Day 19: Sugar, Sugar


UNITED STATES—Losing 30 pounds in a short amount of time means sweeping away the conflicting voices and focusing intently on respecting your major weight-management habits with as much faithfulness as you can muster. It’s a sprint to the finish line, and we’re at day 19.

Some trainers, not without reason, advise indulging junk food one day a week. But time and again I have observed that off-plan behavior generally spawns more off-plan behavior. We start out thinking this will be a nice little Frito detour, and the old desires and appetites are awakened. Granulated sugar and sweets made with granulated sugar have an uncanny knack of awakening urges that slumber, leading to a sugar buzz, and playing havoc with our best new habits.

So in the final sprint to lighten up 30 pounds in 30 days, yes, there will be sweet, but no granulated sugar. That should be clear. A sweet tooth can be satisfied by bevy of fruits: they run the gamut from less-sweet grapefruits to the super-ripe banana. It’s present in raw natural forms or dried fruit, such as raisins. Lemons have the lowest sugar content and in the middle are fruits such as apples, watermelon, papaya and cantaloupe.Oranges, pineapple and plums, are higher in sugar. Among the sweetest fruits are tangerines and bananas as well as dried fruits—which are a great dessert alternative.

Did you know a red-delicious apple has two teaspoons more sugar than a piece of chocolate from a beloved Southland confectioner? You heard right. You’d think with all the sugar we’d have to watch out for fruits. What gives? Fruit contains fiber—undigestible plant material—which slows digestion and prevents the spike in blood sugar that candy causes. The fiber can make you feel fuller, says Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard Professor who researches nutrition and the overweight epidemic. Ludwig told the New York Times outright you can eat as much fruit as you like. Sugar in fruits has not been linked to adverse health effects; at the same time eating more fruit has been shown to lower weight.

Fruit helps keep us from overeating, says Ludwig. According to the Times, “Unlike processed foods, which are usually digested in the first few feet of our intestines, fiber-rich fruit breaks down more slowly so it travels far longer through the digestive tract, triggering the satiety hormones that tend to cluster further down the small intestines.” (A little too much info for me, but you get the idea.)

Another reason to leave out granulated sugar is the sneaky way many American favorites that we don’t usually think of as sweet contain added sugar. Take the great American condiment—ketchup—whose sweetness I was oblivious to, till I heard a Spaniard hosanna the sweet and savory combination of the hamburger.

And many trusted brands contain an insidious ingredient, “high fructose corn syrup.” Old standbys, Campbell’s tomato soup, Heinz ketchup, and Jiffy peanut butter, to name a few, capitalize on their good reputation and put this cheap sweetener in their product and rely on the fact that scanning label ingredients is not everyone’s favorite reading. Why is high-fructose corn syrup so insidious?  Medical reasons aside, it passed indisputably into the realm of serious bad mojo for me when in 2010 the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA to re-label their controversial product “corn sugar.” They were ultimately rebuffed.

On the other hand, I’ll be first to admit that nature’s purest and best can give you a sugar buzz. After harvesting a neighbors’ tangerine tree and filling bag after bag with the small super sweet sunset-red globes, and then later juicing bag after bag—I had what can be accurately described as a buzz. So you might do well to make celery, for example, an additional munching option.

Remember, you’ve got the braid to hold onto, your braid of preferred habits. One of the strands is favoring fruits and vegetables. It is only one strand of many, a source of strength when you abide by it, and a source of chagrin when you let it break. Even as I write this article I went into grocery check-out with bag of raw almonds and the dark chocolate whispered from the shelves. I know Victoria Principal, Steve Martin’s ex, has a little dark chocolate every day because she doesn’t want to go to her grave regretting not eating the chocolate; I for one think its touted “healthfulness” is make us feel better about something we’re hooked on. Like our old nemesis, granulated sugar.

Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Amazon Kindle.  He can be reached at gr**********@ca*********.com.

By Grady Miller