In 2009 the American Heart Association revised their dietary guidelines to recommend that all people, regardless of weight status, severely restrict their intake of sugar. For men: less than 39 gm per day; for women: less than 25 gm per day.


How to Be "Sugar-Free"

Being totally sugar-free is of course impossible. Besides, there are healthy sugars, like glucose, that occur naturally in your body. The sugar in milk is lactose, which is also healthy. Some people are lactose intolerant, but this just means that you can't digest it, and taking an enzyme pill can easily solve that problem. These sugars do not cause damage to your metabolic system. Your body is equipped to utilize these sugars for energy, and has feedback systems to tell your brain when you have enough.

The type of sugar that causes metabolic dysfunction and obesity is fructose. This is found in table sugar which is "processed sugar" or "refined sugar". It is also found in high fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar and many other so-called "natural sugars". All of these additives or sweeteners contain about the same amount of fructose, about 50-55%. Fructose is also found in fruit juice and in fruit. It's OK to eat fruit because the fructose is bound to fiber. But fruit juice is like processed sugar, since the fiber is processed out, leaving essentially only concentrated sugar water. A glass of orange juice contains the amount of fructose in 6 oranges, but NONE of the healthy fiber.

It is healthy and quite reasonable to strive for a diet that is almost entirely free of fructose. All foods that contain fructose are non-essential foods. Most of those are "social foods", that is, not eaten for the nutritional value, but because of social custom. These are foods that were relatively recently invented, and propagated by the food industry for the purpose of increasing profits at the expense of the consumers' health. In a way, they are similar to tobacco products (non-essential products that cause bodily harm, but the "need" for them is artificially produced by advertising). Unlike tobacco products, they hide under the disguise of being a food or beverage. (Many of the "Big Food" companies are actually owned by tobacco companies. And this makes perfect sense, when you consider the type of products and marketing strategies that are used.) The obvious examples are sugary desserts, donuts, sodas, milkshakes, sugary or chocolate candies, ice cream, fruit juice, sports drinks, and sweet tea or coffee. 

It is almost impossible to participate in our current society without eating and drinking these social foods and drinks. They are fun and tasty, and a positive improvement to our quality of life. Fortunately, nearly all of them now have a sugar-free version! There is really no reason to ever eat or drink products that contain more than a trace of fructose-containing sugar.

Many diet books and diet guides have sections that suggest alternatives to harmful foods. Here is a table set up in that format to suggest alternatives to fructose-containing social drinks and foods:

Don't drink: (sugar-loaded beverage)                   Instead drink: (safe sugar-free beverage)

  Fruit juice                                                                                   Sugar-free Koolade, Crystal Lite, sugar-free flavored water

  Sweet tea, coffee with sugar                                                      Unsweet tea or coffee, or add non-sugar sweetener

  Soda, sugary carbonated drinks                                                 Sugar-free or diet soda (or water!!)

  Milkshake                                                                                    Make your own with sugar-free ice cream and sugar-free syrup

  Sports drinks, Gatorade, Powerade                                            Water is best for hydration, zero-sugar sports drinks are OK


Don't eat:  (sugar-loaded social food)                Instead eat:  (safe sugar-free social food)

  Candy bar                                                                                    Sugar-free chocolate bar or sugar-free candy

                                                                                                              (but for treats only, these are also high calorie)

  High-sugar cereal (over 5 gm of sugar)                                       Cheerios, Kix, Special K, Wheat Chex, several others

                                                                                                              (under 5 gm sugar per serving)

  Ice cream                                                                                     Sugar-free ice cream (or at least low sugar: under 5 gm sugar)  

                                                                                                              (pick the sugar-free frozen yogurt at Stakz or Baskin-Robbins)       

  Chocolate sundae                                                                        Sugar-free ice cream with sugar-free chocolate syrup

                                                                                                              (remember, nuts are also sugar-free)

  Honey, jams and jellies                                                                Sugar-free jams and jellies

  Donuts or bagels for breakfast                                                     Bacon and eggs are completely sugar-free, much healthier 

  M&M's                                                                                          Sugar-free Reeces Pieces (treats only, these are also high calorie)

  Cracker Jack, caramel popcorn                                                    Plain popcorn, without butter (since that doubles the calories)

Tricks the Food Companies Play

Another important way to avoid eating or drinking too much sugar is to read the nutrition labels. Most of the information is not important for children or healthy adults, except the total calories and the total sugar. But these can be a bit tricky to figure out, since the food company often tries to hide these facts. A common trick is to divide the package into multiple "servings".

For example, when you read the label of a 20-ounce "low-sugar" sports drink, it might say there are 16 gms of sugar. That's sounds like a lot anyway, but then you read the fine print: "Servings per container = 2.5". (As if you are going to split this drink among 2 and a half people!!)

Here's what you do: multiply the number of servings per container by the sugar number to find out the REAL amount of sugar in that bottle!
In our example, that's 2.5 x 16 = 40 grams of sugar!!!

Holiday Candy

One of the biggest scams of the Food Industry is the creation of the "holiday candy culture". There is never a time during the calendar year when there is not a gigantic candy display at every super market, from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to Valentines to Easter to Fouth of July to Summer Vacation to Back to School, and back to Halloween again! This is the tobacco/big food companies' dream-come-true, a way to market deadly products to children without any regulation whatsoever. The best plan is to avoid that holiday aisle in the center of the grocery store.

What about Calories?

If your metabolic system is working properly, you will eat the calories that you need when you get hungry. The body automatically adjusts for the amount of energy that you spend. Of course this will not happen if the metabolic system is poisoned with fructose. That's why the elimination of processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup is the most important principle in maintaining a healthy diet.

If you are expending large amounts of energy, you will become hungry and want to eat high-calorie foods. This is normal and you SHOULD eat those high calorie foods when you need them (high calorie, NOT high sugar!). Unfortunately, most Americans have already damaged their metabolic system to some extent, so hunger is not always a truthful sign. The best way to tell if you are eating the right amount of calories is to see if you can maintain a healthy weight (normal BMI) while being able to do vigorous exercise every day.

What else is Important in your Diet?

Are other dietary considerations important? Yes, you need a balanced diet that supplies your body with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. By “nutrients” we mean mainly vitamins and minerals, and fiber. The best way to assure that you get enough nutrients, is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, so you will get different types of all the vitamins and minerals, plus vegetables are the best source of fiber. Even if you ate a large amount of veggies every day, you might still miss some of the vitamins that your body needed on a certain day. To cover for that need, it is good to take a multivitamin every day.

You should also avoid eating foods that may be harmful, such as processed foods, especially meats, that contain a lot of preservatives. Many foods that should be banned by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) get by on a loophole called “generally recognized as safe”. This allows many questionable or harmful food additives to remain in use because they have been used previously for a long time, where if they were a new product they would be instantly banned.

Sometimes we add harmful chemicals to our food by accident! This could happen if we microwave food in plastic containers or in the original packaging. To avoid this, dump the food out onto a ceramic plate or bowl and heat it. Chemicals in plastics can disrupt your endocrine system (hormones) or cause cancer.

© Rick Voakes 2021