Cook This Book – I Quit Sugar
If ever there was a time to sell you on a book about quitting sugar it’s now. Right? It’s still early on in this New Year and I’m hoping you haven’t lost your intention-setting nerve just yet!
This month’s selection I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson is a real treat (forgive me, couldn’t resist).
Being familiar with the I Quit Sugar blog and online detox program I was thrilled to the book arrive at The Big Carrot. Here’s the scoop…
I Quit Sugar might more accurately be called I Quit Fructose (but that doesn’t sound quite as sexy now does it?). The book is a guide to an 8-week detox meant to reset the body and kick sugar addiction. It’s part cookbook, part motivational manual and part memoir. In its pages you’ll find lots of convincing reasons to ditch sugar as well as tips, techniques and 100+ recipes to do so. The program requires the elimination of all sugar, including fruit, fruit juice and so-called “healthy” sugars such as honey and agave. It’s not for the faint of heart and the author doesn’t claim otherwise. But as her personal story illustrates, the struggle comes with huge benefit – a clear body and mind, lots of energy and no more “riding the roller coaster of sugar highs and lows.” As the author explains, the main mission is to “find your blank slate” from which you can make conscious, intentional, health promoting decisions:
“The aim isn’t to ban sugar for life. It’s to establish a clean canvas from which we can then feel what our bodies need (possibly for the first time in our lives). While sugar is in the system, this is impossible, as we’re responding to cravings and highs and lows, not true hunger and need.”
Why, you might ask, is fructose the enemy?
Our cells are designed to utilize glucose for energy, and it’s the brain’s preferred source of fuel. Only 20% of glucose is metabolized in the liver, the rest is “burned up” by hungry cells. Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized almost entirely by the liver. Rather than providing accessible energy, fructose is converted directly into fat. Moreover, fructose consumption does not correspond with appetite hormones. This means that when we consume fructose (e.g. in a soda containing high fructose corn syrup) our body does not register as full. Overconsumption and fat conversion make fructose a high-risk ingredient for metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and a host of related issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Research also connects high fructose consumption with immune system interference, mineral deficiencies, digestive issues, advanced aging, dementia, hyperactivity, anxiety, and the development of various cancers.
The author does a great job of breaking information into bite-sized pieces. The book is fun to look at and well laid out. But be forewarned: by the time you finish reading you may want to book a flight to Australia, which the author calls home.
The program is 60 days long to allow for both a physical and psychological shift (studies show it takes between 21-66 days to form new habits). Sugar is a “gnarly habit” that, in the author’s experience, requires pacing and commitment. Each week has a new focus designed to keep you motivated and on track.
The detox starts with a week of “simple swaps” such as high protein breakfasts and savory snacks (cheese lovers unite!). Fat is the focus in week two as it is satiating and will help curb sugar cravings. By week three sugar is out! “Hold on to your sanity – we’re going cold turkey” the author jokes. Readers are given a tutorial on decoding labels and healthy alternatives to hidden offenders like fat-free mayo (23% sugar) and barbeque sauce (54% sugar). Week four’s focus is education: “The doubts start to creep in: am I doing the right thing here? Best, then, to equip yourself with some facts.” Week five is about getting creative, changing routines and habits and coping with potential detox symptoms such as nausea, constipation and aching joints as fat cells release toxins. In week six some fruit is allowed, as are stevia, brown rice syrup, and xylitol. Week seven is about recovering from lapses and embracing the “be gentle and kind” mantra. By week eight the sugar addict cycle has been broken and future intentions are set.
While lots of lots of health conscious authors tout the benefits of alternative sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup over the refined white stuff, Sarah Wilson asks her readers to go one step further and consider that at the end of the day, sugar is sugar. She proclaims herself to have been a “covert addict…hiding behind so called ‘healthy sugars’ like honey, dark chocolate and fruit.” Despite following a seemingly clean diet, she was still suffering from symptoms of blood sugar imbalance; mood disorders, sleep problems, adrenal dysfunction, and autoimmune thyroid disease. Even the health-conscious among us aren’t immune! I find this perspective intriguing. We all know candy bars are junk. We all know drinking a litre of Coca Cola at the movies is probably a terrible idea, but we might not think twice about the apple juice we have every morning or the granola bars we pack in our kid’s lunchbox. This lack of sugar-awareness is problematic. So too is sugar denial! (Confession: I hate the idea of giving up fruit.)
A popular media personality in Australia, Sarah Wilson gives off a charming and healthy vibe. She makes sugar free living look pretty sweet.
As mentioned above, sugar consumption is highly problematic to our health. More specifically, our blind addiction to sugar is problematic. Sugar is everywhere! It has found its way into almost every prepared product we consume and taken on new forms that our bodies are not prepared for. According to the author we eat more than 2 pounds of sugar a week while 150 years ago we ate next to none! What if we could recalibrate our bodies and then on occasion consciously choose to indulge? What if we could fuel our bodies with whole foods and satisfy ourselves with rich and delicious meals instead of propping ourselves up with jolts of sugar? That’s a big what if! I like the author’s “let’s just see” approach. Why not try, experiment, just see if your body responds with glee? If nothing else you’ll get some new recipe ideas. Speaking of which…
Recipes are divvied up into 7 categories: Breakfast, Smoothies & drinks, Healthy detox meals, Savory snacks, Sugar-free kids, Sweet treats, and Desserts. The recipes aren’t overly complex and often repeat ingredients; which makes much more sense for the average detox follower. You want recipes that you can fit into your life and you don’t want to be left with a dozen ingredients you’ll never use again. While not specifically a “Paleo” book, many of the recipes are grain free and suitable for the paleo diet. Dairy, eggs, coconut, nuts and seeds are heavily favoured as are vegetables (obviously!). Meals are on the lighter side but chicken, fish and other meats could easily be added. The book doesn’t provide the same hand holding that the online program does. You’ll have to formulate your own meal plan and grocery lists but after an afternoon with the book you’ll have plenty of inspiration.
Here are a few recipes I’m excited to try:
Coco-Nutty Granola p. 76
Polenta Patties with Sautéed Greens, Poached Eggs and Roma Tomato Basil Salsa p. 106
Make-me-Over Mojito Smoothie p. 112
Broccoli Pesto p. 125
Sausage Walnut and Beet Hash p.133
Parsnip fries p. 152
Zest and Poppy Cookies p. 164
Kate McMurray, Certified Holistic Nutritionist