugar or sodium. Good piece. I hope lots of folks give it a try.