Diet experts have many differing opinions, but one thing that more and more experts can agree on is that the Western diet includes far too much refined sugar. After dietary fat was blamed for decades (and Americans gained weight at an ever higher rate), dietitians are now turning their eyes to excess sugar as the potential culprit.
This has spurred a variety of “no sugar” diets that are sweeping the nation. And, while we think diets that completely forbid a particular food group are hard to sustain in the long run, the prevalence of refined sugar in the American diet certainly makes the attempt to avoid it altogether an interesting experiment that’s worth trying.
The most popular sugar avoidance diet is called “The Whole 30,” and has been extremely popular this year.
The surprising thing to many people is that avoiding sugar for 30 days can actually be much harder than it seems. As the New York Times states in an article on the topic, refined sugar is all around us, and the average consumer isn’t aware of this fact until he or she actually starts reading the labels—“It is in chicken stock, sliced cheese, bacon and smoked salmon, in mustard and salad dressing, in crackers and nearly every single brand of sandwich bread.” Indeed, nearly every processed item you can find on the grocery store shelves has some amount of sugar added to it for flavor.
The ubiquity of added sugar also has a side effect — it means that most of us are unwittingly addicted to sugar and eat it at every single meal and snack time (processed snack foods are actually some of the biggest culprits, being packed with both excess sugar and sodium).
The restriction in these “no sugar” diets usually applies to all sweeteners, artificial or not, so the list to avoid is extensive: sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Sources of natural sugar that have no added sugar, such as fruits, are ok to eat in moderation.
Those who have done the program, after reporting having initial difficulty finding items that contained no sugar and then going through intense cravings that almost seem similar to drug withdrawal, ultimately reported rapid weight loss and an improvement in overall health including mental benefits and a general sense of well-being.
After inevitably returning to a more normal diet that does include some sugar, those who have tried it report that the lessons in label-reading and the knowledge of the dangerous ubiquity of refined sugar in the Western diet do stick around for the long term.
Do you think you could go 30 days without any refined sugar? If you’ve already done the challenge, or plan to soon, we want to know about it! Drop us a line!