Monday, October 14, 2013

Poison, sweet poison

Show me a weight loss plan or book and I'll sniff with interest. Enough interest and I'll buy it. Such as, it says I can have a glass of wine with dinner. Or enjoy the occasional serve of hot chips. Guess what I found at our local bookshop last week, in that case!

G and I are both on a weight loss kick. In his case, it's on doctor's orders as doc has said G's 'bad' cholesterol is too high. G was then sent to a nutritionist who recommended using margarine instead of butter and other ideas that the medical profession believes are better for you, mostly related to using 'fake' food instead of real food.

I have a real beef with that. Pun intended.

We humans didn't evolve for hundreds of thousands of years to eat artificial preservatives and oils bleached to pale yellowness to resemble butter. We ate meat with fat on it. We made butter from cream. We were relatively healthy - aside from the plague and other baddies - until the last few hundred years and particularly the 20th century.

I've just finished reading two books: Sweet Poison and Toxic Oil by Aussie author David Gillespie. These are real eye-openers.

David Gillespie isn't a doctor. His background is as a lawyer. As such, he's an investigator. He hunts down facts, and what he's found out from sifting through layers and centuries of data is that it's the fructose in refined sugar and food that contains it that's making us fat. Killing us, in fact, as sugar is also the culprit behind rising bad cholesterol.

Sugar didn't exist in our diet to the degree it does now, 200 years ago. It was simply too expensive to buy. Yer average Aussie these days eats about 1kg of the stuff a week. Pick up a kilogram bag of sugar and hold it in your hand just to cement the idea. It's no wonder 1 in 5 Australians are obese. Sugar creeps insidiously into just about everything, particularly the 'fat-free' products, which use sugar to enhance the taste in lieu of fat.

And guess what - those little Heart Foundation ticks of approval on food containing vegetable/seed oils should be crosses. The way these oils are produced affects their molecular structure, and not in a good way. Couple that with data produced in the 1950s by a respected scientist, which was taken as gospel by the US government (and later the Aussies), showing that animal fat apparently leads to heart disease, and suddenly we're all being told to eat polyunsaturated oils which can have some pretty nasty side effects. I knew polyunsatured oils can cause macular disease - ie blindness - so have banned them from my kitchen, and if I have to buy packaged food I read the labels very carefully indeed. Animal fat isn't the bad guy it's made out to be, in a nutshell.

These books were written by a man who lost 40kg after cutting out sugar - and still eating animal fat products. Without sugar his health has improved immensely, weight loss irregardless.

As you can surmise by now Sweet Poison tells you all the reasons you should cut out refined sugar from your life. You can eat whole fruit (but not juice it... you're just getting fructose without the fibre if you do). You can even have a glass of dry white or red wine with dinner, as the sugar in wine doesn't break down into fructose. But forget the cakes and sweet biscuits, jams, and - regretfully! - chocolate.

This is going to be rather hard to achieve. Harder for G to achieve that I, as he has a Scotman's sweet tooth and adores his marmalade. And chocolate. And biscuits. He can hoover up three biscuits with one cup of coffee if they're put in front of him.

Since I cut out sugar in my coffee last year, I have less sugar cravings. I don't long for a couple of squares of chocolate after dinner any more. I eat marmalade on my toast maybe twice a year, as I find it too sweet. I prefer a handful of nuts to a sweet biscuit. I do love a good cake though, and as David points out, if party food such as cakes is only eaten at parties or as a rare treat, and you don't have the urge afterwards to get back on the chocolate, biscuits, meringues and other sweet goodies, that's acceptable.

Toxic Oil says eggs are just fine, hunt out grass-fed beef or choose lamb instead, choose free-range chooks who aren't fed on grains heavy on Omega-6, and if you must have chips, fry them in olive oil, or an animal fat such as Supafry. (Don't buy fast food chips, whatever you do.) The book features several handy tables showing the sugar and polyunsaturated oil content of many common supermarket items, so I know what to buy and what to avoid.

Over the last couple of months G has lost five kilograms after a stern talking-to by the nutritionist, and me pointing out he doesn't need two slices of toast laden with marmalade after a breakfast of eggs, spinach, mushrooms and half a grapefruit. He's down to one spoon of sugar in tea and coffee too. I've surreptitiously cut down his portion sizes at other meals, and we don't have carbs every night at dinner, only a couple of times a week, getting carbs from vegetables instead. He's delighted at his weight loss and I'm going to urge him to read these books so we can work together on getting him down to a good weight for his height. In my case I only have about 4kg to lose.

My next task is clearing the food cupboard and fridge of the worst sugar and polyunsaturated oil offenders. I think tucked under the packets of quinoa, couscous, chia seeds and curry powders are some jars of curry paste, possibly bought when G still lived in Adelaide. As I typically make my own curry paste from scratch they're undoubtedly out of date anyway. This will be cathartic. And that's always a good thing.


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