Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Challenge: Kick the Sugar Blues

I think summer is the perfect time to wean yourself off refined sweeteners. There are so many lovely and naturally sweet options available. June begins berry season, and I already have plans to do some picking next week. For the U-Pick options in your area, peruse Pick Your Own.

Why kick sugar? Refined sugar is not a food, regardless of how much more "natural" it is than the packaged chemical substitutes. The process sugar cane is taken through to produce that white stuff we Americans are so addicted to is the same process that opium poppies are taken through to produce heroine. This is not a food; it is a drug.

Like all drugs, when you ingest sugar it has profound effects on your body. The moment your body registers that you've eaten sugar, it tells your body to fuel itself on the sugar and carbs rather than burn fat for energy (want to loose a couple pounds for the summer? Cut white sugar and white flour!). Here are some other interesting links on removing sugar from your diet.

Sugar picks you up and lets you down ("sugar blues"). It interferes with clear mental processing, natural energy, and normal body rhythms. It is unquestionably linked as a cause of diabetes (along with refined flour). It is addictive! The more you eat, the more you crave. Further, it does nothing to satisfy. Your body registers fullness on fat content and nutrient-density. Sugary snacks will only leave you hungry for more as your body will not recognize that you gave it something to feed itself. Before you reach for that sweet snack, opt for a big glass of raw milk first, or some buttered toast with honey.

William Dufty's "Sugar Blues" converted me nearly overnight. I literally went through my cupboards and threw away anything with any form of sugar or high fructose corn syrup on the label (ketchup, mayo, cereal, bread, you name it!).

However, I know for many people cold turkey is rarely an option. I had also just discovered I was pregnant with my second child, which was a large motivator for me. As with any drug addiction, it is the first few days that are the most difficult. For me, this is why removing everything from my house was a good first step. You will also need something to replace the sugar. Even if you are still eating far too many natural sweeteners while you transition, they will not give you the same addiction problems as they are actually foods. After you transition you will naturally wean yourself down to healthy levels of natural sweets.

For those not interested in cold-turkey sugar abandonment, this article provides great baby-steps towards transitioning sugar out of your life.

Challenge Level One:
Pay close attention to what your actual sugar intake is for this month. Write it down. 100 years ago the average American ate roughly 5 pounds of refined sugar per person per year. Now, the average American consumes 175 pounds of sugar per year. That is alarming! Read labels on EVERYTHING and make a list of all the places sugar is hiding in your diet (remember, look at the ingredient list, not the grams listed on the "nutrition" panel).

Challenge Level Two:
Purchase William Dufty's "Sugar Blues" or check it out from the library and put it on your early summer reading list. It might change your life. OR Read the above mentioned article on transitioning sugar out of your life and see how many of the steps you can implement in June. Let me know!

Challenge Level Three:
See if you can go the whole month sugar free. Gorge on fresh berries, substitute with raw honey, pure maple syrup, stevia powder, Rapadura, and Molasses. There are candies and chocolates you can buy - but still read the ingredients! Some of the alternate flavors use different sweeteners.

In order to help you this month, I will try to post a dessert recipe each week (or more often!). I will be catering a graduation reception mid-month and will be crafting several desserts for the celebration so it should be easy to share some of that goodness here (though it is likely I will also provide some sugared pies since it is for such a large group and I have not been asked to cater it in the Weston A. Price style).


  1. Three things:

    1. I'm reading this book so challenge #2 is almost done. I wouldn't say it's changing my life, but more reiterating what I know but with science and words of a smart guy to back it up. (plus it's your book so getting it was easy.)

    2. Please tell me what dessert options are "ok" at the graduation

    3. Is raw milk (full fat) really, really what I should be drinking?

  2. Meg:

    #1 - Yea! Okay, perhaps "life-changing" was a bit dramatic, but I really didn't realize how bad sugar was before I read it.

    #2 - I will have everything noted with cute little signs =)

    #3 - YES YES YES. Well, unless you have true dairy problems. But I would say that it's either real milk or NO milk for us. Have you read the section on fats in NT yet? That would be a good place to start, and then there's a good article on the vitality of good animal fats for your body here: (kinda long and scientific).

    Short story:
    Your brain and circulation run on cholesterol and saturated fats (animal fats). The body registers fullness based on fat content (one reason why people who buy lowfat versions of things often eat twice as much). You burn fat for energy (unless you're constantly substituting sugar). If you eat plentifully of animal fats, your body sheds the fat it doesn't need because it trusts there will be ample more when it does need it. If you eat lowfat, then your body will hoard whatever fat it does get and be afraid to let it go. Tradition diets were 50-80% fat. No kidding. FAT is what our bodies need - think "french paradox" (i.e. the foie gras capital of the world has one of the highest global percentages of the population living into their 90's)

    Okay...not so short...sorry!

  3. Is there a good substitute for dry surge. I'm going to try making pancake mix and I would like to make a lot and store it.


  4. Marianne, We're luckily on level 3 of this challenge quite naturally, we simply don't like sugar and only ever eat anything sweet if it's offered at someone else's house. But...the whole white flour thing is another story. Most of my bread recipes call for at least half white flour just so that the loaves aren't rocks. Do you make your breads with all wheat flour? Is half wheat flour an OK compromise?

  5. Cheryl,
    For a dry sugar substitute I use Rapadura (or Sucanant). It is brown, real, whole, unrefined sugar, and will change the color of baked goods you expected to look white. However, for pancake mix, you might be able to get away with Stevia powder (a little goes a LONG way), since you will likely be using maple syrup or something to add sweetness to the finished pancakes. I don't use any sweetener in the batter of my pancakes, but it is also not a dry mix. You'll have to let me know what you come up with and how it turns out.

    Sarah - I typically use whole spelt flour (because that is what I have in bulk on hand from my sourdough supplies) and sometimes a mix of whole wheat. I don't find that my loaves are rocks, however, I am not comparing them to anything near the consistency of say, store bought french bread. Also, I think it is of utmost importance when using whole flours to make sure you allow the dough to double in size even if it means longer rise time, otherwise you will end up with bricks.

    We do use unbleached white flour for quiche and pie crusts, and we too eat whatever is offered when at someone's house. People are more important than avoiding indigestion! =)

  6. I'm happily on level 3 of the challenge. I gave up sugar many months ago - surprisingly with very little effort. I don't miss it at all, which baffles me a bit. The only sugars I'm really eating are a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup on my steel cut oats and fruit. I try to eat more real food in place of the sugar I used to eat, because my goal was not to lose weight. But I think it would be almost impossible not to lose weight when you take sugar out of your diet.

    I recommend the Laurel Kitchen Bread Book for baking bread with only whole wheat flour. The authors say that the majority of whole wheat bread recipes treat whole wheat like white flour, but it's very different. Their basic bread recipe calls for two rises and a proof, so it's not the fastest bread to make, but it rises nice and high, keeps well, and tastes delicious.


  7. Abby - Thanks for the bread book recommendation. I have heard of Laurel's Kitchen before, but never checked it out.

    Yea for kicking sugar! We don't miss it either, and now it typically makes us sick. But I do love honey. I didn't kick sugar and refined flour for weight loss, however, with Soren (while eating lots of pasta, refined flour breads, and refined sugared ice cream) I gained over 60 pounds while pregnant. With Elliot I completely - with virtually NO exceptions the entire pregnancy - removed it and gained 28 pounds. They were both 9.5 pound babies. This time I have not been as disciplined, and my weight gain is somewhere in the middle....though my guess is the baby will likely be about the same weight as the boys. We shall see soon!

  8. Great post! I think I will get the book. Thank you

  9. Danazia - Thank you! I hope you enjoy the book!


Questions and Comments welcome! If you would prefer to contact me privately, please email mariannescrivner (at) gmail (dot) com.


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