Friday, July 3, 2015

That Sugar Book ~ book review

Recently I was lent Damon Gameau's book "That Sugar Book". I opened the pages with a bit of trepidation wondering about the new guilt trip I was about to lay on myself. You see, we have some seriously sweet teeth in this home and while for the most part we steer clear of cane sugar, there are still sugars in our diet.

I loved the visual aspect of this book, not just lines and lines of words, but with lots of diagrams, cute characters, quotes and references to others who have been-there-and-done-that. It's a book for visual people who see life in pictures, like I do. And it's also great for kids as they can look at the pictures while you read.

After one chapter, I had to read another and another about his big sugar experiment, because he was not trying to cut out sugar but rather ADD it into his diet. How much? Loads! 40 teaspoons a day which is the national average per person in Australia. His twist was that it needed to come from "healthy" sources.

This was the angle I didn't expect. 

So this fellow Damon is a healthy guy, reformed by his girlfriend a couple of years back. He was eating what we call healthy fats in meats, avo, nuts and oils. These had to go for his experiment. His diet would now be what many, and even I at one time, call health foods. For 60 days he left behind those good things and entered into the "health" world of low fat food, fresh fruit, juices and carbohydrates. He had medical checks at the start, during and at the end to monitor his progress from being very healthy (by medical standards) to the unhealthy state he found himself - and his liver - in at the end of the 60 days.

It was his first breakfast that got me hooked on the book: "balanced" cereal, apple juice, low fat yoghurt. This gave him 20 teaspoons of sugar at one meal and not a bit of it came from the sugar bowl and it was all labelled as healthy.

This got me thinking...and reading labels in my pantry the next morning. I used to be a good label reader and then have become quite blasé about it all thinking that I know my way around foods now. I'm a big girl now, right?

In my pantry I found at least 10 products with "hidden" sugar in them. Only noticeable when you read the labels. Rice milk powder, which we use with our oats, has sugar. Big blow here. Nut butters too...some sauces we use...and more.

Then moving on in the book he deals with carbohydrates and how they too affect our bodies as sugar does when they enter the blood stream. Carbohydrates (including white bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, crackers, muffins, cakes, pies, pizza, beer) all cause insulin levels to spike quickly. This means that a crash on the other side is unavoidable and then the cravings for something (like carbs) hit as your body doesn't have the energy it needs.

The last whammy he slaps the reader with is fruit. In our case - fruit and veggie juices. There is many a day when I want to skip a meal for one or another reason and will just juice up some veggies and fruits. This is a problem for the body as there is no fibre to aid slow release of energy into the bloodstream and can also cause spikes and lows in the blood sugar levels. So this is a conundrum for me...when we did our 28 day juice detox last year I felt amazing! It's not that we ever planned on never chewing food again, but we all wanted to shed some kgs, detox our body and just lighten the food load a bit. At the end of the 28 days I felt strong and besides for some hunger at about 4pm each day I felt more even in my blood sugar. We did have lots of avocado though and perhaps the fats and fibre in that helped stabilise everything???

I suppose I could have closed the book at the end, turned off my light and slept soundly. I mean I can count all the right things we do on my fingers...but that's not me. I have had his experiment going around and around in my head for weeks now and thinking about what this means for my family.

In particular what other sweet things am I willing to cut out - how radical will we go? Honey...coconut blossom sugar....spelt bread...sweet potatoes...these are all on our menu. According to the science, they should go too.

Well, at the end of the record playing in my head I have decided on a few things we can do to reduce the hidden sugars...

1. Make more time to shop so that I can check labels again for sugars. Things to look at carefully are the pseudonyms for sugar: evaporated cane juice, raw organic cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, cane syrup, beet sugar, caster sugar, crystalline fructose, blackstrap molasses,  grape sugar, invert sugar, fruit juice, maple syrup.

2. Go back to meal planning. When you know what to buy for good old nourishing food and have a list it saves money, time and is better for your health.

3. Stock up on healthy snacks for the every hungry kids in this house. Being on school break now gives me a chance to think a bit more about this and search out and try some recipes which can fill up the "cookie" jar and the fridge with grab-able food on the go.

So that's really it. A lot of the stuff in his book I knew and we have been on a pretty good food path for a while, but there is always room for improvement.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Tracy-Jean Rossouw said...

I am wondering whether the concept of combining is fully considered in this book and your line of thinking. For example, what we have learned in the last 10 years of life {with type 1 diabetic children and the "Eating for Sustained Energy" cookbooks by local dieticians (about the concept of Glycaemic index and what factors stabilise release of blood sugars in the blood stream after eating foods)} is, (pause for a breath in this long sentence): combinations are sometimes more important than simply eliminating sugar from our diets, as was the old-fashioned approach to eating for diabetics - NO sugar. We have learned that bran/high fibre, protein, legumes, peanuts, oats, apple, sweet potato and other food products are very good at lowering the release of sugars in the blood when combined with traditionally high glycaemic foods eg carrot, potato, sugar-rich things. A perfect low GI snack for a diabetic is a peanut butter Provita sandwich or two. Combining sweet potato or apple into your butternut soup changes it from high glycaemic to low glycaemic. Adding baked beans to any high fat high carb meal eg lasagnia, makes it lower GI. Adding oat bran or oats to white flour baking or pancakes lowers the GI, even if regular cane sugar is in the mix. I wonder whether radical life eating plans don't deny us some of nature's goodness. Honey is so much more than just sugar. It is the only foodstuff that never rots. It can be spread on burns to heal because it is antibacterial. Maple syrup is loaded with other good things besides sugar. Dates, nuts, fruit are so much more than just their sugar content, as were the juices you detoxed with a year ago. All the fruit and veg pigments (carotenoids, flavonoids and micronutrients that are such powerful healers and detoxers in our body as antioxidants were flowing down your gullet, and without much else going down your throat, the sugars were vital fuel for your bodies at the time. My two cent's worth :)