I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t need to quit sugar. I already have a healthy diet, I don’t add sugar to my tea, I choose Coke Zero, and I very rarely consume confectionery. Everything is fine in moderation, I say.” But what you don’t realise is that you may be consuming up to 40 teaspoons of sugar a day which are hidden in “healthy” foods.
The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum daily intake of no more than 6 teaspoons a day. Yet the average Australian today is guzzling down up to 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, most of which are found hidden in “healthy” foods like juice, cereal, packaged snacks, and sauces.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the “health” foods that are deceiving you and making you fat and sick:
Need vitamin C? Eat whole fruit! Do NOT drink juice!
Apples contain many healthy vitamins and nutrients and are high in fibre. If you were to eat apples, you could probably only eat two apples and then you would feel full. If you pop apples into a juicer however, you throw away the healthiest parts – the skin and fibre – and basically all you have left is fructose dissolved in water!
It takes about 5 apples to make one glass of apple juice, which is the equivalent of up to 9 teaspoons of sugar – the same amount as in a Coca Cola! And since juice is swallowed in moments and is not filling at all, you will still feel hungry afterwards and eat a big meal. If that meal contains sugar as well, you could be well on your way to having 40 teaspoons of sugar in a single sitting!
“When we eat whole fruit, it takes significant effort to chew and swallow them. The sugar in them is also bound within fibrous structures that break down slowly during digestion. Not only that, but fruit is also very filling… so it’s hard to eat a lot of it. For these reasons, the sugar in whole fruit gets sent to the liver slowly and in small amounts. The liver can easily metabolize these small amounts without being overloaded. But… if you drink a large glass of fruit juice, it is the equivalent of consuming several pieces of fruit in a very short amount of time, without all the fibre. The large amount of sugar gets absorbed and sent to the liver very quickly, just like when you drink a Coca Cola.”
And that’s just if you make your OWN juice. Bottled juices can contain even more added sugar and often plenty of added preservatives, colours and flavours to boot.
Beware the “health juice” craze. A lot of companies are making a lot of money from it while you just get sicker, not to mention poorer from spending money on fancy concoctions disguised as “healthy” when it would be so much healthier (and cheaper, and easier) to just eat an apple.
2. Low-Fat products
Back in the 50s, food manufacturers realised that when they added lots of sugar to foods and drinks, they sold more. It also got their consumers addicted, which ensured they would keep buying more.
Needless to say, when sugar’s negative health effects started to become clear, food manufacturers did their best to block that information from being widely known, just as the tobacco industry tried to stop people from realising that smoking was addictive and bad for them.
So when obesity and heart disease first started to kill large amounts of people, and some scientists thought overconsumption of dietary fat might be to blame, the food industry was quick to throw their support behind them. To divert attention away from the real killer (fructose) and disguise their products as “healthy”, they started manufacturing low-fat, fat-free and “light” products.
Unfortunately, taking fat out of products makes them pretty unpalatable and tasteless. So to compensate, food manufacturers increase the sugar content. As a result, most low-fat products, (such as low-fat ice cream, mayonnaise, and yoghurt) have up to 20 times more sugar than their full-fat counterparts.
For example, this full-fat whole egg Mayonnaise contains only 1 gram of sugar per 100g. In other words, it is only 1% sugar.
By comparison, this 99% fat-free mayonnaise contains 21g of sugar per 100g. In other words, it is 21% sugar!
Next time you’re at the supermarket, compare the labels on a full-fat and low-fat version of the same product. The low-fat version may have the same amount of calories, or even less calories than the full-fat version. But because it is loaded with fructose, it will actually make you fatter than the full-fat version! Plus, when you eat low-fat foods, they feel “light” and are not filling, so you feel completely unsatisfied and eat more!
We need dietary fat
As a result of the food industry’s push toward low-fat products, our consumption of dietary fat has declined significantly in the past decade. An adult in the USA today eats about the same amount of protein and saturated fat as they did in 1909. But the rates of obesity and heart disease have simply continued to rise and rise. Obviously, dietary fat is not the cause.
Little wonder, since humans have been eating a diet high in animal fats for thousands of years. Our grandparents didn’t have reduced-fat milk or fat-free margarine, and they dipped their bread in straight lard and dripping if they didn’t have real butter. There was no obesity epidemic in those days.
The Masai tribe of Africa have a very sedentary lifestyle, tending their flocks, and live mainly off meat. The Inuit of Alaska live mainly off whale and seal blubber, and they also have a sedentary lifestyle, because the arctic weather forces them to spend a lot of time indoors. But they do not suffer from obesity. The main thing both tribes have in common is that they eat virtually zero fructose.
Fats are an essential part of our diet and important for good health. The human body cannot survive without fat. Fat is in fish oil, avocado, nuts, steak, chicken, and lots of other healthy foods. Eating these fats improves metabolism, brain health, and hormone balance. Our body needs fats to build cells and hormones. Our brain is made entirely of cholesterol and fat so essential fatty acids (such as those found in fish and nuts) are essential for a healthy brain.
3. Dried fruit
When fruit is dried, the liquid is removed, concentrating the sugar into a smaller piece, and therefore we eat a lot more. Nobody eats just 2 dried apricots. They eat a handful, which equates to 5 or 6 pieces of whole fruit, and is way above your daily recommended intake of sugar!
The picture above shows 20 raisins vs. 20 grapes. This tiny spoonful of raisins would be easily swallowed in one mouthful, and would certainly not fill us up. We would probably eat several times more than that as a quick snack, or in cereal, muffins, cake, or muesli. However, this tiny spoonful of raisins is the equivalent of the whole bunch of grapes on the right, and contains 5 teaspoons of sugar (grapes are one of the sweetest fruits).
Food manufacturers know that adding large quantities of dried fruit to a snack make it look “healthy”. But remember you should only eat the equivalent of two serves of whole fruit per day, so if you eat dried apricots you should only eat 2, and if you eat raisins you should only eat a tiny spoonful.
You would be far better off (and more satisfied) by just eating a whole fresh fruit anyway, because it fills you up and is easier to digest.
4. Breakfast Cereals
Prior to the 20th century, nearly everyone in the Western World ate a hearty savoury breakfast consisting of things such as bacon, eggs, sausages, spinach, toast and potatoes. And guess what? Obesity and heart disease were practically non-existent.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and ideally it should be the most hearty one. Many dieticians believe that a large meal at the start of the day gives us energy and nutrients we need for our day. We then spend all of our busy day burning off the calories from breakfast and therefore don’t eat as much at lunch and dinner.
For some reason nowadays, we’ve got it all backwards. We eat really light, crappy breakfasts, which don’t give us energy for very long, so we snack repeatedly throughout the day, and then eat very heavy dinners, which gives us loads of energy and calories right before going to bed!
Once again the food industry is to blame for steering us away from the healthy, traditional home-cooked breakfast. In the 20th century, somehow, in the interest of selling more cereal, food manufacturers managed to convince us that a “light” breakfast of cereal was a preferable start to the day. Absolute hogwash!
Although they are promoted as a healthy, convenient breakfast, cereals are loaded with sugar.
You might think Kellogg’s Special K is one of the healthier options on the diagram above, compared to candy-coated ones like Coco Pops. But it still contains 3 teaspoons of sugar per 2 cup (100g) serving – and most people put a lot more than 2 cups of cereal in their bowl (especially growing teenagers and active types). Considering your daily recommended intake of sugar is just 6 teaspoons, this one will have you at least halfway to your limit before you even leave the house!
Even muesli is a culprit, if it contains a lot of dried fruit, and some muesli is toasted with sugar or honey. Click here for a full list of the sugar content of Australia’s most popular breakfast cereals.
Pouring cereal into a bowl with milk might be a lot faster and easier than cooking bacon and eggs, but we pay the price at our waistline and at our energy levels for the rest of the day. Cooking something is worth the extra 10 minutes of effort.
But if you’re short of time in the mornings (and hate getting up early to cook), a simple piece of toast with Vegemite or avocado (not jam or honey) is a quick option. It’s also possible to pre-make breakfast burritos and freeze enough to last the whole week. If you search the internet you can find some good recipes. Heck, sometimes I eat steak, roast, or stir-fry leftovers for breakfast. Whoever said that breakfast foods should not be the same as lunch or dinner foods? It’s all the same to your body, and eating your main meal at breakfast will set your metabolism properly for the rest of the day.
5. “Healthy” Snack Foods
Be careful what you put in your child’s (or your own) lunchbox for the day. Most pre-packaged and processed food products are full of sugar and preservatives, no matter how much they proclaim themselves as “natural” and “light” and “Low-GI”.
If you want to “Just Eat Real Food” (#JERF), you should stick to the fresh produce aisle of your supermarket and avoid all those middle shelves that are laden with pre-packaged snacks and treats.
Feeling peckish between meals? Maybe you didn’t eat an adequately wholesome breakfast which is why you’re starving now. See the section on breakfast cereal above.
Still feel peckish? Eat fruit, nuts, celery and carrot sticks, pretzels, potato crisps, cheese and crackers.
6. Anything with sauce on it
The easiest way to kill cravings for sweet things is to fill yourself up on delicious, wholesome savoury meals like sandwiches, wraps, steak, stir-fry, roasts, and so on. But even savoury dishes can be full of sugar if you smother them in sauce.
It’s easy enough to stop adding sauces yourself, but most restaurants (especially Chinese, Thai, and so on) serve their food in sweet sauces automatically. Be careful to order dishes that aren’t drowning in sweet sauces if you do visit such restaurants. Order burgers without sauce and add your own low-sugar mayonnaise if need be (I usually bring some in my handbag).
Luckily, low-sugar and sugar-free alternatives are now starting to become available, like this Stevia-based, low-fructose tomato sauce:
Stevia is fine, however normally, you need to BEWARE of products advertised as containing “no added cane sugar”, or containing only alternative sweeteners, because many alternative sweeteners such as corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, and agave are actually very HIGH in fructose and therefore just as bad as cane sugar. Click here to learn more about how to tell the difference between good and bad sugar and sweeteners:
Recipes for fructose-free ketchup and tomato sauces can be found in David Gillespie’s recipe book, along with many other treats using fructose-free, chemical-free natural sweeteners, such as dextrose and rice malt syrup.