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Sugar is the public enemy now. But should we go cold turkey?

Fri, 20 January, 2017

Sugar has had it - finally. Everyone seems to be waking up, opening their eyes and smelling - burnt candy. Timidly, the (proper, qualified) nutritionists are saying yes, yes to fat and no, no, NO! to sugar. Weight Watchers are watching carbs instead of, like for years so far, having fat on CCTV 24/7.

It now transpires that it’s been all a conspiracy - of course it has. Big Sugar, like Big Bad Wolf, has been bullying, bribing, torturing and waterboarding scientific authorities into claiming that bread is good for you, pasta will let you live to a 100 and sugar gives you oomph. And fat makes you fat - figures, no?

Well, it never did for me. I suppose it helped to have been a kid in the (second) world of censored and redacted information - instead of Mars bars and Rice Crispies; we never knew about bad fat and good sugar. I expect had the regime clicked, they wouldn’t have banned that propaganda alongside Bond movies. As it was we applied common sense and powers of observation: the kids who’d stuff themselves with sweets and dumplings were fat. Ergo. QED.

And it wasn’t only so in the deprived, rationed and martial-lawed Soviet Bloc - a friend who grew up in the Mediterranean has the same recollections, of having grown up without sugar (besides the occasional treat) and without cravings. It’s the UK and US who think ‘bad sugar’ is news!

An interesting article featured a while ago in New York Times (which I’ve taken to reading because of its fantastic cooking section): go without sugar for a month. What a great idea - and sensibly the naturally occurring sugars are fine so you’re not entering the GI or Slow-Carb diet realm and may eat fruit. (NB then they spoil it all by endorsing the Whole30, a fad/diet/regimen depriving you of not just sugar but dairy, grains and beans, idiotically.) But is it realistic? Or are we so used to sweetness - in the UK at least - that the very first (I imagine that’s the point) game-breaker of a month would be impossible for all bar those steel-willed disciplinarians who already shudder at the sight of the white powder (of any description).

My theory is such: I could become one of those self-control freaks if I lived on my own - social circumstances are the excuse.  Unless your life companions are freaks like you, or you’re a hermit, chances are they’ll rebel sooner than you say ‘no pudding today’. Unless you’re a gamer geek who never goes out, chances are the first pub visit will make you order that half a pint or at least a spritzer. Unless you lead an entirely stress-free life, you’re likely to have an uncontrollable chocolate/cream cake/glass of wine craving every now and again.

A month without sugar sounds like a brave and great idea - a bit like Dry January - but if after that month’s gone you lunge at the first chocolate bar in sight it’s not going to be so good. My credo is ‘everything in small measures’ (discounting cheese and wine) - so I shouldn’t necessarily go cold turkey if I wanted to go to sugar war. Instead, cut out straight-on baddies like industrially processed foods as those are loaded with added sugar - especially the ones proclaiming ‘low fat’… Likewise eliminate sweets, confectionery and the tempting things that you just KNOW are almost pure sugar: soft drinks, it’s you I’m talking about. Don’t have shop-bought granola for breakfast - have an egg. Breakfast is out, anyway.

Have your cake but eat only a little of it. And try this sugar free thing by the way - and if you say it tastes basically like bread - well, that’s what we’re on about here isn’t it?

It’s not like quitting smoking - where your lungs won’t clear if you still have an odd party fag. And it’s not like an alkie who has to teetotal to be safe. Little helps - or rather less helps. And don’t bother with those stevias and agaves - latest word on the street is they aren’t the lifeline: highly processed and indeed derived from sugar itself.

I’m trying to do it just like that at the moment - cut out sweet things where possible, waving bye-bye to as many carbs as I can as well cause we don’t get on. I don’t reach for honey when cooking tomato sauce and stay away from sweet chili sauce for my stir-fries.

But without a little bit of cake like this every now and then (or a piece of chocolate if you’re of that persuasion) life simply wouldn’t be worth living…


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