I have a mild to moderate sugar addiction. I love flaky pastries and deep chocolate and anything creamy and sweet. My favorite dessert is what I call “chocolate clay,” a kind of dense mousse or light gianduja, preferably on top of a crumbly peanut butter crust. I don’t know what this dessert is called, but Google had it at their cafes occasionally. If someone knows, please tell me! …After January.
For all of January 2018, which begins in three days, I will not consume any added sugar. What do I mean by “added sugar”? Most of this post is an outline of EVERY detail of what I will and will not eat. But first, the bigger picture:
My goals for this project
Earlier this year, I watched the viral video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” and read the less viral but more entertaining book The Year of No Sugar. I highly recommend both of these! Since then I’ve been casually consuming books and videos on nutrition and people’s personal experiences with going off sugar in particular.
I’m not as obsessed with nutrition as, for example, the author of The Year of No Sugar, but I’ve come to realize that nutrition deserves much more research, attention, and effort than I’ve given it so far. So I’m attempting my own humble nutrition experiments, starting with No Sugar January.
My goals for the No Sugar January project:
1. To reset my taste buds and my sugar-eating habits, in order to…
2. Interrupt my addiction to sugar, in order to…
3. Eat less sugar in the long run, in order to…
4. Have a cleaner and healthier body.
My goals for writing publicly about the No Sugar January project:
1. To clarify my understanding of sugar through writing
2. To spread awareness about sugar so that my friends can make more informed choices
3. To try my hand at explaining nutrition, biochemistry, psychology, etc, more systematically and logically and in a more easily digestible way for the average person.
I also want to point out holes where I find them, which most sources just hand wave or gloss over instead of admitting there isn’t enough data or they just don’t know. I haven’t found a single explanation out there that is satisfactory to me, or I’d have just posted a link and been done with it.
4. To motivate myself to stick to the project by letting my friends know I’m doing it! 🙂
What exactly do I mean by “No Sugar”?
I mean no purchasing or eating any foods or drinks–be they store-bought, restaurant-bought, homemade, or offered repeatedly by loving and well-intentioned mom–that contain any of the following:
1. Added FRUCTOSE
Fructose is a toxin that works similarly to alcohol in many ways, according to Dr. Lustig in the video I linked above. I’ll be recreating and piecing together his and others’ logic around this in future posts.
Common additives that contain fructose:
– Table sugar (sucrose)
– Unbleached sugar
– High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
– Maple syrup
– Brown sugar (basically normal sugar with molasses in it)
– Organic artisanal locally sourced fair trade touched by an angel cane sugar (and just regular cane sugar)
– Evaporated cane juice
– Confectioner’s sugar
– Coconut ______ (any sweet extract from a coconut)
– Agave (the most fructosiest of them all! More on this in a future post)
– Basically anything sweet that is a concentrated extract from a plant
Brown rice syrup is supposedly “okay” because it releases slowly. But I’m trying to reset my taste buds, so this is also out for now.
2. Artificial sweeteners
Stevia and sucralose are supposedly safe and recommended for weaning yourself off sugar, but there hasn’t been enough longitudinal research for my comfort. Plus, again, resetting the taste buds here.
3. Fruits that have been “reduced” in any way
This includes fruit juice, dried fruits, jams, jellies, apple chips, coconut chips, coconut flakes, preserves, etc.
I’m avoiding what I call “reduced” fruits (as opposed to “processed” because that word is overloaded) because these methods of reduction make it easy to eat entire orders of magnitude more of the fruit in one sitting.
For example, if I eat a bag of dried apricots, I’ve eaten thirty apricots’ worth of sugar in one sitting (and am probably still craving Cheez-Its), whereas I would never eat thirty actual apricots in one sitting.
4. No alcohol in the form of drinks (technically a reduced fruit, am I right?).
I used the qualifier “in the form of drinks” because that’s the only form I know of where I can ingest significant amounts of sugar. And because I refuse to give up vanilla extract, which is 35% alcohol.
Sweet-related things I CAN have:
1. Whole fruit and smoothies
To my dismay, this year I discovered that most smoothie places add fruit or vegetable juices to their smoothies. Juice is one of the worst forms of sugar, so I would probably have to make my own smoothies. But it’s winter, so probably no smoothies, period.
Technically a dried fruit. But I’m ok with this exception because I don’t like raisins that much and I only put them in my oatmeal every once in a while. Anything that will get me to eat oatmeal is a plus. More on oatmeal in a future post…
3. Any form of cacao before sugar has been added
This is technically a reduced fruit, but it’s hard to OD on something so bitter. I’m not sure what kind of cacao foods are out there, but I’m excited to find out!
4. “Sugar-free” bread
One of the ingredients of Kroger’s 100% Sugar-Free Whole Wheat Bread is raisin juice concentrate, which “adds a trivial amount of sugar.”
Oh well, I’m letting myself have this specific bread because I anticipate carb cravings just before my next period, which is due to start right in the middle of the month. Get excited!
5. Dextrose (aka glucose)
Glucose is our energy source. And by “our” I mean pretty much every organism on this planet. I’ll clarify [my understanding of] the biochemistry of glucose, fructose, and other substances in later posts. For now, suffice it to say I have a box of Dextrose powder, and I’m not afraid to use it.
I’ll go into much more detail on my reasoning for including or excluding each of these in a future post.
That’s all for now. You should know I cut out many, many paragraphs from this post in an effort to avoid overburdening my well-meaning friends who will surely read my posts to provide moral support 🙂 🙂 🙂
I’m looking forward to writing about some biochemistry, psychology, and personal experiences around this project in the coming weeks as I struggle through this food experiment. Wish me luck!
# of sugary snacks eaten in the process of writing this post: 12