Tag Archives: dr lustig

A Year of No Sugar: Post 23

Okay! I’ve done my homework and you get to be the beneficiary of that morning-long endeavor, unless of course I have got it all backwards in which case I am here to mislead you terribly. After watching Dr. Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” on YouTube for the third time, as well as doing further slogging around on the internet, I’ve gotten to what I hope is a slightly better understanding of the “ose” question. Here is what I have come up with, which is very likely a gross oversimplification of the matter:

Sucrose– is processed table sugar in all it’s many forms: raw, white, brown etc. It is made up of both glucose and fructose and is harvested from sugar cane or sugar beets.

Fructose– This is the naturally occurring sugar present in fruit, fruit juice, honey, etc.

Glucose– This is the “breakdown product of ingested carbohydrates and the form of sugar that the body uses for energy.” Also known as dextrose.

The quotation above comes from livestrong.com which had several helpful articles on the “ose” question, which was good, because Dr. Lustig’s talk makes the assumption that his audience already knows the difference between these terms.

As a side note, I have to say that I was once again dumbfounded at what an incredible, informative and persuasive talk “Sugar” is… Maybe it’s just me, but then again it has been watched, as of today, 766,122 times on YouTube, so I guess I’m not the only one to find it compelling. And this is despite the fact that he bandies about terms such as “hepatic steatosis” and “dyslipidemia” with unsettling ease.

One of the most striking, if complicated, parts of this video is where Lustig goes through and, point by point, details exactly what happens in your body biochemically when one ingests two pieces of white bread versus a shot of bourbon versus a glass of orange juice. You might be surprised to see his very clear demonstration that the glass of orange juice (fructose) behaves in one’s body most like the alcohol, with the exception that alcohol is processed by the brain while fructose is processed by the liver. Acute toxin meet chronic toxin. As Lustig puts it:

“You wouldn’t think twice about not giving your kid a Budweiser, but you don’t think twice about giving your kid a can of Coke. But they’re the same. In the same dosing. For the same reason. Through the same mechanism. Fructose is ethanol without the buzz.”

Whoa. And that goes for fruit juice too, by the way. Pediatric patients coming to Dr. Lustig are advised to drink only milk or water. And by a funny coincidence, that’s exactly what you are left with after omitting all drinks containing either sucrose or fructose.

So the only question that I’m still ruminating on for the moment is that of dextrose specifically: is added dextrose okay on the No-Added Sugar Project as Devised and Implemented by Eve? After all, it isn’t sucrose and it isn’t fructose. According to just about everybody it’s glucose– which Dr. Lustig describes as “the energy of life.” So, does it matter that it’s added as an ingredient, rather than manufactured by my body after eating a piece of bread? Or, is it like other ingredients such as artificial colorings or preservatives, ie: better to do without, but not expressly prohibited under No-Added Sugar? And if so, does this mean my kids can eat the french fries at the skating rink again, resulting in my popularity as a mom going up by about ten-thousand points?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

A Year of No Sugar: Post 22

“So we are being poisoned by this stuff and its been added surruptitiously to all of our food; every processed food.”

-Dr. Robert Lustig – “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”

You’d think it’d be simple to exclude sugar from your diet, right? Not easy perhaps, but at least reasonably simple. You wouldn’t have to be an Einstein. Just look at the ingredients, and then when you find sugar- don’t eat it. Simple.Yet lately I’ve been running into some ingredients that have been defying my supposedly fool-proof plan. Dextrose for one.

Flashback to last week: for several days I wasn’t feeling so well, and as a result I was behind: behind on my cooking, behind on my shopping, behind on my meal-planning. Somehow we muddled through, but one night when I was feeling particularly desperate, half-ill and starving, I hauled out an industrial size bag of frozen “Bertolli” chicken with cream sauce and bowtie pasta. Okay, the ingredient list was longer than my arm, and appeared to have been at least partially written in some unknown foreign language, but this was a food emergency. At least there was no sugar; I had purchased this on my first “no sugar” BJ’s run a few weeks ago.

Of course, silly me had to double check, which as we have already thus far learned can be a big mistake if you’d like to actually eat anytime in the near future. What I found was within the chicken ingredients of meat, water and seasoning, the first sub-ingredient under “seasoning” was: “dextrose.” Dextrose? %^&*#$!

So you know what? I felt crappy. I was starving. And there was pretty much nothing else in the kitchen at that moment that seemed even remotely appealing. I cut open the bag, dumped it into the non-stick pan, cooked it for the requisite ten minutes and we ate it anyway… dextrose or no dextrose.

Upon completing our meal my first thought was that something was amiss- what was it? I realized it seemed really odd to me how quickly our meal had come together- I mean, a meal like chicken and bow-tie pasta with spinach and cream sauce doesn’t just happen all by itself! How long would a recipe like that normally take me? At least an hour but very likely more, not to mention all the dirty dishes that would result from washing spinach, separately cooking chicken, carefully simmering the cream sauce in a pan while boiling the pasta in another pot.

So it occurred to me that this meal had been sponsored: brought to you by dextrose! (As well as its friends isolated soy protein product and sodium phosphate!) The inverse correlation was very clear: the fewer chemicals and additives, the greater amount of meal prep/ cooking and clean-up time, and vice versa.

But it had also become clear to me that there are so many pseudonyms for sugar and it’s variants that I need to do some homework. When I look up “dextrose” on the internet I find a host of confusing answers: “Better known today as glucose, this sugar is the chief source of energy in the body.” While another advertisers hail dextrose powder as “Corn sugar!” that is “30% less sweet than pure or refined sugar.” So, forgive me for being dense, but which is it? Is it something that we create in our bodies to provide energy, or is it an added sugar?

True confessions time: biochemistry was not my best subject. Can you tell? So what is sugar? What are the differences between terms like sucrose, glucose and fructose? And where the heck does dextrose come in? Are all “ose” words sugar-related? What about bellicose? Today I happened upon a website of diabetes information that listed a frightening amount of “reduced calorie sweeteners” to look out for, without so much as an “-ose” ending to tip us off:

…found primarily in packaged foods such as cookies, gum, and candy. Reduced-calorie sweeteners include sorbitol, mannitol, lactitiol, maltitol, xylitol, isomalt, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.

Am I the only one who is starting to break out in a sweat just trying to define “sugar” in a list of ingredients? Probably. I don’t know too many other people who would worry whether their food contained isomalt or not.

It’s clear to me that sometimes I’m splitting hairs, because I have to. I put back a box of cereal in the supermarket because it contains “two percent or less” of molasses or cane syrup, and yet how sure am I really that the waitress in the restaurant knows there is no sugar in the tortillas? Did she check for isomalt? Or xylitol? Of course not.

So I’m off to watch Dr. Lustig’s talk “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” for the third time, in hopes of decoding the mystery of the “-ose.”

A Year of No Sugar: Post 7

Here’s one for you: how is a DRY CLEAN ONLY tag like sugar? (This inspirational metaphor came to me after I discovered this morning I had shrunken my favorite winter hat in the wash after failing to read the tag.) Answer: precisely the moment you make the assumption it isn’t there, is when it will be. Call it Murphy’s Law of Hats and Sausages if you will.

You see, Friday night I had grand plans of trying out a new soup recipe, so I headed with the kids in tow to the store with a shopping list that read:

  • 3 oz. Spinach
  • 8 oz. Tortellini
  • 1 lb. Sausages
  • milk

I was feeling optimistic about cooking more meals from “scratch” and thereby avoiding the sugar issue altogether.

Silly me. Although the spinach and milk posed no problem, I was in for a surprise at the refrigerated pasta products section as package after package of tortellini revealed the presence of sugar thirteen or fourteen ingredients down. Strike one. Fortunately, I was delighted to find that the small bags of cheese tortellini by the dried pasta section would work.

Next, wandering by the seafood section the kids clamored for one of our favorite treats: smoked salmon. Because I’ve been feeling like the sugar drill sargent of late, any edible indulgence that doesn’t involve sugar is suddenly very, very attractive. Buuuuuuut- can you guess? Oh yes, our favorite brand of smoked salmon let us down in the sugar department. Luckily the brand next hook over would do.

On to the sausages. And you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? You wouldn’t think it’d be hard, but try finding supermarket sausages without sugar, I dare you. By this time I was pulling my hair out in large fistfuls wondering if we’d be reduced to eating dirt sandwiches for the next twelve months. What have I gotten us into? I wondered. It was at this moment I found a package of sweet sausages which listed in the ingredients dried apples and fruit juice.

Now, making rules for our project thus far has involved splitting quite a few hairs and the fruit juice issue has been a big one. As Dr. Lustig points out in his lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth, fruit juice is sugar- and without the fiber of the originating fruit it is every bit as detrimental as the other forms of sugar we know and love. Our rule regarding fruit juice has therefore become this: no products containing fruit juice unless they contain actual fruit as well. Therefore we have been able to buy Polaner All-Fruit Jam with which to flavor our yogurt, as well as fruit sauces, fruit leather and fruit gummi-like snacks for the kids to take in their lunches. It felt like a bit of a stretch, but technically the sausages did have both fruit pieces and fruit juice- so the sausages went into my basket with a sigh of relief.

Phew! I was deeply grateful catastrophe would be averted for yet another night. That night as I prepared the soup I realized I will have to revamp my definition of “convenience foods” to include virtually anything that has a list of ingredients. Nonetheless, despite everything, we had done it. Tonight we would eat, a nice, interesting, and fairly homemade meal- with no sugar.

I went to pour in the six cups of organic chicken broth I have stored by the box in our pantry, when a terrible thought occurred to me. I stopped. No. Couldn’t be. But what if….? Cautiously, as if defusing an explosive, I turned the box over to check the ingredient list: Organic Chicken Broth… Organic Chicken Flavor… Natural Chicken Flavor… Organic Evaporated Cane Juice- DAMN!


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