In late February I came across some compelling research about the dangers of eating sugar (or fructose to be more precise). I wrote a blog about it and I began a month-long experiment to see how I would feel without eating sugar or any foods which have added sugar.
I avoided all sugary foods including: sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, desserts, ice cream, honey, syrup, all alcohol, ketchup, baked beans, sugary drinks, fruit juices, milkshakes, and many others.
It was impossible to avoid eating any sugar whatsoever as many foods contain small amounts of it, including foods that one wouldn’t normally expect to have any added sugar at all, i.e. crisps, mayonnaise, Weetabix, vegetable soup etc.
Nevertheless I went from being completely oblivious about my daily sugar intake, to having around 5g a day, about the same as 1 teaspoon. It has been an interesting experience and here’s a summary of my findings:
The low points
- I must confess that I did have a couple of relapses in the form of a slice of cheesecake, a bar of chocolate and a pot of yoghurt. However on the whole I was quite disciplined and I stuck to the parameters of my experiment.
- Around the fourth and fifth day I had some strong sugar cravings and I was very grumpy with the people around me (apologies to them).
- I also didn’t eat any of my own birthday cake, which is just plain sad.
The high points
- Discovering sugar-free chocolates and biscuits being sold at my local Boots (aimed at people who have diabetes) was a high point, although paying £2.99 per packet was a rip-off. I expect there are decent cheaper products available to purchase online.
- I bought some glucose sugar (the good kind of sugar) and I occasionally used this to create any foods that I craved, i.e. pancakes on Pancake Day.
- Losing several pounds without dieting or intending to lose weight was a bonus.
I strongly believe that Professor Robert Lustig and others, who have recently been warning about the dangers of eating sugar, are onto something very important.
By not eating sugar throughout the whole of the last month I have been feeling a lot healthier, happier, and more energetic day-to-day. (My increased energy levels even inspired me to purchase a new hybrid mountain bike.) I also unintentionally lost weight and found myself eating more fruits and vegetables.
It has helped me to become a lot more health conscious and to think seriously about the food and drink that I consume on a daily basis. I haven’t really missed not having biscuits with tea or a dessert after a main meal. As with many ‘bad habits’ it would seem that our reliance on sugary foods is a learnt behaviour that can slowly be unlearnt.
During my experiment I became acutely aware of the excessive amounts of sugar being added to foods and drinks, particularly in products aimed at children. For example I witnessed a friend’s son have a bottle of fizzy drink which contained more than 35g of sugar. That’s the equivalent of drinking a cup of tea with 9 teaspoons of added sugar, which no-one in their right mind would ever do.
Roughly halfway through my sugar-free month the World Health Organisation issued new guidance, urging people to cut their consumption of sugar to less than 10% of daily total calorie intake (around 50g), or ideally to less than 5%. However many of the world’s leading scientists and academics think these recommended levels are still too high. I certainly do not think 50g of sugar a day is at all healthy.
Avoiding sugar and fructose completely is impossible, because varying quantities are added to so many different foods and drinks, and we can never know exactly how much sugar if any has been added to something that we haven’t prepared.
However I have certainly adopted a positive and (hopefully) permanent change of lifestyle, in choosing to avoid most sugary foods and drinks from now on, and opting for fresh fruit where possible to sweeten my dietary intake.
Although I am lucky to be in very good health at the moment, with no underlying health conditions or concerns, I felt it was sensible to do some research and try to be a bit proactive about my future health. I now look forward to campaigning on the dangers of sugar addiction and the importance of eating a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.