By Eve O. Schaub, Special to Everyday Health
Once upon a time, I was healthy - at least I thought I was.
Sure, I lacked enough energy to get me through the day, but with all the commercials on TV touting energy drinks for America's tired masses, I always assumed I wasn't the only one suffering. And sure, everyone in my family dreaded the coming cold and flu season, but again, I thought come January everyone develops some degree of germophobia.
At least, that's what I thought until I heard some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. According to several experts, sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this made sense to me - a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome. One in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America's number one killer.
According to this theory, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.
A Bright Idea
I took all of this newfound knowledge and formulated an idea. I wanted to see how hard it would be to have our family - me, my husband, and our two children (ages 6 and 11) - spend an entire year eating foods that contained no added sugar. We'd cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice. We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn't eat it.
Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.
Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier. What I didn't expect was how not eating sugar would make me feel better in a very real and tangible way.
A Sugar-Free Year Later
It was subtle, but noticeable: the longer I went on eating without added sugar, the better and more energetic I felt. If I doubted the connection, something happened next which would prove it to me: my husband's birthday.