Sunday, January 8, 2012

But whatabout keeping the Doctor away?

I'm generating a bit of conversation amongst my peers regarding my sugar free lifestyle. Most people think it's a common sense kind of approach to eating, but when the topic of fruit comes up jaws begin to drop. The notion of giving up fruit seems to shift the sugar free concept from common sense to the just blooming ridiculous. 

Before I go on, it needs to be noted that even though we use the term "sugar free," it is actually the fructose in our diet that we are trying to eliminate or reduce significantly. Sugar as we know it, is actually 50% fructose, 50% sucrose. There's a whole stack of things (and different types of sugar), like fruit, that need to be reduced/cut out/moderated when going "sugar free". I guess sugar free sounds a bit sexier than fructose free.

To be honest - I don't have a firm grasp on the different types of sugars, fructose and other 'oses. (Glucose, dextrose etc). Nor do I fully understand the chemistry behind the way they interact with the human body. But for me, I know that prior to going sugar free, fruit wasn't a huge player in my diet. (I'm more of a vegie kind of a gal). But now that I am sugar free, fruit is a lot more appealing and something I regard as a bit of a treat. 

And that is the point we aim to get to.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Going back in history (before the invention of sugar in the 1800s), humans would get their fructose intake from 1-2 small pieces of fruit each day. 150 years ago our sugar intake per year was next to 0kg, now it's a whopping 60kg per year. (Being a Ballaratian I'm sure the invention of boiled sweets like raspberry drops, now available at Sovereign Hill is largely to blame... dang they're good!)

The thing is our bodies are designed to metabolise only a small amount of fructose per day. If we were just eating 1-2 pieces of fruit, it would be ok. But nowadays we consume sugar with our breakfast cereals, snacks bars, soups, sauces, breads, dairy products etc etc etc etc. As Sarah Wilson puts it in her eBook "sugar is natural, but the amount we're exposed to isn't"."

If we eat too much fructose (i.e. more than what is in 1-2 pieces of fruit) the liver can't process it fast enough so it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them into the bloodstream as triglycerides which are then converted to body fat and can create a risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Too much fructose also bypasses the appetite-regulating hormones. So you are left feeling unsatisfied. Fats, proteins and carbs have corresponding appetite hormones which tell us when we have had too much. Fructose is the only molecule that doesn't have a a relative "off switch" in our brain. I know personally, I couldn't eat as many cubes of cheese as I could Starburst fruit chews. 

Now that I've completed the 8 week program, I've started to allow a little bit of fruit back in my diet (and foods with a less than 6g sugars per 100g). I'll have some berries (low fructose fruit) with my yoghurt, I'll have a sip of the freshly squeezed juice I make for the kids. But I'll treat it like a treat. Which is how the body is designed to have it. We quit sugar so we can have 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.

Not so blooming ridiculous hey?


  1. If I were you I'd be kind to my kids and not give them juice.

  2. Yes I hear what you are saying, but at this stage I'm happy to keep giving it to them once, maybe twice a week (the see me getting the juicer out for my spinach/celery concoction and want something too. (Strangely none of mine though!?!?) I take heart knowing that it's freshly squeezed (juiced?), so I know how there isn't any added sugar or preservatives. I also count that as a their sugar intake for that day, so am very weary of what else they are given.