…. or at least I tried.
Yan Lin and I did some research on the pros (energy boosting properties? sense of pleasure?) and mostly cons of sugar so that we would have tons of interesting information to share with the group last Wednesday. It’s amazing how little I knew about the things that I was consuming. I knew sugar in large amounts isn’t good for my body, and I thought that my usual aversion to sweets and soft drinks put me in good stead – turns out the fruit juices and granola bars I’d always seen as healthy had some pretty high levels of sugar in them. This shocking fact has made me completely rethink what I’m putting in my body.
Before I show you what I ate over the week, let’s look at some of the facts we discovered:
- Today, the world daily average consumption of added sugar per person is 17 teaspoons, up 45 percent compared to 30 years ago.
- Fructose was the huge enemy we were fighting: it is not absorbed by any non-liver cells, and all of it is sent to the liver to be processed into uric acid and fatty acids. Too much of those could lead to conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Also, fructose doesn’t suppress ghrelin (the hunger hormone) OR stimulate insulin or leptin (the full-feeling hormone): consuming fructose does nothing to make us satiated, and leaves us with only its calories 🙁
- We talked about fructose in fruit vs that in fruit juices – while fructose in general isn’t great, fructose in fruit is preferred over that in fruit juices as it comes encased in fibre and micronutrients that help to slow down the absorption rate of fructose into our bloodstreams. This means less of a sugar rush and its consequential sugar crash.
- Surprise surprise: manufacturers add a lot of sugar to savoury foods too! Ketchup is an example of a high sugar food (defined as having > 22.5g of sugar per 100g of product) you may not have expected. Sweet foods sell well, perhaps because of our brain’s reward system that makes us crave sugar like we would drugs.
- Sugar is a $5 billion industry. Given that sugar is so pervasive in the food we consume, can the food industry actually survive without sugar?
- As Gemma mentioned in her post, sugar also has negative environmental impacts: its monoculture leads to a lack of biodiversity, soil salinization and the overuse of water in cases of irrigation inefficiency.
I took pictures of most of my meals throughout the week, and here are some of them:
Our challenge involved not eating food items that had more than 6g of sugar per 100g of product. We also had a list of yes/no items: soups, sauces and bread were ‘no’s. This was my first meal after our meeting ended: a simple lunch consisting of fruit, baby carrots, and a spinach frittata.
I usually don’t head to the dining hall for breakfast, and consume granola bars in my dorm room to keep me going in the morning instead. Sadly, I couldn’t do that this week because my seemingly healthy granola bars actually had a lot of sugar in them ;A; So over the course of the week I grabbed tons of apples from the dining hall, and bought a bunch of mini bananas for myself. The bananas were a part of my breakfast everyday, but I switched the apples up with some grapes on some days.
Lunch on day 2. I was particularly happy with this lunch – there was so much colour on my plate, and the food tasted really good! Here we have broccoli, carrot slices (glazed with some sauce I think may not have made the mark but I tried to eat them with as little sauce as I could), potato slices and tons of pumpkin.
Over the course of the week I faced several challenges, the first of which was heading out for lunch with my friends. They decided on a Japanese restaurant, and I decided on ordering a salmon sashimi salad without the salad dressing. Also grabbed a plate of sushi off the conveyor belt. Emerged successful!!
My church threw a food fair on Sunday to raise funds for the victims of the Gorkha Earthquake that struck Nepal earlier this year. It was hard to turn down these hand-made red velvet cupcakes, especially after my mum bought two…. but I did it! I said no to the cupcakes ^_^
Lunch on Sunday with my mum was tough – we ended up at a restaurant that served only burgers and sandwiches, all of which were not allowed, going by the rules of our challenge. I could’ve eaten the burger without the buns, but it wouldn’t have been worth the money… so I just ate it all. This was the first fail 🙁
Caved again on Monday, when our school’s dining hall served dessert (this is a rare treat) during lunch after the college’s Inauguration Ceremony. It also didn’t help that most foods – everything except rice and fruit – would have been off limits to me. So I developed this weird theory of “since I can’t eat anything, I’ll just eat everything I want” 🙁 But the cheesecake and mini apple pie were good. I skipped on the tau huey :’-(
The final meal of the sugar challenge, back at breakfast with the urban farmers. Had a dumpling (I really had no idea whether this had sugar – the filling was savoury, but as we’ve learnt, you can never be sure with savoury foods…), 2 slices of ham and some scrambled eggs.
All in all, I think I did okay. Learnt a couple of things: couldn’t snack on a lot of snacks I had in my cupboard so I bought peanuts instead. Ate a lot of those which can’t be good since they were coated in so much salt. Also realized I consumed A LOT of eggs and fruit over the week which didn’t make me feel any better (remember: there’s fructose in fruit too u____u). My main takeaway was that eating all things in moderation still seems like the best option, rather than eating less sugar but replacing it with such high levels of everything else instead.