My husband and I were talking about random nutritional things like we often do, and he mentioned that most Americans eat 150 pounds of sugar a year. That number used to be 15 pounds of sugar a year in 1840. I started thinking about all the sugar I eat. I like sugar. I love to bake; mostly because I am gluten free and the things I make taste better then the packaged stuff. Anyway, I wondered how much sugar that would be a day, and if I could manage to cut my sugar intake to that number. Turns out that is about 20 grams of sugar a day. Hmm what does that mean exactly? Are we talking actual added sugar or all sugar including fruit and carbs? I have decided to see if I can manage to get by on 15 pounds of sugar a year. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud because that seems like a lot of sugar, but not as bad as 150 pounds of sugar.
My rules of Engagement
There have to be rules to this, because sugar is everywhere and I know that I would be impossible to live with without some kind of carbohydrate. So I decided I will count sugar added to processed food. That means I can eat all the fruit and vegetables I want as long as they don’t have any added sugars, if they do I have to count the added sugar. Also, I can save up my sugar grams for one big treat. And no fruit juice, it’s too concentrated. If it comes in a package I check the ingredients for added sugar, if it’s there I count it, if not then I don’t. So far I know that a Jr Chocolate frosty from Wendy’s has 22 grams of sugar and ketchup has 4 grams a tablespoon. Yesterday I didn’t have any added sugar, just 2 apples and 2 bananas. I didn’t die, but I REALLY wanted some chocolate. Today I had a tablespoon of ketchup. Still, I didn’t die, though I was searching the house for something to eat that had really low sugar. I settled for a piece of sliced roast beef with avocado, blue corn chips, and salsa. None of these had added sugar. Applesauce with no added sugar saved me today, I wanted a sweet. It is now 8PM and I’m feeling quite successful so far on my first two days. I have actually saved up 36 grams of sugar availability for my year. Good thing because I have a birthday party to go to in 2 days.
Not two words we usually associate together.
Just finished a great book called Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It, by Jeff O’Connell. O’ Connell is a journalist and has written articles for some health magazines. What’s great about this book is his own struggles with avoiding Type 2 Diabetes. He has talked to many experts in the field and done a lot of research then compiled it in an easy to read book. He is also a skinny pre-diabetic that has worked really hard to get his numbers down to a normal count that would be considered, not pre-diabetic. Skinny is not what we usually think of for someone with type 2 diabetes, this is a good reminder that we all have a potential for problems with this disease.
He also talks about Reactive Hypoglycemia, which is super important, so many people I see as an acupuncturist have these symptoms but don’t realize what they are eating is the problem.
Low blood sugar can actually be because you are eating too much sugar or carbs, and your insulin levels over-compensate, making your blood sugar dip very low as a result. Symptoms can include heart palpitation, fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, sweating, headaches, depression, nervousness, irritability, tremors, flushing, craving sweets, increased appetite, rhinitis, nausea, vomiting, panic attacks, numbness or cold extremities, confusion. Wikipedia has a quick write up:
Almost every day my husband and I talk about sugar. He has now brought home at least 5 books on the subject. The history of sugar like slavery, and trading, and growing. We were asked what sugar I am counting in my daily 20g ritual. So here is the best list I can come up with: Table sugar, raw sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, agave nector, brown rice syrup, fruit juice sweetener, and all liquid form sweeteners.
It’s now been about 22 days and I have lost 5 pounds as a side-effect of my sugar reduction. I have found it difficult to eat out. If I eat at home, it is no problem to stay under 20 g of sugar a day. I had a doctor’s appointment and thought I deserved a Caribou Cooler after. Thought I would try the Northern Lite one since it says there is only 13g of sugar in it. However, they don’t make it in Decaf. I know, why bother, that’s what it should be called…no sugar, no caffeine, HA! The girl at the counter suggested a Regular Cooler with sugar-free syrup, because they have that one in decaf. By this time there were 3 people behind me waiting for their caffeine drugs, so I said that’s fine and took it. It was really good, too good, like there had to be sugar in there good. So I got on the Caribou Coffee website and started digging around again to see how much sugar the regular base has in it, but no luck. And can’t find that information by doing a search either. While I was at it, I was wondering what kind of sweetener was being used in the sugar-free syrup. I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners, but thought I would try it for the sake of this blog. I couldn’t find any information so I emailed customer service. I asked them if the regular cooler base has sugar and what the sugar-free syrup is sweetened with. It took a while to get a reply and then they didn’t even answer the questions. It was like asking your parents a question they don’t want to answer, they kind of changed the subject. The answer was that the Northern Lite cooler base has sugar in it, that’s not what I asked, and they never told me what the syrup is sweetened with. Then they gave me a link to the nutrition information on their website. I already looked there and didn’t find what I needed that’s why I emailed them. HELLO, is any one home! Since I wrote this, I have learned a lot about artificial sweetners. Stay tuned for the next post about artificial sweetners.
Sabotage! I went to Trader Joe’s this morning to get almond butter, chicken, and avacados, there is no way I can make it through this day without my banana and almond butter. Anyway, they gave me a free box of chocolates (a whole pound), how funny is that? The lady couldn’t even remember why they were giving them away. Went to Chinese food yesterday and have no idea how much sugar was in what I ate. I didn’t eat any sweet and sour anything, no desert other than fruit, and no fried because I can’t eat the gluten. I’m forfeiting today’s sugar grams since I had only 1 to work with yesterday. I am going to say that is close and move on. So tomorrow I will be caught up and start the day with 20 grams. I do not like taking a credit on my sugar, I would rather save up for something. Sounds like a credit card. In case you are wondering the box of chocolates says 3 pieces is 23 g of sugar.
I am conference bound! The Nutritional Therapy Association is having a conference about my sweet addiction and I’m going to find out all the information I can. I will continue to post my regular blogs but will let you know all about the conference when I get back. There are going to be a great bunch of speakers, some of the author’s I have read. The NTA has a great list of books to read on their website, not all related to sugar, but a broad range of subjects related to nutrition. It is a different bunch of books, not related so much to conventional wisdom diets. Check it out http://nutritionaltherapy.com/ntt-programs/required-reading/ or http://nutritionaltherapy.com/ntt-programs/ntc-ntp-recommended-reading/
Man overboard!!! I fell off my wagon. Not too bad though. I have a soft spot for orange Mandarin Shift. It’s like soda but 100% fruit juice in fizzy water. It doesn’t fit in my rules. I have to count the fruit juice toward sugar intake. It has 29grams of sugar. That’s a lot, add that to 9g for a gluten free bagel and 8g for a bowl of tomato soup and I am starting my day with 1g available. HMM not sure if I like drinking my sugar allowance. What can I get with 1g? NOTHING Think I will save it for tomorrow. Or I may have to take a loan on tomorrow, because I’m going out to Chinese food today and I don’t know what the sugar load will be yet. This is where things start to get tricky. Eating out kind of leaves you wondering what ‘s really in the food, because you never really know. That burger might only be 70% meat, what’s the other 30%? Yuck. By the way, I have lost 2 pounds, and my weight hasn’t budged since the baby. On a side note, did you know that one 12 oz can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar and that plastic 20 oz bottle has 65 grams of sugar. A mini 7.5 oz can has about 25 grams of sugar. That liquid sugar is an insulin disaster…. Don’t drink your sugar, don’t do it…. save yourself. At the very least save your children.
And, the creativity has begun. I say that because if I don’t want everything to count toward my 20 grams of sugar, than I have to make things to eat that follow my rules of no added sugar. This morning I am having a smoothie. I am not a smoothie person. I usually prefer a Caramel Cooler from Caribou (small -63g sugar) or a Frappuccino from Starbucks, by the way I just looked at the nutrition information and a Frappuccino has gluten in it. The Northern Lite Cooler at Caribou only has 13g I just noticed. WOW… a lot of caffeine. Anyway, this information is pretty easy to find by searching on Google. Back to my smoothie, started with Rice Drink Unsweetened, Hemp Protein, some almond butter, frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, banana, and coconut oil. I am feeling quite proud of myself right now, it actually tastes good and it’s thick enough to eat with a spoon. Also having some sausage from the co-op. My husband told me yesterday that he told his classes about my sugar experiment. Does this mean that I am now going to have to follow through with this sugar thing!! Actually it’s kind of fun. Oh ya, I also realized that the salsa I ate the other night had sugar in it (2g for 2tbls), so I’m guessing my little savings account is down to 7g plus 20g for today, I’m sitting on 27g. I should also clarify that I have not been counting fruit in my sugar grams, however I also realize that does not mean I can eat 6 bananas and 4 apples. That is fructose overload and that is a whole subject of it’s own. Fruit still has sugar, but still includes all the fiber that helps slow absorption. Moderation is the key with the fruit. I feel like it’s getting easier to appreciate the other flavors of food. Sweet is not the only thing that exists, really, I promise.
It’s been uneventful in the land of no sugar. I will sound like a broken record when I say that yesterday I had 3 squares of chocolate, at a cost of 7 grams of sugar. At this point you are probly wondering if I am addicted to chocolate. The answer is sort of. I do like chocolate, and like I said before I need it every week. At this point it is an easy treat, not a lot of grams to count and no trying to figure anything out. Today I had Bread in a Box gluten free graham crackers (7 grams for 1 ounce) and 4 squares of chocolate (approx. 11 grams) at the same time, kind of like a modified smore. I am now finished with that bar of chocolate I bought 5 days ago. This hasn’t been a horrifying experiment so far. I do stop before popping treats into my mouth thoughtlessly. Have to check the ingredients first, and really I have been eating more vegetables and fruit then usual. So my tally for today stands at 18 grams of sugar with 2 left over. Add that to 13 grams from yesterday and I have a little savings account of 15 grams. Yeah me!
Birthday party at in-laws today. Good thing I had a reserve of 34 grams, with my 20 grams for today that allowed me 54 grams. I made my Grandma’s hamburger and beans, by the time I added all the brown sugar and ketchup the beans had about 11 grams of sugar per half cup. No one eats a half-cup of anything, do they? Anyway, there was also coleslaw, with sugar added, and barbeque beef that definitely had sugar added. Shrimp, spinach dip and cocktail sauce for appetizers. So, how in the world can I count what I don’t know? I can’t, but I can be a good guesser. I know I had 3 squares of chocolate, that’s 7 grams, maybe a cup of beans, that’s 22 grams, shrimp with no cocktail sauce, I’m guessing 0 grams, and the rest I don’t have a clue. So that’s 29 grams I am for sure about. That leaves 25. I am sure I used that up on coleslaw, beef, and spinach dip. The problem is I didn’t eat much because I knew that I would be going over on my sugar, so I am hungry. I didn’t have any soda, I don’t ever anyway, which is about 39 grams of sugar by itself. No cake, no cupcakes. I am starting to get a really good concept of all the sugar I have been eating. Almost every single thing served had added sugar, even though it was all homemade. Hmmm guess I’ll go have an apple. Does it make you uncomfortable to turn down the cake when everyone else is eating some? The more you do it, the stronger you will feel that you are in control of what you eat… because you are! It’s easy to disappear into another room or the bathroom when the cake is being distributed, or say “What I would really like is a cup of tea, I’m so full.” I doubt you’ll get an argument and the host will be happy they can get you something.
Day 3 and I want chocolate. I like chocolate, I don’t need it every day, but I like it every week, at least. I made my way to Trader Joe’s for a Ritter Sport bar. Dark chocolate with hazelnuts is my favorite and you can eat six squares of it for a grand total of 14grams of sugar. That’s good enough for me, but just to be safe I left the rest of the bar in the car. Truthfully though, it tasted very sweet and it kind of hurt my teeth. How strange that in just 3 days I can taste the sugar so clearly. On another note, my husband didn’t think it was fair for me to save up my sugar grams, but I disagreed. If it was a hundred years ago I would have that 15 pounds of sugar sitting on my shelf, and if I didn’t eat it today, it would still be there tomorrow waiting for some special occasion. So, my rule sticks. I can save up my grams for a big treat. Though today I used 22 grams of sugar all together, I couldn’t pass up a dark chocolate sea salt caramel that I saw at the Hallmark store. That leaves me at a positive of 34 grams. Now the hard part of this is going to be when I decide to cook or bake something with added sugar. I will have to divide the sugar by the total servings to see how much each serving has, that is going to be tedious. Especially when I make something that I don’t usually measure the sugar for, like the baked beans I’m making for a birthday party tomorrow. I also have to confess that there are two other factors that will make my sugar experiment a little easier. I am gluten free, which cuts out a lot of junk food, such as cakes and goodies, breads, crackers, and most all fast food, unless food is made special, but most of the time it isn’t. The other is that I am feeding an infant, he can’t tolerate dairy, so no dairy for me. Another interesting piece of information I heard today was about Alzheimer’s. Some people in the medical community are starting to refer to Alzheimer’s as Diabetes Type III. Yikes, hello, sugar is killing us and robbing our brains. Really, I want to give sugar a rest, is it worth my quality of life being poor in the future?