Eat Real Food, Not too much, Mostly Plants
All the evidence for living a full and active life with a minimum of ill health means eating a plant-based, wholegrain, sugar-free diet. The addition of occasional oily fish may not be harmful. Animal products (meat, white fish, eggs and dairy) are consistently shown to be harmful, as are processed grains, processed fat and sugar. These guidelines use all the available evidence to help you make better food decisions and live well.
The guidelines may seem complicated and long (they are – hence it appearing here in sections!) but the simple answer is eat wholefoods, legumes, wholegrains, leafy vegetables, other vegetables and lots of fibre. Don’t eat highly processed white food. Pick off the easy changes first. Aim to change habits, don’t just use willpower. Don’t take supplements (even fibre or protein) unless advised by your doctor (and there is evidence for it).
This is probably one of the most commonly misunderstood and complex issues, and the one most people have heard Marion speak about. This summarizes the main points, for more details see Dr Robert Lustig’s TED talk.
Basically, avoid sugar all its forms because of inflammation, liver damage, high blood pressure, memory problems, obesity and other diseases.
The fructose in sugar behaves like alcohol when it reaches the liver. 24tsp sugar is the equivalent to a bottle of wine. You can find 24 tsp sugar in a large smoothie, or a large piece of cake with icing.
Sugar reduces nitric oxide availability to the blood vessels so stops them from being able to resist atherosclerosis. It also promotes dyslipidaemia (high blood lipids) and inflammation.
Sugar is not a nutrient and is not needed for life. Glucose is present in complex carbohydrates and vegetables so does not need to be eaten on its own (or in cakes!)
6-10 teaspoons per day is considered a ‘moderate’ amount. Most of this can be found in your daily fruit and vegetable intake. 1 tsp = 4g sugar. Yet your maximum intake should be 2-4 tsps added sugar per day
Sugar is highly addictive so hard to overcome the cravings. If choosing to stop sugar, expect at least 3-12 months of cravings!
Many sugar based foods also have white flour and processed fat in them (eg cake, doughnuts, biscuits). Stopping sugar means you naturally cut out a lot of other toxic foods.
It is toxic very slowly – it takes years to see the effects on your body. But if you gain weight at 0.5-1kg per year, you’ll gain 40kg between 20 and 60 years old leading to obesity.
If you are normal weight, sugar still causes high blood pressure, liver disease, fatigue and inflammation among other problems.
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, fructose, maple syrup, molasses etc are all the same.
Dextrose and rice syrup are probably fine in small quantities because these are glucose only.
Sweeteners such as stevia, aspartame and saccharin are all safe in very small amounts, but lead to cravings for sugar as they fuel the addiction to sweet. Because of this I suggest avoiding them.
Xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol etc are safe in very small quantities, but can be metabolised to fructose by the body. They may cause flatulence.
Don’t worry too much about a little sugar in savoury foods, this won’t stimulate sweet cravings. Bitter foods such as dark chocolate are OK in small amounts (<40g/day – that’s about 6 squares of Whittaker’s chocolate)
Look for hidden added sugar in packets. 80% of supermarket food has added sugar. Look for foods with
If you decide to eat sugar, choose a REALLY nice cake or similar and REALLY enjoy it. Do not feel guilty about it, just plan to eat less or less often next time.