Sugar is the number one nutrition topic at the moment. While a lot of us nutrition geeks have been aware of it for a while, since the World Health Organisation published it’s recommendations that sugar consumption be halved it’s become so much of a news worthy issue that most of the general public are aware of it as well.
I’ve previously blogged about my thoughts on sugar and while I don’t think any foods should be demonised, sugar is getting that bad rap for a good reason. With links to type 2 diabetes, obesity, autoimmune issues and hormonal imbalance, it makes sense that we should all assess our sugar intake.
Sarah Wilson is an Australian health coach (she studied with IIN same as me), journalist and blogger passionate about sharing her experiences of minimising sugar in her diet, eating real food and supporting others to do the same. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and found that quitting sugar had a huge positive impact on her condition.
She wrote I Quit Sugar which includes an 8 week programme for getting off the sweet stuff alongside several recipes. On 8th May she will be realising her new book, I Quit Sugar for Life here in the UK which gives us even more recipes and tips for making a low sugar lifestyle work for you. I’ve been aware of Sarah’s work for a while, and after talking with one of my health coaching clients went and bought I Quit Sugar which is a brilliant book. I was also lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of I Quit Sugar for Life and I can confirm it’s even better, seriously some of the recipes in this are amazing!
Sarah’s been traveling the globe promoting her books and is currently in London. I had the opportunity to catch up with her over the phone as unfortunately I couldn’t travel down to meet her in person. She was on her way to the BBC, but we managed to have a great chat!
You’ve been doing a lot of travelling to promote your books I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar for Life, including visiting the US, Canada the UK and your home Australia. Have you noticed any differences in the attitudes of people in each country to the I Quit Sugar message?
The UK is well ahead of the US in terms of the media and the newspapers have been really supportive, maybe because they are looking for those big headlines! But generally people in the UK are more open to the message, the time is right here and the real food movement has exploded here over the last few years. London is probably the best place in the world right now for this kind of food. In the US people are a little more resistant to the message, maybe because they get so many different ‘diet’ messages all of the time. Australia is further ahead, but there has still been a big shift in the UK.
In I Quit Sugar for Life you are quite frank about your views on veganism, but you still give advice to any vegans looking to reduce their sugar intake. What do you feel are the issues with veganism?
I don’t think that the vegan diet is particularly healthy, especially for young women given the amount of grains and sugar that are consumed. However I’m fully behind anyone wanting to make changes to their diet, and we have to be thankful to veganism as that movement put a lot of issues on the table such as organic and sustainable farming and animal welfare. At the end of the day we can still eat a plant based diet, I do, vegetables are great!
You said in I Quit Sugar that before you ditched sugar you were eating what would usually be thought of as a healthy diet. A lot of my readers, myself included, consider ourselves to eat a healthy diet, but what ‘healthy’ foods should we be watching out for?
Definitely low fat products, when they remove the fat they generally end up adding in more sugar! Dried fruit and fruit juices should also be looked at. The package might say no added sugar, but then it contains loads of dried fruit or fruit juice instead. Agave is also a real one to watch because it’s 90% fructose (LAW: Fructose is the one to watch out for because of the way it is digested in the body). There is also a temptation to eat more when you believe them to be ‘healthy’ sugars. I was drinking my chai tea with honey, but not just a mug, a whole pot, and that ended up being several teaspoons of honey. Also things like banana bread, muffins and snack bars can be just too carb heavy for some people. The scary thing is that a lot of these kind of products are marketed directly to young women as things that should be consumed everyday, not even just as treats.
If sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are out, which alternatives do you recommend?
I use a lot of rice syrup in my recipes, it’s great for replacing honey and maple syrup and is more glucose so you don’t get the same dump on your liver as you do from agave. It is a little hard to come by in the UK but you can get it online. I also use stevia which is good in things like biscuits, but not too much as it can have a liquorice taste. I sometimes use stevia along with a naturally sweet ingredient like coconut, coconut oil or sweet potato.
You do say in your book that your dessert and ‘sweet’ recipes are to be seen as occasional treats and that you should experiment with slowly reducing the amount of sweetener in them as you go. How long does it take for your taste buds to start adjusting?
It takes about two weeks for people to start noticing the difference. For me even a whole apple is too sweet and sickly, I’ll just have a quarter of it. I used to have 4 or 5 serves of fruit a day, now I have 1 or 2. I know that the idea of not eating fruit for a while can be scary, but I just encourage people to experience it themselves and see what works for them as an individual. Foods like nuts and coconut products are naturally sweet anyway!
I know you love your green smoothies, just as I do. Which low sugar ingredients do you enjoy in your smoothies?
I always add some fat to my smoothies, it’s essential for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K. I love avocados for adding creaminess, and coconut oil makes smoothies more luscious. Fat also makes smoothies more filling and if you are having them for a meal they should be! Chia seeds are also great too. Sometimes I add some good quality protein powder as well, really we should be eating protein at every meal. For fruit, I love adding 3 or 4 frozen strawberries or some kiwi, both of which are low fructose fruits.
Do you have a favourite recipe from I Quit Sugar for Life?
I love the cauliflower pizza base recipe and as far as what has gone down well on social media, the Paleo inside out bread is really popular!
I love how passionate Sarah is about her message, but she doesn’t seem preachy or pushy about it. Her books are called I Quit Sugar, not You Must Quit Sugar after all! I’m also happy that the reduction in sugar message is highlighting the real issues of added sugar in packaged products, and is hopefully addressing some of the fat phobia that is till knocking around. I really hope that some of the brands constantly bringing out low calorie yet sugar packed nutrient devoid foods start to take notice, but ultimately that will only come when the demand from us, the consumer, changes too.
As I said I really do love I Quit Sugar for Life, and Sarah’s approach in general. The book includes info on lifestyle approaches like having a morning routine, how to reduce snacking, Ayuvedia, eating more greens, exercising less (love that bit) and of course some drool worthy recipes. Sarah also includes some guidance on creating fermented foods. Over all, this is a health and wellbeing book focused on whole foods. The low sugar message is part of that, but not the whole story, which reflects my philosophy on healthy living completely.
I also chatted with Sarah about my pregnancy and when I told her my current craving was strawberries, she suggested I give this recipe a try and share it with you all too!
Have you read I Quit Sugar? What do you think of Sarah’s message?