quitting sugar


Recently, I looked at the ingredients list on a package of bacon to make sure I could eat it. We buy our bacon at home from a farmer on Vashon, who makes it with meat from his own pigs, using only a few ingredients, simply. And it’s damned good. But we were away from home and the bacon was being offered to me. So I checked the label, as I always do.

Quickly, I discerned it was gluten-free. It said so on the label. But within a moment, I didn’t really want any. Here is the list:

“Cured with water and less than 1% of salt, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, sodium phosphates, maple syrup, sodium erythorbate, natural and artificial maple flavor, corn syrup, caramel color, sucralose, sodium nitrite.”

Set aside the chemicals that home cooks don’t use. This bacon contains sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, and sucralose. Why in heavens name does bacon need five kinds of sweeteners?

Merely gluten-free isn’t good enough for me anymore.

I wrote about this recently, but having to go gluten-free was a starting point for me on a journey to really choose the food I eat. Learning more about real food, and being lucky enough to have access to great ingredients, has been one of the most powerful educations of my life. I don’t write about this much, but I’m actually a diehard science geek. The past few years, and particularly the last few months, I’ve been spending hours perusing PubMed, looking for scientific studies on celiac, gluten, foods that inflame our bodies, and particularly on sugar.

I’ve been thinking about sugar, and whether or not I should be eating it, for years. If I think for a minute about what sugar gives us, I know that it’s nothing but sweetness, a treat, empty calories that race straight to our livers and make us feel logey at best and fat and sick and tired of being sick and tired, or diabetic and at grave risk for terrible diseases and death.

I’m not talking primarily about the homemade cookies we make, although I have been thinking about those a lot too. Really, I’m talking about Americans’ seeming incessant craving for sweetness in everything we eat. According to Robert Lustig, pediatric oncologist at the University of San Francisco and a leading advocate for Americans to stop eating so many sweeteners, a recent study shows that 80% of the more than 600,000 food items in America are laced with added sugar. Food items? Those are the food-like products that come wrapped in plastic and labeled. Guess how many gluten-free food products are loaded with sugar? Most of them.

I’ve been reading studies lately that suggest, quite strongly, that folks who are living gluten-free are at a much higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than the rest of the population. Why? Because so many people who are living gluten-free are living out of boxes, searching for replacements for the foods they used to eat, made with gluten-free flours. Most of those boxed and packaged foods aren’t made with whole-grain flours or coconut flour, which is full of fiber and low on the glycemic index. They’re made with super-starchy flours with no real nutrition. And lots and lots of extra sugar.

As Lustig says, “There is not one biochemical reaction in your body, not one, that requires dietary fructose, not one that requires sugar. Dietary sugar is completely irrelevant to life. People say oh, you need sugar to live. Garbage.”

I have learned this year; I have thrown away sugar.

* * *

For years, I baked. I baked and figured out ratios and played with flours and baked some more. And I love baking. I love the planning, the imagining, the fiddling with the rules, the way eggs slip into dough and strengthen it, the wait for the bread to rise, the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. Mostly, I love the joy on people’s faces when they take the first bite of gluten-free pie and seem surprised with joy.

But boy we did a lot of baking for years. To be honest, I felt almost required to bake. Folks who are gluten-free write to us in droves every day. “Can you convert my grandmother’s recipe?” “I just want my son to feel normal.” “How am I going to survive the holidays without my favorite cookie?” This is our job, our livelihood, this website. I want to help people. It was a potent combination.

For years, we went through big packages of sugar fast in our house.

The last year or so, I finally started developing recipes and photographing them just before we had people over for dinner, or in the early Sunday morning hours before we took a plate of gluten-free doughnuts to the good folks at church. If I was baking for other people, then I had to give away the baked goods to other people. Still, I had to taste and test and taste again.

This winter, I was terribly sick. I’ve written about it in glances, but not fully. There were cancer scares, terrible pain, bloating, weight gain, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, depression, acid reflux, anxiety, and all that unknown. After months of expensive tests and scary times, I figured out that the medication I was on to try to prevent breast cancer had turned in my body. It threw me into early perimenopause, which changed my body chemistry, and then my body just didn’t like that medication anymore. Briefly, my blood sugars were so high that I was considered pre-diabetic. I also had the start of fatty liver disease.

When I finally stopped taking the medication, on the advice of my oncologist and doctors, my body felt an immediate relief. A month later, all my tests came back healthier. That could have been enough for me.

But it was just too close to illness for my taste. Nothing tastes better than health. Nothing. Damned if I’m going to let myself grow that sick again. Ever.

I read and asked questions and read more and more studies. I talked to everyone I know about their health and diets. I opened my mind. I admitted what I already knew. I had to change my life.

Also, I watched my daughter. Lucy eats everything. She has a great palate and an open mind. That’s not to say that every meal time is a perfect calm of her eating her entire dinner. Turning five, she is already pickier than she has ever been. But this kid eats kohlrabi and bacon and capers with excitement. Until a few months ago, she used to grow giddy excited about the idea of an ice cream cone. She tasted the ice cream cone, loved it, and after five bites, she threw it away. Every time. When we asked her why, she said, “I had enough of it. It was really good!”

I wish I had that talent in me.

So, since she seemed to have such a temperate appetite for sweet things, we let more and more sugar slip into her diet. Birthday party cake. Strawberry festival cotton candy. A free cookie from the bakery at the grocery store. A little treat in the middle of the afternoon. And it seems that she had just enough sugar to get her addicted. Lately, we have heard a lot of “Mama, can I have a sugary treat, please?” She hasn’t thrown away an ice cream cone in awhile.

I do not want my daughter to struggle with her weight or immoderate eating the way I have all my life.

Look, I’ve known for years that I should look at the amount of sweetness I eat. Back in 2011, like so many of us, I read Gary Taubes’ electrifying piece for the New York Times, “Is Sugar Toxic?” I read it, thought about it, read it again, shook my head, and couldn’t shake it. I read his book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. I thought and thought about it. I knew so much of it was true. Why have I always been active, walking every day and taking yoga and swimming and eating mostly healthy foods and still unable to lose weight. But I didn’t want that book to be true for me.

I watched Dr. Lustig’s compelling talk about The Bitter Truth of Sugar. I stopped eating white bleached sugar and replaced it with more honey and maple syrup. I focused on slowing down, cutting my portion size, breathing while I ate and really being mindful. Still, no real change.

But this summer, I really began looking at the way I eat. After we were in Italy, I was once again struck by how folks there eat. Sure, there’s pasta. But every Italian I know loves good meats, cheeses, vegetables in season, coffee, fresh fruits, and only a little bit of sweetness. There’s a little sweet in the morning. Maybe the occasional dessert. But that’s it.

So I decided to be an Italian for awhile. I challenged myself to save the taste of anything sweet until the end of the evening. That included fruit, granola made with maple syrup, energy bars, or any tastes of what we were testing. Instead of baking, I focused on the grass-fed beef and pork we buy from farmers, the wild salmon from Alaska we love, nuts and seeds, good cheeses. I started cooking more with leaf lard and coconut oil. I ate all the kale from our garden I could eat. I ate more and more and more fresh vegetables, which I love so well, along with the occasional quinoa fritter or buckwheat crepe. I found that I was more full, more satisfied, and much happier without sweetness.

About a week into this, I had a small dish of a cherry crisp we had created for another site. The sugar in it was so sweet that I had a headache immediately. That night, my acid reflux was so bad that I couldn’t sleep for hours.

I was done. No more sugar for me.

* * *

Since then, in the past month or so, I have been sleeping well. I haven’t suffered any acid reflux. I have lost a lot of weight without ever feeling deprived. I also focused on moving more, sleeping longer, and going back to meditation to find my breath again. The inflammation I have been carrying around for years is finally starting to calm.

It turns out that merely being gluten-free may not be enough.

National Geographic has a fabulous cover story this month, about sugar and why we can’t resist it. I highly highly recommend it. The writer, Rich Cohen, told a story that fascinated me.

“One day, perhaps [twelve million years ago], a cold wind blew through this Eden. The seas receded, the ice caps expanded. A spit of land emerged from the tides, a bridge that a few adventurous apes followed out of Africa. Nomads, wanderers, they settled in the rain forests that blanketed Eurasia. But the cooling continued, replacing tropical groves of fruit with deciduous forests, where the leaves flame in autumn, then die. A time of famine followed. The woods filled with starving apes. ‘At some point a mutation occurred in one of those apes,’ Johnson [a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver] explained. It made that ape a wildly efficient processor of fructose. Even small amounts were stored as fat, a huge survival advantage in months when winter lay upon the land and food was scarce.

Then one day that ape, with its mutant gene and healthy craving for rare, precious fruit sugar, returned to its home in Africa and begot the apes we see today, including the one that has spread its sugar-loving progeny across the globe. ‘The mutation was such a powerful survival factor that only animals that had it survived,’ Johnson said, ‘so today all apes have that mutation, including humans. It got our ancestors through the lean years. But when sugar hit the West in a big way, we had a big problem. Our world is flooded with fructose, but our bodies have evolved to get by on very, very little of it.’

It’s a great irony: The very thing that saved us could kill us in the end.”

And this is the thing. All the people who deride those of us who are inflamed and can’t lose weight? You don’t know your biology. It’s our deep primal desire for sweetness, and the sugary sweetness that is in nearly every food, that holds on our fat, not lack of willpower or laziness. People who look thin, including those who love to derogate those who are fat, might be holding onto fat around the viscera and die from it later. You can be overweight and be healthy. You can be thin and be in danger. Sugar might be killing some of us.

* * *

Do I think that sugar is toxic for everyone? Nope. Life is rarely that simple, is it? There are clearly people who are hard-wired to eat sweet things in moderation, to have a treat occasionally and be healthy as can be. I don’t think that’s me. I need some time without sugar before I can look at it again. It might not come back. Perhaps having celiac means my body is inherently more given to inflammation than someone else’s, and I need to be more careful than a healthier person does.

But do I think all people should give up sugar? And am I going to try to guilt you into stopping it now? No way. We all have our own bodies and lives. I adore pastry chefs and bakers and the work they do. Keep on, my friends.

Our friend Laura, who is diabetic, said that having something sweet around is vital if her blood sugar drops too low. Protein gives such a long, slow burn of energy that it wouldn’t revive her fast enough. And having sweet things in our life, but far more moderately, is giving us the chance to have wonderful conversations with Lucy about food and its function in our bodies. I don’t want to be the parent who bans her from ever having sugar, because she’ll rebel with secret stashes of candy in her room. But Danny and I both think it’s reasonable to make her wait until after dinner to eat anything sweet. We’re trying to teach her to respect the sweetness at the end of the evening.

Am I giving up baking? No way. I love it too much. I also know that I love playing with alternative sweeteners as much as I love playing with new flours. I adore coconut sugar, which is much lower on the glycemic index than bleached white sugar. Raw honey is a joy, each kind slightly different in taste. Grade B maple syrup makes a darned fine banana bread.

However, I do not believe that my path to better health is to switch that deeply ingrained need for sweetness to all-day treats with alternative sweeteners. I’m still only eating something sweet at the end of the evening. Most of the time, it’s a ripe peach, a handful of blackberries, or cherries off the tree. When you give up sugar, you can taste how sweet a roasted beet actually is.

All I know is that we haven’t put up a new baked goods recipe in months and no one seems to have minded. Danny and I both love great food, real food, not food-like products that come in a box. We’re here to share our joy and our discoveries and recipes for foods that feel essential to us.

I don’t want to miss any more life being tired or sluggish or slow. I want to be here.

Life without sugar is much sweeter than I imagined it to be.

* * *

If you are interested in looking at how many sweeteners you eat, and how you can cut down on them, or quit, I have a couple of recommendations.

Sarah Wilson, a force of nature from Australia, who also suffers from an autoimmune disorder, took her health into her hands a couple of years ago by quitting sugar. She has a fabulous website called I Quit Sugar. With the help of nutritionists and doctors, she developed an 8-week program to help you wean yourself off the sweet stuff and focus on more essential foods instead. She doesn’t leave you hanging without help. The program, and her cookbook, contain wonderful recipes for gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free foods. I’m pretty crazy about this raspberry ripple recipe.

Diane Sanfilippo, author of the website Balanced Bites and the wonderfully informative book, Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, has a 21-day sugar detox program. It’s smart and clear and geared to help you do this successfully.

If you have any inkling that you might need to give up sugar, it’s worth a try.

119 comments on “quitting sugar

  1. Adina | Gluten Free Travelette

    Good for you Shauna! I recently gave up sugar on an elimination diet for about two months out of concern that it might be causing migraines. Turns out it wasn’t the only cause, but when combined with other things it aggravates them. While I can go back to eating sugar most times I want now, I’ve found that after two months without it – I’ve really lost my taste for it. Fresh fruit or treats just lightly sweetened with honey are much more to my tastes now. Funny how you can loose the wish to eat something after how much better you feel without it :-).

  2. JJ - 84thand3rd

    Good for you for looking at your body and working out what you need! We went off all sweeteners a few years ago and it was amazing (weight loss aside) to see how much our habits and taste buds changed. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit lately, eating far more fructose than I’d like, and need to go cold turkey even cutting out rice syrup for a while to get back on track. I’ve had such a wonderful time experimenting with baking that satisfies my needs and doesn’t spike my blood sugar. Good luck with this next phase. xx

  3. janeray1940

    Not long after my celiac diagnosis in the late 1990s, I was also diagnosed with fructose intolerance – meaning no fruit (except for avocados, lemons, limes, and cranberrries), no honey, and no table sugar unless I wanted to continue to be sick all the time. I quit sugar, then and there, and haven’t looked back – mainly because within a week I felt like a whole new person, within a month I had lost 30 pounds, and within three months I had reversed nonalcoholic fatty liver and borderline diabetes. While I don’t believe sugar is good for anybody, I don’t believe it’s toxic to everybody – but I do believe that it’s toxic to me.

    1. Ashley

      I really struggle with sugar, fruit and any sweeteners too. I haven’t been diagnosed with fructose intolerance but the same symptoms. Are you able to use any sweeteners? Also do you eat grains/ gluten?

  4. Sherri

    CONGRATULATIONS. I have often said gluten free diets are so tricky. Saying I’m gluten free to someone often came with a little bit of pride as if to say I’m eating healthy. But, I am so aware of the capability to eat just as bad on a gluten free diet. They have so many cookie options that I’ve fallen in love with. Heck, just the other day I learned fruity pebbles are gluten free. I work for a chiropractor who is grain free sugar free….and let me tell you he doesn’t even catch a yearly cold…I think there may be something to his method of madness. I haven’t had the will power yet but my youngest seems addicted to sugar and often I feel so guilty about it. I often say that’s it no more sugar your going to get sick. Of course grandparents and aunts are no help. But today I am making a new commitment with you to stop the sugar insanity.. Yes we too will have the occasional sweets, but we must take control! Good luck to you and again congratulations, it truly is awesome:)

    1. Melissa in VT

      You are so right Sherri, I feel as though when I say I am gluten free people assume I am extraordinarily healthy. Which is just not true. I try my best, but I also go on the occasional sugar binge. I am caffeine free, I don’t drink soda, and I don’t eat a lot of baked goods. Oh ice cream/froyo, you are so delicious! Family members going out of their way to bake gluten free things doesn’t help, I would agree. But, I do think working on really having moderation with sugar can give people more control. I’m hoping to go on a bit of a sugar cleanse and see if it makes a noticeable difference in my energy level or mood. Here’s to an autumn full of exploring foods and ingredients with limited sugar!

  5. Betty

    My journey down the no sugar path ended in a metabolic crisis. I first went
    Nurtritarian “Dr. Fuhrman’s diet” The inflammation was gone. I felt great and
    was sure I had found my nirvana. But, 8 months into it I was weak, cold, tired,
    depressed, constipated and, suffered insomnia. All the goitrogens in the greens
    shut down my thryroid and, I was vitamin b-12 deficient.

    I went the opposite route, paleo. The first few months were great. I felt stronger, my
    body was more tone. I didn’t like the food as much as veganism but, I was feeling
    better. Then four months in I developed another metabolic crisis. I started again
    with extreme cold, insomnia, constipation, lethargy that kept me on the couch or in
    bed. I had pressure in my head and, ears at an extreme level. I truly didn’t want to
    live. I was at a loss of what to eat. I started having reactive hypoglycemis to everything I ate. I was rail thin, hair falling out at an extreme rate. I was sure I
    was going to die.

    I no longer trusted the medical community to know what is right for me. Nor, did I
    have faith in any “healthy diet.”

    I found http://www.180degreehealth.com While his advice is definately a 180
    from mainstream. I have my life back.

    Now, I know only a small percentage will have the health issues I did trying to get
    well. Yet, I wanted to let those who fail on these “healthy” diets to know there is

    I don’t understand why I can’t just eat veggies and, fruits to my hearts content. But,
    I can’t. I rely on sugar for energy. My colon is too weak to digest and, absorb the
    nutrients in high fiber foods. Since eating 180 style I have lost most of my sensitivities
    to chemicals and, foods. I am 51 and feel better now than I have in 20 years. Do
    I look better? Not in my mind. I now weight 124.5 lbs at 5′ 3.” I was always around
    110 before. Yet, I never felt well.

    I wish you all the best of health.

    1. Kacey

      I totally appreciate and identify with your comment and journey. Everybody has a different path to wellness and we need to respect others, not just say “THIS is the miracle cure/diet.” Because of my Crohn’s I can’t digest the fibers in fruits/veggies/whole grains well at all. Somehow my intestines can’t absorb and use the natural energy from foods that take a lot of work to digest. And that…is why my afternoon pepsi or sugary drink gets me through the day. And I won’t feel guilty for it. Sometimes those of us with malabsorption problems NEED that straight shot of sugar for energy, because our body can’t digest things well- that is just a part of living with Crohns. I really think moderation is the key. I have lost weight this year by not depriving myself. I found that if I was craving chocolate, and trying to ignore it, I would consume far more calories in healthy food trying to suppress that craving. Then when I finally caved in, I binged. If I allow myself a little of what I crave, and really work hard to control my binge issues, my body balances out. And veggies aren’t for everyone. My nationally respected GI doctor told me to avoid the fresh fruit/veggies so I don’t trigger a flare.

  6. Kathryn

    Hello Shauna:
    I recall reading somewhere that they company (Archer Daniels Midland?) who created high fructose corn syrup then created what is called a vertical market for it. In essence, it created uses for it. I also recall reading that our food did not contain as much sugar before the creation of high fructose corn syrup. I have also wondered why some foods have sugars of some type in them. Probably because the processor was convinced to use them.

  7. Pamela

    Thanks for this, Shauna. About six months after going gluten-free, I came down off the high of finally feeling healthy for once in my life. I thought I’d just gotten used to feeling good and it was no big deal anymore. Now I’m convinced that it was sugar -instead of eating whole foods like I had at the beginning, those replacement foods like pasta and gf cookies were creeping into my diet more and more.

    It took me a long time and a lot of struggle to come to grips with the idea that I should cut down on sugar. It’s everywhere these days. Armed with the rationalization that I eat less sugar than everyone else so I must be fine, I ignored my body for almost a year.

    Recently, I’ve completely cut out sugar and grains six days a week. (Except for a very small amount of fruit.) It’s amazing, the difference it makes in my overall health.

    Thanks for sharing your struggle. It’s so helpful to know that other celiacs struggle with diet-related health issues even after going gluten free.

  8. Stephanie

    I have been thinking seriously on sugar for many months now, slowly trying to eliminate it from my diet. I haven’t bought a package of white sugar in about two years, but I still have many of the alternates you listed. I haven’t been able to completely eliminate it from my diet (and I’m not yet sure that I want to completely), but I do plan on a two-week trial. But I’ve been planning it for months, and your article was a kick in the face! Why haven’t I tried it yet? In retrospect, it’s because of how often I am away from home overnight. Preparing and packing foods that do not need to be heated (I am rarely around a microwave) that will still be filling seems challenging to me. I usually bring some combination of fresh vegetables (either in a rice wrap or a salad) and a baked good (like a homemade protein bar, muffins, etc), which is where the sugar comes into play. There aren’t many options for eating out gluten-free where I am. Do you have any thoughts on staying gluten free and sugar free away from home?

    1. Heather Harding

      You should seriously buy Sarah Wilson’s book. There are so many amazing recipes in there that will help you with this. I go to uni and live on campus and have limited access to a kitchen, and I have still been able to make delicious meals just from my college room (all I have is a kettle and some mixing bowls.) So seriously give it a try 🙂

  9. Netty

    Yea!!!! I’m on a similar quest to cut/decrease the sugar in my life….I just love chocolate chip cookies though…. I’m not eating them but I sure do miss them. 🙂 I’m looking forward to whatever new things you create! Congrats on your discovery. 🙂

  10. Tina

    Good for you! I went off sugar about 6 months before my celiac diagnosis. I haven’t looked back, and feel better because of it. I search out the best raw honey and grade B maple syrup for my baking and use a bit of stevia in my coffee. I feel great, and what’s better is hopefully I’ve impacted my body so that serious disease won’t affect me in the future. I’m so thrilled that you are spreading the word on this unnecessary additive that many have a true addiction to.

  11. Jennifer @ Gluten Free School

    Good for you! I’ve come to worry heavily about the sweet palette that seems to naturally over-develop with people in the GF world. Product companies have allowed people to believe that GF means healthy and that’s simply nor true. I suffered with adrenal fatigue and Candida as a result of going GF. My life’s work has become about educating people about this issue. Though its sadly an uphill battle, I keep on trucking and commend you for trying this out in your own life to then share with everyone else. The GF diet turns many of us into sugar addicts and we act like its a cute joke. The consequence of Diabetes certainly isn’t. A great statistic is that the average American adult eats 22 tsp of sugar daily. Women shouldnt eat more than 6 added tsp. And because of the refined starches and flour in the GF food supply, many eat well beyond 22. If you’ve no clue about knowing how many tsp you eat daily, calculate that every 4 grams of sugar is 1 tsp. Add up everything you eat for 3 days and then have an honest conversation with yourself about what’s going on. I have plenty of helpful tips and info like this specific to those in our community on my site.

  12. Jeannine

    The food you write about is excellent, usually made from ingredients available in my area, interesting, healthy and tasty. I for one, hadn’t even noticed that there weren’t any baked good recipes lately. Be healthy, be happy.

  13. Elizabeth Maslowe

    YES! I’m thrilled to read this. Taubes for the win!I know I should give up sweetness too, having T1 diabetes. Sometimes I manage it for a stretch but never for long. Knowing what to do and having the discipline to do so are sadly not the same for me.
    I hope one day you will also consider giving up grains entirely to see how you feel.

  14. Madfortulips

    So many of us on similar journeys! I too have a rare autoimmune disorder and found I was highly sensitive to wheat,yeasts,chicken eggs,dairy…..I tried and loved Kathy Abascal’s approach to healthy eating, she is on Vashon in your neck of the woods! ( I grew up in Seattle) her web pg: http://toquietinflammation.com/
    Again cutting all sugar out helped immensely! I was an avid baker and do miss my Carmel sweet rolls, but not worth the pain and diarrhea the next day! Interestingly I was just in Paris and tried having one bread a day….no symptoms, truly their flour is different than ours?!
    Oh and I so agree about GF foods and even recipes on many GF web sites are loaded with sugar :-((

    1. Christina

      Mad—I know a doctor who advises all his patients to avoid gluten in the U.S. But when he travels to Europe, there are a number of places where he happily eats wheat with no issues and tells his patients to feel free to do the same! I think it may have something to do with how long grains are stored in the U.S., bu can’t remember exactly..

      1. carol

        I’ve been exploring this discrepancy for several months and have found that the processing of wheat into various products is different in the EU than in the U.S. Also, our country allows preservatives that are banned in the EU in our grain products. I still have a lot to learn, but thought those two facts were interesting.

  15. Ms. Rants

    I thought I could never give up sugar, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I gave up sugar and all alternative sweeteners as part of an elimination diet a year ago. The first few days I was, shall we say, moody. It turns out my sugar addiction was worse than I thought! But within 2 weeks I stopped craving sugar, and I feel so much better! Luckily, I can eat most fruit, and I can have a gluten-free baked good occasionally, but only maybe twice a month. Aside from that, I have almost no sugar (just small amounts in condiments) and I don’t miss it. So for all of you who know you should do it but think that you can’t, just give it a try. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t have to be permanent, but what do you have to lose? Thanks for bringing up this often-ignored but very important topic!

  16. Suzanne

    Shauna … you were my hero six-plus years ago, when you brought me out of my mindset that being GF was practically a death sentence to any food joy I might again feel in my lifetime. You helped me see life through the glasses of the many wonderful, whole and beautiful foods I really loved all along, and always were a lot more healthy for me! And I think you may have done it again. I, too, have had cause to read much about sugar’s destructive place in our lives — and so much of what you wrote here has really helped to gel my own thoughts about this subject. I am lucky, in that I am probably more like your daughter who would throw away the ice cream partway through – but am married to a person who is dangerously diabetic, and it is only getting worse as we age. Let’s just say limited financial resources in the face of many health crises in our lives, has often left us prisoner to the extreme cost of life-saving insulin. I fear that our home’s GF lifestyle has only added to the “carb count” in our meals, and it’s time to make a big change. Thanks once again for your inspiration and temerity to share your ups and your downs with your audience. ~~~your long-time fan: Suzanne in Indiana

  17. stacey

    The timing of this blog is uncanny. My timing has been about the same as yours. I have really been thinking about sugar and really paying attention to how it’s affecting my body. I’ve done the same type of weaning as you…but within the past few weeks have to decided to completely walk away from all sugar, including alcohol (sigh) to see if I can get that final grip on my health. I do eat a lot of fruit…still trying to figure out if costs outweigh the benefits. I think I probably am intolerant to wine and have been ignoring that truth for several years, but am still waiting to see the long term effects of leaving sugar behind. And I’m sort of an all or nothing girl too, so this is the “easiest” path for me.

  18. Mindy

    I too initially felt great when I went gluten free in 2008 then started feeling bad again. I had developed other food sensitivities and felt better after cutting them out but then started feeling bad again. Finally figured out that it was cane sugar and honey that were causing a problem. The number of products that I pulled from my cupboard and fridge that had sugar or honey in them was dismaying. I now feel tons better but I do miss chocolate as I have yet to find a source for good tasting sugar free chocolate.

    1. Elizabeth

      Hello! After having trouble finding an organic (and affordable) candy bar free of soy leichitin (ug!) I decided to make my own with coconut oil (cold pressed), coconut sugar, raw cacao powder, and almond extract. It was awesome!

      1. Mindy

        Nice! Did you follow a recipe or did you experiment til you found a taste/texture that you liked?

    2. Glenda

      Trader Joes has a GF and sugar free chocolate bar that I think is very good. It’s usually near the checkouts.

      1. Mindy

        Thanks! I’ll check TJ’s again but the last I looked there was nothing that met all my dietary needs. I have quite a few food intolerances (I’ve gotten some foods back but have recently lost others), including milk. It’s fairly rare to find chocolate, even dark chocolate without milk in it.

  19. Peggy Y

    I love this post! If you like the geeky science stuff, you should really read Gary Taubes inaugural book on the subject: Good Calories, Bad Calories. I have a lifelong sugar addiction that I still fight, and since I love your website, I’m happy to see you address this topic here. Another good resource for anyone interested in sugar detox is whole9life.com, which recommends Whole 30 periods where you adjust back to eating whole foods for 30 days, including dumping sweeteners.

    My concern with alternative sweeteners that are “lower” on the glycemic index is that they’re usually more heavily tilted on the fructose side of the fructose/sucrose equation. As Gary Taubes elaborates in his books, the fructose doesn’t affect your blood sugar as much because it is shunted off to the liver to be metabolized, but while it’s there, it increases your triglycerides. (Super oversimplification of the process–I know.)

    So I’m trying to stick to Stevia, which I know is highly processed but doesn’t take much to sweeten a cup of tea. It’s not easy to bake with, though, so baking has been sidelined for me. Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple had a post a while back about stevia that made me feel a little better about it (Whole 9 is not a fan of stevia).

  20. Donna Kaminski

    When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease we went directly to our naturopathic practitioner. She had to learn to eat no wheat/gluten but also no sugar. Candida overgrowth is the core issue after getting off gluten as it is the sugar imbalance in the gut that causes so many other toxicities which then become illness/disease. My other daughter has sugar sensitivity, which we all just decided was sugar addiction as all of us were affected by sugar. Research yields that the only sweet items we are meant to eat come naturally with their own fiber and protein – so if we are going to eat sweets we must couple the ‘sugars’ with proteins and fibers. We have even shifted away from agave. We eat sweets so less often – only for special occasions and only made with no gluten and no sugars other than coconut sugar or dates. We do indulge once in a while, like when we are away from home or out at a restaurant for an occasion, but we eat protein (like almonds) with our desert – this helps the sugar to digest slower. We are less symptomatic when we do this, but it doesn’t mean it feels fine, just not so bad…so we rarely eat desert we don’t make. We choose fruit, or couple our fruit with aged cheeses (like they do in France/Europe). Once off sugar completely, your sense of taste clears and returns to normal…a granny smith apple will taste incredibly sweet! Good for you, Shawna, your body continually thanks you, and so do we for all your help and input!

    1. Kris

      I do think every body is different and no one diet is going to work for all. Some people tolerate fructose better than others, certainly. Your argument, however, would be stronger if you’d provided sources not funded by the sugar industry. It is difficult to find peer-reviewed support (or even a basic meta-analysis) for this assertion.

  21. Paulette

    Shauna, I have used very little sugar in my baking for some time. – and yes it is trial and error to a large degree because sugar often is a texturizer as well. I am gluten intolerant (I don’t have Celiacs, but since I quit gluten about 3 years ago, the inflammation in my knees has largely disappeared. I’m not saying totally gone, but largely & I am happy about it. I had already reduced sugar in our diets to a very large degree as my husband has type II diabetes and I am continually experimenting to find baked foods that we can all enjoy. (My grandson is allergic to Sesame & walnuts so we have a few restrictions) – When I bake fruit pies I often add no sugar at all, depending on the sweetness of the fruit I bought. I taste the fruit first, and if is lovely and sweet already, I don’t add any sugar. If it seems a little tartish, I’ll add a little sugar – never anywhere near what you see in the average pie recipe. I usually use natural vanilla extract to flavour my pies as vanilla associates with sweet in our mouths . I agree about the rampant sugar in so many packaged products. – When looking at something tempting, I look at gluten content, salt & sugar levels. (salt & sugar are usually both too high for me to purchase). I make most foods myself. Recently I made a lamb curry and used some coconut milk. The dish was surprisingly sweet tasting (and no the coconut milk powder I reconstituted was not sweetened). I plan to explore the use of coconut milk in things like cakes & cookies. Using ingredients that fool your taste buds are great ways to achieve a sweetish taste without a sugar in any form. I like some of the alternate sweeteners for their taste so I use them sparingly as flavours (honey, maple syrup and so on). So far my grandchildren eat whatever I bake and are quite happy with my cookies, cakes and pies. Of course I don’t tell them anything is different about them. This is what they are used to eating. I love this post. The survival mechanism is fascinating. We all have sensitivities to different foods/ ingredients and your exploratory approach to your particular sensitivities is excellent.

  22. Melissa

    Sugar……. it was ALWAYS the ending to the meal at my house. I am 5’4″ and stoutly built. When I was growing up my very THIN brother would put away 1 whole box of Little Debbie Fudge Rounds without BLINKING! He NEVER gained weight, until now that he is in his 30’s and still eats like that. Growing up in the late 70’s early 80’s we were emblazoned with influence ALL OVER! Candy Bars, some new toy that makes something sweet, soda, and all the while no one ever questioned that it was partly to do with my acne & weight issues.
    High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from the chemical alteration of sugar to produce a BRAIN ALTERING sugar that is not only a pancreas killer (your pancreas releases insulin to break it down then retreats to not find any REAL sugar to metabolize), but has been Genetically Modified for years! White sugar is not any better as most are made from Genetically Modified Sugar Beets.
    When I was pregnant with my daughter I would get morning sickness right before work, so I would stop and get a Sprite to drink. At this time in my life I had already sworn off High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated Oils, but the Sprite helped calm my tummy. Within 24hrs my face broke out in acne like I was 13 again!! The next few mornings I tried some Organic Peppermint tea, which worked, and my acne was gone. I remember in high school having 1 or 2 Sprite’s/day, and still suffering with acne, wondering why I was cursed. If I only knew!!
    I have been strictly Gluten Free for 1 month now, and I can tell you my severe sinus headaces are gone, my bloating & gas are gone! I am not going back now!
    When I was in search of all of the Gluten Free Flours listed in all of your AWESOME recipes, I found many options online. Bob’s Red Mill does have most of what I am looking for, but not very many Organic Options. Organic Gluten Free Flours DO exist! They are not loaded with pesticides, and are NOT Genetically Modified! The Genetic Modification of many grains have infiltrated America, and is a detriment to our health as they have NOT been tested! Most CORN that is not Organic HAS been Genetically Modified with BT toxin. This toxin is genetically injected into the DNA of the corn molecule so it grows with the pesticide IN IT! It blows holes in the stomachs of the insects who eat it, rendering them dead. Now on a larger scale, those holes are formed in OUR intestines! When we eat food, it releases bits of food into our bodies, causing the body to become allergic to “said” food as it is deemed an intruder.
    This leads me to the Family run business http://www.toyourhealthsproutedflour.com
    They have Organic Sprouted Gluten Free Flours that are not cross contaminated. Organic Millet, Sorghum, Brown Rice, Amaranth…… They are SOOO good, plus they are Sprouted so they have the nutrients released that otherwise would not have been.
    There is a way to live healthier, I am learning each day! I do also know that when you find out some very pertinent information that could help others you should share it EVEN if they do not want to hear it!
    I LOVE posts like this to get everyone thinking, and really looking close at the food labels looking for harmful additives, NOT just if it has gluten it in or not!!

  23. Christina

    Congrats Shauna! I’ve been GF for two years and it was for me a springbord to learning about nutrition and changing my diet to home-cooked whole foods. Before I was GF, although I have always espoused an “all things in moderation” philosphy, and desparately trying to uncover my elusive health problems, I went on a ketogenic diet with no sugar (or even high carb veggies) for 18 months, but that didn’t solve my problems with weakness and fatigue. I’ve since learned that my main problem is related to a medication that I’m tapering off of. So until that is done and I see what’s what, I’m holding off on more diet changes (although I’ve learned so much about nutrition and cut my sugar way back.) If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend Peter Attia MD’s TED talk on “What if we’re wrong about obesity?” where he discusses insulin resistance (and sugar) as the real problem. And the science geek in you might really enjoy his website The Eating Academy where he talks about what HE eats and all the science behind his research. Fascinating stuff!

  24. Katy @ Katy's Kitchen

    What a really interesting post on sugar and how it affects you. I know that sugar for me is strange, if I have more, I crave more. This includes fruits. It’s definitely hard to find a balance with a joy for baking. I like the idea of saving something sweet until the end of the day.

  25. Janet

    I think this post right here is why you and your blog are so successful! You state what you are doing without laying on the guilt and having great and insightful information to back up your decision. I think this tactic will convince more people than scare tactics and guilt! You have really inspired me to look into what I’m eating more than anyone else! Good for you for giving up sugar and thanks for sharing with us!

  26. Joan

    Glad to read this! I have been gluten free for 6 years now, but never felt well. I am now on The Body Ecology Diet, which I think is the answer for ME. I am getting more energy, and have not have sugar 99% of the time for the past 5 months. My struggle now is when I bake for my gluten free customers. I have an at home business, which I am considering ending. It’s kind of sad for me to do that, so I’m not sure that is the answer. I know I cannot eat sugar, and every time I taste that icing or sample the cupcakes, it tastes soooo sweet. Be well on your journey Shauna! So happy for you!

  27. bo roth

    Shauna, I love the timing of this, too! I’m on day three of no sugar, and it’s a bear. Day one I ate so much food (nuts, avacado, rice cakes) I thought I was going to explode, and all because I couldn’t grab a cookie or a chunk of dark chocolate. I remember this same frenzy from when I went off sugar (and lost 40 pounds) six years ago, and how great I felt two weeks in. And yet the sugar snuck back in after a few years and so did the weight. Excited to see more recipes and food without sugar on your blog! I’ve decided week one is just no simple sugar. Week two will be less alcohol (the nightly glass of wine?) and week three, less rice and simple carbs. One thing that is hard, is that I went to a thai restaurant who told me that every single sauce had sugar in it. I had to eat steamed veggies, instead! Sugar is used quite a bit in restaurants, and avoiding it there is truly challenging.

  28. Katherine

    I’m so glad I found you! I’ve recently gone gluten free to reduce inflammation in my body due to endometriosis. I thought I could eat it every once in a while but turns out I get really sick from even a small bite. I’ve recently been wanting to reduce sugar in my diet and learn more about it. There’s been so much talk recently about sugar being the underlying culprit of America’s high heart failure and obesity. I found this so encouraging and informative. THANK YOU!

  29. Liz

    Hi Shauna
    I’ve been gluten free for just over a year now. When I went gluten free I also went sugar free. I have to admit I felt great. Yes I had sugar cravings initially but then they passed and only occassionally did I crave something chocolatey. I baked my own breads and made up recipes without sugar so as to avoid all the sugars and nasties in the gluten-free shop bought goods. Somehow I now seem to be back on sugar…It happened gradually and I think your article has reminded me that I need to go easy on the sweet stuff. Thanks.

  30. Leona Shemza

    Well this is the kick in the pants I needed! I went gluten free 6 months ago after several years of fibromylagia and treatments and medications that ended with me feeling worse than ever until I cut out wheat and since discovered I was gluten intolerant. I began eating only whole foods and lost 15lbs right away. Then that was it for months now I have remained at the same level and also still experiencing some bloating and mild tummy aches someone asked me the other day if I was eating sugar and although I had cut way back from before it got me thinking hmmm. I am going to stop for 2 weeks (baby steps) and see if I don’t feel better. Thanks!

  31. Leah

    Shauna, This is the first comment I’ve left – however, I’ve been reading your site for about 4 years (ever since I discovered it, when I eliminated dairy and soy, along with other things, from my diet while breastfeeding my then newborn boy…It was really helpful to read about your journey as I was embarking on my own journey of elimination and discovery!!). He is now 4+ and outgrew his intolerance, and when he was 1-2yrs (even as he continued breastfeeding), I went back to my “typical” whole-foods eating approach, which included mostly organic (and now more emphasis on local) dairy, soy and some meats, cheese, tons of veggies and fruit, grains. I don’t have the ‘need’ to eat gluten free but I’ve become more aware of the impact of gluten/refined foods along with sugar and dairy, etc on my body. In the past two months I’ve experienced two episodes that were horrifyingly uncomfortable (still being sorted out – perhaps heartburn/gerd – perhaps a combo of that and something else, or not that at all) however I’ve just about eliminated dairy again and most sugar, just about all refined/boxed/bagged foods, as of the past two weeks. Eating FRESH is good! I am inspired by your latest blog to take a deeper look at the refined sugar (again, which I don’t eat much of, but I definitely consume some) in my life… I’m particularly curious about your replacement and use of coconut as well as maple and honey (which I know is a common replacement for white table sugar). I also was JUST LITERALLY saying the same observation (about my son’s reaction to sugar the other day to a good friend. It used to be that he’d ‘react’ to the sugar, when it was less common in his diet. Become loopy and goofy). Part of it too, I think – is that he wasn’t even consuming dairy sugar for the first 2 years+ (never had cows milk until he started eating cheese and yogurt). Somewhere over this past year, he developed a higher tolerance for it. That was a notable moment for me. With him I tend to not worry as much, as he is a wholesome eater (has been known to kiss raw chard or kale as he’s eating it – because he loves it so!) along with declare how much he loves squash, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower etc. He eats veggies and fruit like candy. I’m trying to move back to that. I look forward to hearing more about your journey and seeing recipes that match your endeavors! Best, Leah

  32. Sandy

    Funny . . . this showed up in my e-mail and right next to it, an ad reading: “Q: How do I get rid of my love handles? A: Green Coffee Bean Extract.” I just shook my head.
    I now have (developed from combination of your recipes, at least 8 other GF bloggers’ recipes, and LivingWithout magazine) one recipe each for cookies, crackers flavored with real chicken stock, and cake, all without not only wheat flour but several other things my husband reacts to. Seriously, one cookie recipe is enough – we don’t need the appetite stimulation of a *variety* of sweets.
    I started reading your blog because I was looking for help with GF baking, but I keep reading because of your writing. (Have you ever read “Stillmeadow Sampler” by Gladys Tabor? I think you’re related.) I don’t really care if you publish recipes for sweets or not.

  33. Laura

    YAY! Congratulations on your sugar detox and welcome to the world of life without sugar. 🙂 I quit cane sugar when I went gluten-free 6 years ago, and over the years since, I’ve pretty much given up all sugar except for a medjool date here or there or some maple syrup to prove yeast in a bread recipe. I have been frustrated by the sugar addition that has our society in its grip — even Paleo recipes are often laden with honey. For me, sugar is highly addictive and highly destructive for my body — migraines, cystic acne, mouth sores, insomnia, moodiness, inability to think clearly — and I wish that I wish that I had grown up in a household that understood the power of sugar.

  34. Elizabeth @ Pray, Love, Learn

    Thank you for sharing what you have learned about sugar. I have not baked with “real” sugar for 8 1/2 years. Having an 18-month-old diagnosed with type-1 diabetes will do that to you.
    Having a nine-year-old diagnosed with celiac six years ago complicated things again, but overall, I think our whole family is all the healthier for it.
    We do have two children that seem to have “sweet” toothes. They crave any kind of simple carbs–breads, pasta, cereal, the more sugary fruits, so I am working with them on that, as I am a recovering sugar-addict from my past when I could (and did) eat anything. Turning 43 put a halt to my amazingly cooperative metabolism and I am learning to balance what has been a mostly healthy diet for the last decade, with more moderation in the carb area.
    Thanks again!

  35. Peaches

    I agree that as a nation we eat far too many processed foods and far too many sugars. But I have to say I was dismayed to see you writing in such a condescending way about the bacon your family/friends had in their kitchen. I am assuming you were a houseguest of theirs, and while you have every right to say “no, thanks” to food you cannot or do not wish to eat, shaming the people who offered it to you in their home is just plain ungrateful. I have noticed you doing this before when you write about the bad food your mother fed you as a child (I know, I know; I ate that horrible food, too) and it is quite petty. You can write about bad processed food without naming names or assigning blame. Also, if you are to be really true to your word, will you be dropping your food sponsors, since most of them are processed foods?

    1. Linda

      Where does she say she was with friends? The bacon could have been offered in a store. Whichever, she does not shame anyone. These “ingredients” are in most fridges in most homes – the shame is that as a society we have moved away from real food, and it is life-savingly vital that people with coeliac become aware of just where gluten lurks. Thinking that if you avoid baked goods you will be avoiding gluten is just not enough. It is added as a thickener to many, many ‘products’. In meat, it is added in liquid that is injected to make the meat appear plumper. It is in what I believe Americans refer to as creamer, the white powder that is added to your coffee. It coats crisps (potato chips) and peanuts. Gluten is extracted and then added to non-baked goods, a lesson which all coeliacs have to learn, and reading labels for one thing leads us into realising just what else is added! Personally, I do not eat any processed food whatsoever. It’s easier, and healthier. And I will not eat it in someone else’s home just to be polite, either!

      1. Peaches

        Shauna did stay with relatives very recently, so I am assuming they offered her the bacon, as I have never been “offered” bacon in a store. Also, please read my comment – I am NOT saying to eat anything to be polite! Shauna could have simply written that she has noticed that there is sugar in bacon. There was no need to say it was being offered by someone else; that someone may be reading this blog and feel bad, as they probably went to an effort to buy food to accommodate Shauna’s illness. The same goes for slamming one’s mother for the food she fed you 40 years ago, and I have seen that happen frequently on this site. Get over it – we all ate that food! I remember my own mother fed us “food” from boxes and cans, too, but I am not publicly shaming her for it, nor blaming her for my celiac. This behavior seems very petulant and ungrateful. You can refuse food and be gracious about it; simply saying “no, thank you” usually does the trick. Also, I see that many of the sponsors for this site are processed foods which contain sugar, but I suppose they are fine since they are paying to advertise. I used to love this blog but I have seen a snide and rather hypocritical tone lately that I do not enjoy. I don’t think I will be back.

  36. Jen

    Great post (as always). I have to say I get tired of the sweet-based recipe focus in some blogs. I enjoy occasional treats made with less processed sweeteners, but I don’t feel the need to make sweet things that often. I mean who doesn’t enjoy them….but I don’t feel that great eating sweet things frequently. I enjoy and prefer recipes for savory meals, not so much sweets. I hope this continues to help you feel better.

  37. Gail

    Awesome post! I love the path of discovery you are on and I love skipping and traipsing along behind you! Fun and educational – thank you!

  38. Monique Houle

    Thank you Shauna for sharing the details of your journey to optimum health. Totally inspiring. It’s so wonderful to feel energetic and healthy that it’s always great to find the “guilty party” when we feel lousy and be able to say adios.

    Since you mention that you enjoy researching certain foods and their effects on their health, I was wondering if you’ve ever read anything about cheese and its possible association with a greater risk of developing breast cancer. I’ve read some articles on the subject but I’m still a bit uncertain about this issue.

  39. carol

    A year ago I gave up sugar to loose extra weight and to help maintain a healthy weight. I’m not a person who follows trends. Mostly I believe that one can enjoy everything in moderation (with the exception of gluten containing products). After a year of maintaining a healthy weight (25 pounds less), having more energy and exercising more, I’m ready to amend my belief by saying one can enjoy fresh, wholesome food in moderation (versus the processed, refined kind). Sugar is one of the main culprits of inflammation in the body. It is kindling to the fire. And, as you know so well, the source of most inflammation is in the gut. I’m about ten years older than you and have had to just tell myself, “I can’t do that anymore.” I feel so much better for it. I hope that you reap similar rewards. I enjoy your posts very much. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  40. Jan

    What I’ve learned is that some bodies and brains are what Dr Kathleen DesMaisons calls ‘sugar sensitive’ and react differently to sugar and white, refined flours. Her website is radiantrecover dot com and one of her books is The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Plan. For people who crave sweets and wonder why moderation is impossible, why will power isn’t there, I encourage checking out this site and book, and I promise, I’m in no way affiliated with this in any kind of marketing plan, just someone who has walked this path. Best of health to you Shauna and THANK YOU for writing about this!
    ~ Jan

  41. Ina gawne

    Shauna – I gave up sugar many years ago…now I do use it, but only occasionally. I really try to use Coconut sugar, Agave Nectar, honey, or when absolutely necessary, Organic Cane Sugar. To be honest with you, I do not miss it. Initially I did, but it did not take long to rid my life of sugar. I know for me personally, I do not do well with it. Years ago I read a submission article written by a Doctor and a Natural-path Doctor. I can not remember their names, nor the name of the article. It was 5 pages long on the health hazards of white sugar. At the end of the article, both doctors (yes this is true) said they would rather see people smoke than to consume white sugar. I personally do not believe this is a good comparison…however it does suggest an extremely strong emphasis on eliminating white sugar. (sure wish I had kept that article!)

  42. Kate {Eat, Recycle, Repeat}

    Shauna, I’m so glad to hear you are feeling better with less sugar in your life. I am the same way – at risk of diabetes due to hormonal imbalance. Everything becomes so much sweeter when you eat what is right for your body and listen to how you feel after eating certain types of sugars. Right now I’m enjoying a dessert of frozen blueberries and coconut butter. It’s simple, easy and divine. Here’s to good health!

  43. elizabeth

    Shauna, what an incredibly insightful post … I’m very skinny, but I have long known that I don’t have an appropriate satiety response when it comes to sugar. It’s been decades since I gave up trying to keep sweets in the house (you know, in case friends came over, or on the theory that I’d have one, once in a while) because I could never sleep as long as whatever it was went uneaten! But … there’s a difference between a binge and a splurge, and I think we need the splurges for psychological reasons, if not physical. I mostly splurge on fruit – watermelon, cherries, etc., allowing myself to eat to satiety, even if that’s half a watermelon … but I’m not above the occasional frosted gf cupcake either. I don’t abstain completely from sugar, but I have it controlled circumstances (at dinner in a restaurant, etc.). When I come upon a fancy bakery, etc., I no longer deceive myself that if I buy two of something that I’ll really be able save one of them for tomorrow. Interestingly, I do find I can eat raw desserts without triggering whatever it is that eating, say, cookies triggers. I can make a batch of chocolate truffles and they will last all week. Or a raw pie. I don’t know if it’s the absence of sugar (white because I do use honey) or the absence of grain (not just gluten but all grains) that makes them safe for me to keep around. Same goes for dark chocolate.

  44. blissing

    I haven’t cooked with refined sugar in at least 10 years. I still have it sometimes when out and about, but never in what I cook. Completely giving up sweeteners or baked goods is another thing. I did a Whole 30 in Jan. and ever since then have experienced what Geneen Roth says: every diet has an equal and opposite binge. Still trying to find my way back to balance, as I was eating healthier before the Whole 30. When I went grain free my acid reflux went completely away, but didn’t work for my husband. Here’s to finding out what works for us.

  45. valerie

    Good for you! I gave up sugar, all sugar (coconut sugar, cane sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, it’s all sugar!) in January, never felt better or looked better. Been experimenting with stevia with much success. Looking forward to seeing what you and Danny conjure up, keep us posted!

  46. Jenn Sutherland

    Shauna, you lead us on, and always seem to be one step ahead. Working with my naturopath in the last 2 months, cutting sugar was the recommendation for me, too, and I’m slowly weaning off, and feeling the difference…and when I do have a sweet, I feel that UGH feeling in my tummy, so know that I’m doing the right thing. Bravo, and thank you for the continued inspiration! XOXO

  47. valerie

    One more thing, I had many of your symptoms which, in my mind, seemed to point to candida. Might want to peruse the Candida Diet website. Changed my life.

  48. jennifergammel@me.com

    I’m completely with you, Shauna. I’ve had to avoid sugar since high school (over 20 years ago!), when I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. Ever since then, it’s amazed me to see the amount of sugar most people eat. (Its nearly impossible to avoid, even if you completely avoid processed food: most recipes call for it, too!) Any suggestion for what to use in place of sugar in your bread recipes, as I suspect the yeast needs to feed off it? I really like stevia; would it, or coconut nectar, or agave nectar work?

  49. Patti

    Some cancer cells have insulin receptors on them in which they pull the glucose out of the blood stream for nurishment and growth. This is how scientist grow cancer cells in the lab. Just something to think about.

  50. Lara

    I live in Canada and often alternative medicine and many mainstream doctor advocate for the eliminate of gluten, dairy and ALL sugars for patients with Cancer.

  51. Lara

    Sugar also acts on the on the same part of the brain as drugs meaning that sugar is brutally addictive and incredibly destructive to our health. I did the candida cleanse earlier this year and it was really hard to beat those sugar craving. It took me about 3 months of cleansing until I had no sugar cravings. Now when I eat it I feel incredibly sick. Thanks for posting this Shauna. I appreciate you sharing your struggle and hope you continue feel healthier each day. Your journey is, as always, beautifully written, heartfelt and often wonderfully humourous. Thank you 🙂

  52. TFP

    Sugar is something I wrestle with regularly. Every year, I go on a bit of a sugar fast to recalibrate my palate from craving it and notably, seeing it as an entitlement. It’s a strange thing, but there sometimes is an expectation of having sweets after meals rather than as an occasional something fun. That fast helps me get back to the occasional something fun mindset. Also, it might be interesting to note, I wrote a rant to sugar a while back after reading up on it and coming to similar conclusions as the ones you’ve noted above. I’m trying to be less all or nothing, so it still plays a part in my life albeit a much smaller one as I try to focus more on being mindful, present and grateful. This isn’t to say I still don’t have days where I go overboard and yet, I’ve found I’m much better at staving the cravings the next day. PS- Dr. Robert Lustig is lovely in person and just as passionate about this issue as he seems on youtube. He’s on sabbatical this year from his position at UCSF where his specialty is pediatric endocrinology. Interesting, hmm?

  53. Sini

    I live in Europe and think that the products in the U.S. are often very sugar-loaded. For European taste buds most of the U.S. baked goods are just overloaded with sugar. If everything, even bacon, is kind of sweet you really get used to that sweet taste and are always needing more of it. I have to adapt nearly all the U.S. baked goods recipes to have at least a third less sugar in them. I don’t think sugar is a bad thing, I just think we should stay away from the extremes…extremely sweet, extremely fat, extremely anything.

  54. Jen

    And I’m sure you read the recent piece by Mark Bittman, too? (“It’s the Sugar, Folks). Like you, going gluten free has raised my awareness of what we are consuming as a family. This is especially tricky with young children when there is a lot of peer pressure to “loosen up” and let your kids eat all sorts of crap in order for them to “have fun”! (I have issues with the ice cream man!). I think we parents need to stand our ground for the well-being of our kids.

  55. Jane

    You might also like to look up Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. He is also anti-seed oils (eg rape seed/canola oil) which are extracted & processed. I’m fortunate not to have a sweet tooth but my hubby does love sweet stuff & so we have minimal amounts in the house. Good to hear you’re feeling better in yourself. It’s a continuous journey.

  56. Natalie Ross

    I’m glad to hear you made it through the health scare in good shape. I continued to suffer ill-health despite being gluten-free for years, so I gave up sugar a year ago. I’m excited to see that you, someone who has a voice that is heard by many, are coming to the realization that sugar is keeping us, as a country and individuals, ill. I hope you continue to feel better and experience vibrant health. I haven’t read your site much in the past year because seeing all those sweet treats just made me sad, so I’m excited to see more sugar-free real food posts and recipes. Keep sharing your journey, we are reading!

  57. Alessandra

    Wow, wow, wow! Congratulations and I’m so sorry to hear you were ill. I am so with you about ‘gluten-free’ not being enough – when I went gluten-free? A small difference. Now? I’m vegan, Paleo, sugar-free, and I love it. It’s so rewarding to have a really ripe tomato or a small bar of intense chocolate. Well done! As for Lu, I know that with great parents like Danny and you, she will be fine! I’m actually 14 myself and made the choice to go grain and sugar-free independently thanks to the support of my (also wonderful) parents. Good for you! x

  58. Kristy

    Thank you so much for writing about this! I struggled with sugar addiction for years and went from a normal weight to obesity and pre-diabetes because of it. I also had acid reflux and brain fog cloudier than a San Francisco morning.

    It was only when I adopted a whole foods raw diet that I was finally able to break this addiction by simply eating fruit. Who knew ?! 60 lbs and a whole host of problems are gone. I will never take another bite…not even of honey or coconut sugar (but that is just me and what personally works). Baked goods, sweets and candy no longer call to me at all.

    The real surprise for me was just how addicted I am to salt and fat. Those are tougher to break.

    Thank you again for opening up the dialogue on this. Processed foods are addictive !!

  59. Alexa Rae @ KEEN Digital Summit

    I quit sugar on July 1st. And when I say quit, I mean I cut out over 90% of sugar I would have had under my previous eating ways. I have a huge sweet tooth so it was a big of a struggle but I am very happy now with this new lifestyle. It was great to read this and see others doing the same. 🙂

  60. Alexa Rae @ KEEN Digital Summit

    Oh! Also… after 30 days of cutting out over 90% of the sugar I eat… I had half a slice of peanut butter cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. I became dizzy, disoriented, nauseous, and then started vomiting (TMI, sorry). It really shows you how sugar can make you sick when you try it again after quitting it.

  61. Charr Douglas

    My kids did not eat sugar until the world pushed it- I would buy honey in a gallon jug at the Minglement which was up town then, near the book store area. I do not have a sweet tooth but think it causes me more hunger….I have mentioned it before in posts. The article in National Geographic said it wonderfully, though, better than I have ever heard it explained.

  62. Jeanne

    Its funny. I have been prediabetic for years, controlling with diet. Before I was prediabetic, I did not have a craving for sweets. But now I do! I have a very bad reaction to sugar, so I avoid that, but overdoing other sweeteners can give me the same reaction or something different. I’ve pretty much been sticking with stevia and xylitol, in moderation.

    When something isn’t right in our bodies, we should always look at what we are eating. Wheat, dairy, soy, and sugar are the most allergenic things we can eat, according to a doctor I know.

  63. Trace

    Thanks Shauna and Chef D. for all you do to make cooking/sharing/eating more “sweet” without all the yucky additives. http://www.iquitsugar.com – is offering an 8 week course beginning on August 26th on how to managing reducing your sugar intake for those interested.

  64. Sarah G.

    I hope you’ll keep us updated on your journey of decreasing sugar in Lucy’s diet. I am envious of your geographical/cultural location and imagine it’s easier for you? Our family can decently restrict sugar and sweets, but I find it so unrealistic and, basically, impossible to maintain my own standards with my four-year-old because she attends a “preschool” a nine (soon to be 12) hours a week. Even though I bring in her own alternative sweets, the treats are handed out entirely too frequently for anyone’s definition of “healthy.” It’s a constant struggle for balance, and it’s a constant source of aggravation and stress during the school year…. Not sure what to do about it.

  65. Sally Chippendale

    After being gluten free since 2004 I didn’t realise I could feel even better by going sugar free/paleo this year. The best six months of health I’ve ever had. Cellulite on my already thin thighs disappeared without exercise (bah those horrible squats), happier moods, better sleep. It does take a while to get used to not feeling bloated. I think many people confuse bloated with full. I don’t miss gluten free bread, pasta, cake at all. Funny, I missed rice until we started making cauliflower rice. LOVE PALEO.

  66. Katie C.

    Thank you! Thank you! I have just recently discovered a similar problem with sugar. My internal inflammation is so high that eating sugar has been only painful. Please continue to post recipes sans sugar!

  67. Kara

    I removed sugar from my baking two years ago hoping it would help my preschooler with some attention issues. It has definitely helped, and as a side benefit I lost weight without making any other lifestyle changes. I merely substitute the same amount of coconut sugar for the white sugar in GF recipes. I’ve also started baking only with coconut oil. Since so much of taste is smell, and the house smells so deliciously of coconut when I am baking, I find it has enhanced the sweetness of the results rather than detracted from them. I look forward to reading about your adventures baking with honey, as I find it difficult to judge how to balance the extra liquid by reducing other liquids (milk, primarily) in the recipes.

  68. Junebug

    Please don’t ever lump in fruit with ordinary “sugar.” Read this:


    Also, just subbing honey, coconut sugar and maple sugar for granulated sugar still is sugar.

    Also don’t fool yourself into believing that coconut sugar is any better. Read this:

    “The American Diabetes Association has correctly observed that claims to glycemic index (GI) are unknown and untested for coconut sugar, and advises: “It is okay for people with diabetes to use coconut palm sugar as a sweetener, but they should not treat it any differently than regular sugar. It provides just as many calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar: about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon.” So until there is further research to back up claims that coconut sugar is different from any other sugar in its effects in raising blood sugar, one would be wise and safe to treat it the same as other sugars.”

    And finally, in the end it really comes down to calories in calories out, although the paleos, etc. just can’t accept this. Read the exquisite book by Professor Marion Nestle’ “Why Calories Count.”

    I am gluten free and count Weight Watchers points (shorthand for calories). So easy.

    To sort out sugar like Lustig does and say “that’s the problem”…is far too simplistic.

    1. DamselflyDiary

      Sorry, but I disagree with your calories in/calories out statement. I have had several doctors tell me that isn’t true. And I proved it myself when I did Weight Watchers. I followed the plan quite strictly and didn’t lose anything for 3 or 4 weeks. I then finally lost about a third of a pound a week, if anything. Some weeks I actually gained a little (and no I didn’t cheat).

      Frustrated, I asked my doctor and she once again affirmed that for many people it isn’t just calories in/calories out. We have different bodies, different metabolisms and different ways of processing things as well as different health issues that impact our ability to gain and lose weight. Medications, age, genetics, diseases, etc. all play a role.

      But yes, we should all be watching the amount of sugar we are eating whether honey or powdered. Sugar is hidden in a lot of things one would never expect. That’s where we need to be careful and not be fooled.

  69. jill

    I so appreciate this posting. Trying no-sugar is something I need to do. We use minimal sweeteners, but I do love fruit. And I’m never sure how long I should go totally without, say, fruit, and where the line is of sugary vs. sugar-free (what about lactose?) Being vegetarian and gluten-free (and I have NO desire to eat meat) has been my excuse for why I can’t quite figure out how to do it. Hopefully I can find some good resources that fit my lifestyle.

  70. Ally

    Shauna, thank you for your honesty and sharing this with us. Your story and feelings on sugar really resonate with me. It’s so true, it’s amazing when you recalibrate your palette without added sugar. Beets become incredible treats. We are already sweet enough!

  71. Sunny

    I am so glad you wrote this. I have been feeling guilty for not using your baking recipes. The husband’s diabetes was getting worse so we stopped making, buying or cooking anything with any kind of sugar. He is celiac also which makes it worse because without some sweetness the GF items do not taste good to him. It is better to do without and just eat some strawberries.

  72. Alyson

    Selfishly as a sugar-free Aussie who follows Sarah Wilsons IQS, I am thrilled to read this superb post! I gave the sweet stuff away last year after doing the same research you’ve mentioned. Now I’m giving away the gluten, and your blog has saved me! When I dropped sugar I said I would rather quit chocolate than bread – now I’m on the quest to find the gluten free recipe that fills the void: a gluten-free brioche! Keep them coming gluten free girl, you’re saving my sanity!

  73. Esther

    Shauna, wishing you continued discovery and wonderment, and blessings of good health for you and your beautiful family!!!

    Wonderful piece, written from the heart, as always. Everyone’s bodies are different, and I’m so happy to read that you’re finding what works best for you.

    After I was diagnosed with celiac in January 2006, I still suffered a lot of pain, but less than when I was eating gluten. The fabulous Dr. Peter Greene took me on as a patient, and discovered I had h. pylori, a side effect of the years of gluten eating. Once that was treated, my health still wasn’t optimal. After reading your post about sensitivity to gums, I dramatically decreased my intake, and suddenly almost all of the symptoms disappeared. Because your honest sharing opened a curiosity in me, I was able to figure out what was still messing with my gut. Thank you, thank you, a million thank yous!

    May you continue to write, inspire, share, and better yours and our lives.

  74. Anna

    Wonderful Blog! Two recommendations from me are to read ‘The China Study’ and watch the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives’ not sure if you have ever mentioned these two on your site before… all about whole food, plant based diet

  75. Joy

    I’ve been only on honey and occasionally maple syrup for YEARS. I have Hep C, Hypothyroid and adrenal exhaustion.
    If I eat sugar the consequences are NOT good. I can tolerate small amounts but rarely eat it. One thing is it does keep me up at night.
    I’m glad you have given it up. I suppose I would have to go to fb and see a current pix of you.
    I’ve been baking for years with just honey and it’s served me very well.
    God bless you and your quest for a healthier you,

  76. Joëlle

    Hello Shauna,
    I discovered your site a couple of days ago and loved it. My husband (and I, to a lesser extent) recently found out that he is gluten and lactose intolerant and after following a trial-and-error diet we also realized that any kind of additive was also part of his problems: namely, sulfites (very tricky, those are hidden in a lot of food, such as white sugar), citric acid, acetic acid… The good news is, he no longer has asthma! No doctor ever mentioned that food could be the cause of his poor health. We took his profuse sweating over nothing, his almost constant eye watering, his burping as “normal” … Well, these symptoms have disappeared.
    Now, going back to your post on sugar, I can totally relate to your cravings. I have a couple of tricks that work well for me, maybe they will for you too. After a meal in the middle of the day, I brush my teeth almost immediately, knowing that I won’t want to get them dirty again right away ! And at the end of the evening meal, I allow myself to nibble on small pieces of dried banana; my brain thinks it’s candy but it isn’t as bad as a regular dessert. Or I have (like today) a salad that includes something sweet but natural (i.e. slices of fruit, dates…)
    By avoiding sugar you will help your body heal itself. But you are right, you can’t deny yourself any treat at all. Hang in there !

  77. Rachel (De Ma Cuisine)

    I just started reading “Salt Sugar Fat”, by Michael Moss, so this has been on my mind as of late. Thanks for sharing, Shauna. I appreciate your honesty, and that you aren’t trying to guilt anyone into quitting sugar, but are just telling your story.

    I really like how you put that you and Danny enjoy good foods, “not food-like products that come in a box”. I couldn’t agree more!!! Hooray for slow foods that are real real real!!!

  78. Gabriella

    Many brands of salt actually contain sugar! Check the ingredient list on your salt and see if sugar/dextrose is added.

  79. kh

    A French friend who goes back and forth swears that even our fruits and vegetables are bred to be much, much sweeter. I can’t tell the difference but she says our tomatoes, cherries, strawberries and even cucumbers are all sweeter than what they eat in France. I think we have forgotten the pleasures of bitter, sour, and pungent since everything in the US is sweet now – salads, breads, meat sauces, sausages, even cheeses!

  80. Carol

    I Love my desserts, but the last couple months, I’ve worked really hard on moderation, cutting out sodas and limiting my treats, no more candy bars, small servings of ice cream, and I felt so much better. More energy, sleeping better, the reflux and tummy issues were better and headaches were gone. Then this week, I got stressed and turned to the sugars and I’m back to crummy. Gluten free really taught me how much food affects the way I feel, I guess we all need reminders once in a while!

  81. Sophie M

    Thank you for such an in depth post. It’s clearly a very topical subject, as there were some excellent articles in the Uk’s Guardian newspaper (I live in southern England) on this very subject which had such an effect on me, I went straight to my kitchen cupboards and immediately threw out all my squash and fruit juices that I drink along with my girls (4 and 2yo). Very very powerful message. I’ve heard a lot about sugar over the years as well as all sorts of other health related cautions, but I find you tend to get desensitised to these messages after a while because they’re in the press all the time, and so many of them either conflict in the messages they send, or the articles are badly written to the extent that it’s unclear what impact eating such and such “bad food” will have, but this sugar research from Dr Lustig is so powerful and well spelt out when it comes to the effect of ignoring it that you are a fool if you don’t stand up and take notice, especially if you have kids and you a) want them to lead a full and healthy life and b) you want to be around to see them leading such a life.
    I’m posting the link to the Guardian article if anyone’s interested, but one of the sections that caught my eye early on is:
    “Most rich nations saw their sugar consumption increase by 30-40% between 1970 and 2000. In Scotland it quadrupled in 60 years. A key moment was the introduction of “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS) – a fantastically cheap sugar made from America’s surplus maize (in Europe we manufacture something similar from sugar beet). American government subsidy for the corn farmers – and high taxes on imported sugar – made the product cheap and attractive.”.
    Wow, need we say more…epidemic indeed…


    Thanks Shauna for your wonderful site, for your GF thoughts and advice, but also for your ongoing personal honesty.

  82. Linda

    I’ve been a recent reader of your blog. My 47 year old Down’s Syndrome sister Jenny was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. My naturopath advised me to give up gluten &, as a result I’ve been free of asthma and acid reflux. I first started reading your blog when my grandaughter, Ellie, was struggling with food issues. It turns out she’s not gluten intolerant but SUGAR intolerant. She’s extremely low on zinc, and does better taking her zinc supplement, but refined sugars make her completely lose bowel control…not so good for a 5 year old. So in our family we have been dealing with some dietary changes. This is coming from a place where we were foodies & natural/organic oriented, so we didn’t do the processed/high fructose corn syrup foods many people are realizing were so bad for them. So, first, let me say that your blog is just a wonderful resource for those newly into GF. And I’d like to respond to Peaches who slammed you for your sugar free stance while still accepting ads for GF foods that had high sugar. People who are told to go GF who don’t have a history of cooking from scratch or whole foods would be blown away if asked to make everything from scratch. Your blog is a first, second, and third resource. First: What do I eat? Well some of your ads help newly GF people find foods that are tolerable for taste and nutrition. Second: Your recipes are awesome! But they have evolved. Originally you were using the gums. Then they didn’t agree. I’m pretty sure they don’t with my sister, Jenny. So you moved to chia, psyllium, & flax. It’s all a learning process. Your sandwich bread is keeping Jenny happy. Third: You’ve moved away from sugar. So have I. Happy to join you on this journey. I think Peaches got up on the wrong side of the bed. If I saw those ingredients on a pack of bacon, even if I was a houseguest, I’d say, “Hey, friend. Did you look at this?????” My friends know where I come from and can take me or leave me, but they know I come from a place of loving them, not dissing them. Peaches got it wrong. Crap in our food is crap. You don’t have to silently, politely refuse. You help your friend learn. Friends care.

  83. julie

    Thank you for this! Like you and other commenters, I went through a process of feeling drastically better after going gluten free, then recently feeling really poorly again. My nutritionist suggested grains and sugar may be the culprit and since beginning to eliminate them I know an improvement. The hardest thing for me to give up is wine!

  84. heather

    I am in no way ready to give up sugar, but I avoid high fructose corn syrup and other corn derived sugars at all cost. Even xylitol is highly processed and has goodness knows what in it. Maple syrup and honey are not considered sugar in my mind. I have always eaten fairly well, but was eating a bit of junk food because I was so physically active and had a hard core labour job, felt I deserved it. I stopped eating all of it and have felt so much better and lost weight. I still eat sugar, real sugar, organic sugar cane, because it is natural, comes from a plant. I don’t find it a problem, but anything processed like a chocolate bar grabbed from the check out, or grocery store bakery department, or even from a quality bakery is far tooo sweeet! Even gluten free vegan baked goods from a local bakery are mind crushingly sweet. The only thing I really like sweet is my tea or coffee. I like baked goods sometimes, but always too sweet. I have found some high quality organic fair trade milk chocolate to nibble on, but still far too much sugar, even Theo’s has too much sugar!!(I personally find dark chocolate too bitter).
    I have terrible acid reflux problems too with no easy answers, not even sugar!:) Acid reflux problems could be caused by low acid, which a GI specialist told me doesn’t exist, but is all over the internet, my doctor wrote mine off as an upper GI form of irritable bowel syndrome. Goody. Another theory is vitamin B12 deficiency, but if you are eating delish pasture raised meats and dairy, shouldn’t be a problem. I have tested negative for celiac so no resolution there. Coffee and tea are supposed to be bad for it, have you given up coffee yet?
    The western diet is obsessed with sweetness, and “sugar” is the new food evil, though we should be careful to avoid those food science trends as they kept us away from butter all those years! Very little processed food even contains sugar, has not since the ’80’s. The blame should be on SWEETENERS, not SUGAR. Sugar is far less harmful, it’s not great, but being a natural plant from sugar cane, has a history and culture of use. Our brains are hard wired to want sweet yes, but sugar doesn’t do all the evil things that contemporary SWEETENERS do. The huge problem is processed high fructose corn syrup etc is that it is so highly processed and designed to do certain things. HFCS is high in omega 6 which messes up the body, retains fat, and high fructose corn syrup and others actually mess with brain chemistry, make it hard to lose weight, processed foods are designed to make us want more and more, hits pleasure and reward centres in the brain. The food companies want us eating more and more food.
    I should say that both my parents have a bit of a sweet tooth(rabid munching on all candies in bag in one go) which my siblings and I have inherited to some extent. My brother and sister eat loads of cheap crap, while I am more selective. But we are freaks with next to no cavities or even hint of diabetes, so I am guessing that genetically we’re okay with sugar.

  85. MJ

    Shauna – as always, thanks for sharing to help others. You were a great resource & inspiration when I first went gluten-free almost 4 yrs ago when I became aware I was gluten-intolerant (don’t get me started on why I don’t have a celiac dx!). Going w/o gluten was hard at first, and up until this past year I was eating many of the packaged GF foods, which have their own downsides (I don’t cook/bake much) but it really brought home to me how food affects health and well-being, and how much the “SAD” way of eating is not good for us short or long-term. (and that the promoters of it are serving their own interests in convincing us that it is!)

    I am now grain-free also (last few months) and almost dairy-free (still have some whey protein). Following a paleo diet in general – no grain, no dairy, no legumes, also have removed nightshades. Still eating eggs, but wondering about those. Eating nuts and seeds. Have trouble digesting raw veggies, maybe have FODMAP issue too. I have a number of similar physical symptoms & problems (acid relflux, ulcers – am on PPIs, sadly, hiatal hernia, inflammation, allergies, thy ca survivor w/ Hashimoto’s, other auto-immune conditions, possible IBS) but hadn’t pegged sugar as a possible culprit until reading your post. (I will note that my sweet tooth has diminished a lot since moving toward paleo.) Sugar – in the limited forms I consume it, since I don’t eat much in the way of processed food anymore (just a few root chips, one frozen dessert & a few snacks/treats) is one of the things I’m considering removing from my ok foods list. I’m also an athlete, so anything that helps my acid calm down, improves my sleep and reduces my inflammation is worth a try. Thanks for the nudge.

    Wishing you & your family (& all readers/commented) the best of health and good luck in finding what works for you – we aren’t all the same, so though general guidelines apply, your mileage may vary. 🙂

  86. Kario

    Thank you for this. Having been GF for nearly five years now, my girls and I tend to “reward” ourselves for our restricted diet with sugary treats. And given that we live on Capitol Hill, there are so many to choose from within walking distance. But at the end of last summer, I realized that my girls (13 and 11) were so used to having treats every day that they got grumpy if we didn’t have any around or wouldn’t walk to get some after dinner. When school started, I purged the house of all sugary treats and announced a 28-day sugar fast for all of us to break the habit. No wine, no syrups, no sugar or agave or honey. I allowed the girls fruit, but really cut down my consumption and discovered how much better I felt within 48 hours. The girls bragged about how ‘mean’ their mom was to their friends, but even they got into the swing of it pretty quickly and are so much more aware of what they’re eating now than before – and they were pretty aware before. We eventually went back to eating some sugar, but we do it deliberately now and mindful eating is the only way to go, in my book. Thank you for your continued dedication to real, whole, foods and eating with awareness. I know I can come here and always find a thoughtful discourse on healthy food.

  87. Nina

    I have ME/CFS and keeping my blood sugar nice and even is essential for me to be able to function day-to-day. I’ve cut out sweetened stuff (and even dried fruit, ripe bananas, etc) almost completely and it makes a huge difference. I only eat sugary cakes on VERY special occasions, and I get a kind of sugar hangover when I do! Once you start to think of sugar as an addictive substance it’s suddenly obvious – our behaviour around the stuff is that of addicts.

  88. MJ

    Thank you for your sugar-less inspirations. Much food for thought. I did want you to know that our local Panera Bread, as many different kinds of breads they offer, do not carry gluten free breads. I am shocked and horrified. How sad. I really think we should all contact them and request that they carry at least ONE gluten free bread. I don’t know if it’s the policy of all Panera Breads or just ours. Thanks for listening and letting me vent.
    I also asked Lenny’s Sandwiches if they carry a gluten free bread and they said no. Restaurants need to “get with the program”. At least these clueless restaurants do offer more salads today but eating salads does get old. Thanks for letting me vent.

  89. Stephanie @ Gluten Free Cuisine

    I really enjoyed your post because it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately myself. Although I’ve been gluten free a few years now, I don’t always make the best food decisions and I can get lazy from time to time. I can really only trust the food that I personally make and maybe a couple of restaurants around here, which makes it so hard when life gets hectic. A few months ago I broke my rule and started eating processed food, which had a lot of sugar. I noticed my mood drastically changed, my activity level dropped and I had a hard time paying attention to anything longer than 5 minutes. I was surprised at how drastic that all was.

    And it’s scary how quickly I can get addicted to sugar. The past month I’ve gotten back on track. I find that if I have a sweet craving, peanut butter is awesome as well as agave and honey. Also, if I eat lots of spinach and kale the sweet craving almost goes away.

  90. Brandie @ Spoon and Saucer

    Awesomely said. Seriously. I quit sugar three years ago, and it has slowly creeped back in. Ironically, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, knowing what I needed to do. Thanks for the kick in the arse, and your thoughtful consideration to this really important topic. I felt like you opened my head and put it on the page. But of course you didn’t. Cuz that would be weird. 🙂
    In all seriousness, thank you!

  91. Tracy

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Your words ring true to much of what I have learned throughout the summer about my own eating habits. I was recently diagnosed as having Lyme disease, but prior to learning this, I had a food allergy and sensitivity panel done. Since then I have spent a great deal of time evaluating my eating habits, and making the necessary changes. I had always thought I was eating well rounded meals, but was horrified to realize just how bad my diet actually was. One of the most recent changes I have made is to give up added sugar. I no longer put a teaspoon of white sugar in my coffee, and I rarely eat processed or packaged foods. I think the change has made a huge difference already. I am excited to have discovered your site today, and look forward to reading more about what you have learned.

  92. Kendra C

    Great post! I completely agree-sugar is scary and even more so that we are consuming it in uncontrolled amounts. There are so many foods that you wouldn’t think to have sugar-are in fact loaded with it. Case in point-bacon. I am a big label reader and sugar is always on my radar! It’s time to bring awareness!!

  93. Janice M.

    Shauana (or anyone on this thread),
    In February I was told no more gluten or eggs. So, with all heart I unloaded the pantry shelves and dove into the deep end. Now KNOWING that I need to quit the sugar I still want to bake some breads/muffins ocassionaly. Do all sweetners work the same in baking? Thanks for your help.

  94. Sharon S.

    Doesn’t caramel color contain gluten? I’d read that somewhere and have been avoiding everything that contains it. Is this not the case anymore?

    1. shauna

      From what I have read, caramel color made in the US is gluten-free. If it’s made outside the US, it might have gluten in it.

  95. casacaudill

    This is one of the things I struggle with in shopping at major grocery chains when it comes to pork products. There is so much added to food that simply doesn’t need to be. I understand the maple addition to bacon (that’s just tasty) but I simply cannot comprehend why a food manufacturer would then add HFCS and all that other crap. And that’s what it is – crap.

    1. casacaudill

      Incidentally, if you’re talking about your Tofino trip I really had a hard time shopping for things that didn’t have additives. I was kind of shocked.

  96. jim keller

    Hi Shauna
    Just finished reading wheat belly. It has the science of sugar and gluten in it. Easy reading, hard content. Good luck

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