Year of No Sugar
pub. 2014 Eve O. Schaub
Eva Schaub’s life was changed at a birthday party for children, when a conversation with a fellow mom made her aware of something called “corn syrup”, Being the curious sort, she looked into it and discovered to her further confusion that corn syrup was in seemingly everything from the salad dressing to the bread aisle. Still worse, when she ventured online, she found there were medical researchers arguing that the constituent element of corn syrup, fructose, had such a destructive effect on the human body that it should be regarded as a poison. In the spirit of science, Eve and her health-conscious husband decided that they and heir children would live a year without sugar — just to see if it were possible. From that beginning, however, another story matures, one about a family’s changing relationship with food.
Schaub begins her post-sugar reflection with a brief recap of the science that led her to this decision. Fructose seemingly does nothing positive for the body; it does not satisfy hunger pangs, and the part of our body that will interact with it is the liver – which handles like a poison. The fatty agents produced by the liver in the process derail the body’s ability to use insulin effectively, setting heavy consumers on a path towards obesity and diabetes. And then there’s cancer…
If high amounts of fructose were like nicotine, they’d be easy to avoid. Fructose, however, is in seeming everything that wasn’t just hunted or gathered. In the beginning, Schaub is forced to nearly empty her kitchen and pantry to get the added sugar out. As the year progresses, Schaub and her family learn different ways of adjusting; frozen bananas run through a juicer, for instance, are readily acceptable as an ice cream substitute. Although holidays and birthdays were extraordinarily difficult, the family muddled through with the use of once-a-month dessert cheats, and the continuing discovering of substitutes like dextrose for baking. (Dextrose is a sugar, chemically speaking,, but it doesn’t have the destructive effects of fructose; the Schaubs weren’t low-carbing, they were just avoiding a particular kind of sugar that damage human bodies.)
The real substance of the book is the Schaubs’ evolving relationship with food. They begin in ignorance, despite being health nuts, they knew nothing about the ubiquity of sugar in their food, even the supposed healthy stuff like bread and salads. Early on they were forced to become hyperaware of what was in everything they ate, to the despair of waiters who were forced to look up the nutritional info for every dish the Schaubs were considering. Making their own meals at home – and thinking about how they could improvise around the need for sugar in baking or jams — made the Schaubs, even the youngest daughter just beginning school, active participants in the choosing and creation of their food. Food was no longer a consumer good, but a product made by hand. Even after the year ended, in the final reflection, Schaub believes that will not change. Even though they began tolerating a little more sugar on the challenge’s completion – a weekly desert, a guilt-free imbibing of salad — they had lost the taste for overly sweet things, and their daughters’ discovered love for cooking would not disappear.
Year of No Sugar is entertaining, and for those who have never encountered the arguments against sugar, it may serve well as an elevator version that shifts to a memoir about thinking more deeply about food. Although those interested in the science that makes fructose problematic would be better consulting The Case Against Sugar or Lustig’s own Sweet Poison, Schaub’s story will find a definite audience among those who enjoy the works of Michael Pollan, say, or Joel Salatin — who are disturbed by their relationship with food and wish to change it.
Why We Get Fat; Good Calories, Bad Calories; The Case Against Sugar. Gary Taubes
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
.The Telegraph (UK) also has an article drawing on Lustig’s original “Bitter Truth” lecture.
“Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, Robert Lustig. Working on 9 million views.
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss