One week down.
“Be safe,” my girlfriend continues to caution. She knows I’m going sugar free this month.
What does sugar-free mean, anyway? Is it really that big of a deal? Is it dangerous?
“Sugar-free” can mean different things. We can’t be truly sugar-free, of course, nor should we be. Our bodies convert the foods we eat into glucose for use in cellular respiration (which is kinda sorta important). So carbs – which have gotten all sorts of nasty press – include yummy things like vegetables and complex carbs. However, they can also include things like coco cola and potato chips.
So “sugar-free” is really a matter of degree and preference.
In my case, I have pulled out foods that are high in simple sugars. These include:
- flours (all of them: rice, coconut, wheat, spelt, kamut, etc. Da nada. Zip. Zero. )
- fruit and fruit juice (yes, fruit. But only temporarily! I will add it back in, though I’m not a fan of juice.)
- sugar additives (honey, sugar, agave, molasses, etc. Stevia is okay)
- processed foods and drinks of course, because they all have sugar in them. Anytime you see high-fructose corn syrup, we’re in sugar land.
Taking a look at the list above, doesn’t this seem sort of common sense (if a little inconvenient when eating out)? After all, eating nutrient dense food and getting more bang for your buck from your calories has got to be a good thing. Some research also links sugar consumption to cancer, which gives us even more reason to be carb-conscious.
Lowering one’s blood sugar through restricting carbohydrate intake can induce ketosis, which is when the body is low on available glucose and instead burns fat for energy. Ketosis can ultimately also burn muscle, which is why it’s received some criticism in the press and is why you shouldn’t take out the carbs for too long.
One of the signs of ketosis is thirst and reduced food cravings. And funny smelling breath. I have certainly experienced reduced hunger and increased thirst. (I’ll ask some unwary friend to give me feedback on my breath.) But whether that’s because my body is in ketosis or whether it’s because I’m eating more fats and proteins (which are highly satiating) is up for debate.
Right now, I’m really enjoying this experiment. I can’t remember the last time I had this much equanimity in my mind about food. Usually I’m a food monster – wondering when the next meal or tasty treat will come. Chocolate, get in my belly! But taking the sugar out has transformed my usual food cravings. I eat… then I’m satiated. I’m not reaching for the next thing.
For now, that’s well worth the price of admission.