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I Quit Sugar author Sarah Wilson discusses the benefits of cutting the sweet stuff
When we say ‘sugar’ what are we actually talking about?
Well, we're actually talking one-half of sugar. Normal table sugar comprises 50 per cent glucose - which is perfectly safe and is easily metabolised by our bodies - and 50 per cent fructose. Fructose is the issue. So when we say "sugar", we're referring to the fructose component.
Is there good sugar and bad sugar?
There's safe and unsafe sugar. Glucose and lactose (in milk) are safe - they contain no fructose. They occur naturally in a lot of foods. Fructose, however, is, I guess, always bad. And fructose is fructose, whether it's consumed in "healthy" forms or not - the body reads it the same way.
Honey is 40 per cent fructose, agave is 70 to 90 per cent fructose...these are often labelled as "good" or healthy sugars when they're clearly not.
Fruit contains a lot of fructose too, but if consumed whole, the water and fibre content offsets things a little (although studies show we really should only be eating one to two pieces of low-fructose fruits each day).
Generally speaking, what are some of the negative effects of too much sugar?
Weight gain is an immediate one. Fructose goes straight to the liver as fat. The issues spin off from there, primarily metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes, cholesterol issues and heart disease. Studies now link sugar to all these "modern" diseases, all of which have risen at the same rate as our sugar consumption.
How has quitting sugar changed your life?
I lost a little weight (this wasn't really a health concern). It also got me over some pretty terrible mood swings and digestion issues. I just don't bloat any more. It's also helped with my auto immune disease. The inflammation has gradually reduced.
You have become a sort of standard-bearer for the sugar-free lifestyle. Do you feel any pressure as a healthy role model?
Yes! I will still eat a little dark chocolate...I'm not militant. In fact, I think it's good to dip back into sugar every now and then to be reminded of what it does to you. But I'm always scared I'll be "sprung".
I also fear coming across as "holier than thou". That's not my aim. My aim is to show how easy it is to get healthy by doing ONE THING only. I also try to inspire people to feel free to eat more fat, more meat, more cheese and so on.
A lot of people would be surprised to learn that fruit isn’t always healthy. Which fruits are highest in sugar? Are some fruits ok?
Apples and bananas are probably the worst culprits. Berries and kiwi fruit are best.
What are some of the major culprits when it comes to hidden sugar?
Low fat dairy is shocking - when they take fat out of, say yoghurt, they replace it with sugar. Worse still, it's often disguised as "fruit puree". So the label will say "low fat" and "no added sugar". In fact, it's full of sugar (fructose) and it's highly fat creating.
(Please, everyone, just eat the full fat stuff!). Tomato and barbecue sauces contain more sugar than chocolate topping, often. And muesli is brimming with fructose (dried fruit is 70 per cent sugar).
It’s the 3pm craving - what are some of the best swaps for sugar-heavy snacks?
Nuts, grilled haloumi and my personal favourite, coconut oil mixed with some raw cacao (and chilled to go hard). I have about 30 snack recipes (both sweet and savoury) in my book.
Why is it so hard to kick the sugar habit? Is there a trick to quitting sugar?
Two tricks - give yourself eight weeks of zero sugar to get it out of your system and replace sugar with fat and protein. Trust me, you'll not put on weight and will likely lose it. And you'll be happily satiated - no cravings! In my first ebook, I outline why this works. It works for the French!
Do you ever break the sugar ban? And is there anything you miss from pre-IQS days?
Well, I'd say I miss chocolate. But I still eat it - there are some sugar-free versions on the market that are seriously good. A few pieces of 85 per cent cacao is great stuff, and tastes sweet (!) after you quit sugar. Plus I make my own chocolate snacks which are infinitely better than the processed, sugary stuff.
For more information about the 'I Quit Sugar' ebook, or to buy it online, visit Sarah Wilson's website.