Monday, March 7, 2011

Pure, White and Deadly, Part I

THE REALITIES OF SUGAR AND THE HEALTHY VEGAN BAKING CRAZE

Sorry that I've been in communicado for the past 5 days. I've missed you and I'm excited to be back. I took a girls' trip, just me and my two daughters, to a big Northeast Ohio indoor water park/hotel called Kalahari. While I was there I had more time to myself than I've had in years, just me and my laptop, surfing the net, while my daughters were having a ball in the lazy river. Me? I'm not the biggest fan of public water.

I had time to think. And mull some stuff over. And it wasn't lost on me that the majority of the patron's of said water park were overweight. No, not overweight. Obese. Call in "The Biggest Loser" on NBC obese.

That kinda thing gets my heart breakin' and my brain workin'. Just what the heck is going on here? No one wants to carry around extra weight, I'm totally convinced of that!

It took some serious creativity on my part to find food at this place that would even remotely qualify as plant strong. We did our best, it wasn't my most proud food moment. But we were there for the fun, not the food, and the time away to think . . .

One thing I've been thinking a lot about lately is what appears to me to be an Internet phenomenon: "Healthy" Vegan Baking and Raw Vegan Desserts. Simply put, I'm very confused by this phenomenon. We've got all of these seemingly healthy, mostly women, bloggers spending countless numbers of hours concocting, photographing and writing about baked or raw, rich and sweet goodies. All in the name of good health.

It's very easy for someone like me, someone with a sugar addiction, to get sucked in by the promises of "healthy" desserts. Here's what really went on in my mind, "Maybe that's where I've been wrong all along . . . my sweets weren't the healthy sweets, they were the run-of-the-mill old fashioned kind . . . maybe that's why I have this extra weight. If only I had been eating these raw or vegan treats all along I wouldn't have gotten fat in the first place. I should start making lots of raw and vegan goodies instead."

But it didn't work like that at all. Raw and vegan desserts packed on the pounds just like the old-fashioned kind of desserts did. I was puzzled. How do the raw/vegan dessert bloggers "indulge" in these treats (yes, they are "treats," because even though they are made from many wholesome ingredients, they are still very high in calories and not at all necessary for human survival!) in what appears to be a regular fashion and not get fat? Or are they making all of this food just for show and not actually consuming it themselves? Pawning all of the baked goods off on some unsuspecting coworkers or family members (munching by proxy)? Are they eating these treats every day, as it appears from their blogs, and maintaining their svelte figures? What is going on here?

Then, as if right on cue, Debby at Happy Healthy Long Life did a very interesting blog posting about sugar. More specifically, the evils of sugar. I certainly recommend reading her post here if you haven't already. I did, 'cause you know I love me some sugar. And like I said, I had a lot of time to myself on this vacation.

I had the time to watch Dr. Robert H. Lustig's 90 minute YouTube video (I did fall asleep once in the middle, but then picked up again the next day), which Debby turned me on to and which I have embedded below. If your food issue isn't somehow connected with the over consumption of sugar or sugar+fat, you are officially excused from this post. But if you, or someone you love, can't put down the cookie, this is worth your while.

"A high sugar diet is a high fat diet."

Yes, that's what Dr. Lustig said. But I was confused. I thought a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and it's a simple equation of calories in and calories out? Don't tell me now that my favorite calorie, the sugar calorie, is even worse for me than I had ever imagined!

Yep folks, it just might be the worst thing that you can feed your body. Eat sugar, get fat.

Dr. Lustig argues, very specifically and scientifically, that fructose (the sugar in fruit, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup and yes, the healthy blogger's beloved agave syrup) causes obesity. He details out how the body metabolizes fructose in a very unusual way, by turning it directly into stored body fat. Not only that, sugar overrides the body's natural hunger regulation signals, so when you consume sugar your body sends off signals that it is hungry even though it has plenty of calories to burn.

Yuck. A vicious cycle of consumption, weight gain and, inevitably, disease. Sugar turns into fat and makes you want to eat more food? Kinda explains how I got fat to begin with, doesn't it?

Luckily for us, this is not the case when the fructose is consumed with fiber, the way nature packaged it--in real fruit (not fruit roll ups). Fruit juice=really, really bad. Whole fruit=safe. Here, you can watch the whole thing if you've got 90 minutes and you're not sleepy:


I know what you are thinking. Moderation. Yes! Moderation! All of these "healthy" treats the bloggers post about are being consumed in moderation. Perhaps they are. But somehow I suspect that if you are here reading my blog, moderation is not your strong suit. So what's a sugar addict to do?

The only thing we really can do, I say. Educate. Yourself. You know that 90 minute video embedded above? Watch it. It just may be the thing you need to see today.

Peace out!

19 comments:

Kelsey @ Clean Teen Kelsey said...

This is a great post!! I totally know how you feel--I've been really confused over all the "healthy" baked goods, as well. Sure, they don't have refined white sugar, but they're still loaded with maple syrup and agave. Sugar is sugar, no matter the form. Because of that, if I bake something (and it isn't for a special occasion) it must fit a very specific criteria. Indulging and splurging every now and then is totally fine, but doing it every day on supposedly "healthy" baked goods? It's not good for you. Anyway, thanks again! You are awesome!

Angela said...

I watched it after reading Debbie's blog a couple of days ago. It is a must see for anyone who loves sweets. The middle part gets a bit complicated (I can see how you fell asleep Wendy). I ate the last hand full of chocolate chips I had stashed in my pantry this morning and promised myself a total sugar cleanse. I did it 6 months ago when I first read Eat to Live and lost 20 pounds in 6 weeks. I actually felt the fat burning off my belly. I have lost another 20 pounds but way slower and I have let sugar and chocolate sneak back into my life. To the tune of eating an entire Lindt bar a day. So now I'm down to my last 20 and I know it's not going to happen unless I cut the sugar out. I just can't do it in moderation. I'm trying to get my friends who do all the yummy baking to watch Lustig's talk. Thanks for reposting. It is so important that this information goes mainstream.

Danielle said...

Hi Wendy,
I don't buy all of that "healthy" vegan baking. It's frustrating that on many of those blogs the women are all thin. I don't understand how that happens either. It also makes me wonder whether a vegan diet is prone to being psychologically unfulfilling and so can easily become dessert heavy. Just thoughts, no judgments, I support veganism but just wonder about the implications.

I also wonder about what constitutes "sugar"- do carbohydrates in the body create the same reaction as sugar does- producing excessive insulin? A potato chip, which seems like a salty snack, is not just salty. The refined carbohydrate of the potato acts like sugar, plus it's got the oil and salt. The holy trinity of addiction as some authors would say. I've often wondered if my body holds onto fat around my waist because of my plant based (carbohydrate filled) diet, as if it's reacting to too much sugar. I wonder if this is a danger for those eating plant based diets, hence Dr. Fuhrman recommends limiting grains and starches, which I try my best to do however fruit and beans have carbohydrates too.

JL goes Vegan said...

I'm glad to see your post. Yesterday I scanned your blog, looking for an email address (couldn't find one) I wanted to make sure you were okay! LOL

I consider most of the "healthy baking" posts food porn. I look at it. Think it's hot. Then I make a pot of beans and greens ;) (you'll notice that in the recipe section of my blog I've created no desserts. Not my thing))

healthy said...

Love this post, Wendy--and thanks for giving me a shout-out.

Best line: "Healthy" Vegan Baking and Raw Vegan Desserts?? No such thing.

As a former sweet-toother--I could never stop with just one cookie, or one piece of dark "so-called" healthy chocolate. I always wanted more.

The only way out for me was to not even get started. Just say, "No thank you," and lose my craving for sweets.

Lustig has energized my resolve. He provides some pretty powerful motivation to avoid sugar.

The funny factoid about agave--people thought it was so healthy because it's mostly fructose--and didn't raise blood sugar making it safer for diabetics--never knowing that it was far worse--being metabolized like fat--turned into fat cells--which contribute to insulin resistance.

I had the same impression as you on my trip to Florida--no healthy airport or gas station food--and many overweight people buying all that stuff!

Welcome back. Missed your posts!

Amy said...

When I have time, I will definitely watch this video. Yes I do love sugar, but my true weakness lies in starchy carbs, which pretty much just turn into sugar, so really there is no difference. For me, I find that I really need to stop eating sugar and starchy carbs and I do and feel so much better. Now that I am trying to be really focused on how I feel when and after I eat, I am finding that I get totally off track when I eat sugar and starchy carbs then I have the hardest time getting back on track (which is the place I am right now). As much as I hate to admit it, I think I have to give up pretty much all grains that are not in the whole grain form. I probably need to eat more of your recipes instead of thinking that I can just eat a healthier form of flour. Thanks for this post and making me think about my triggers and my eating habits!

Joi said...

I was just discussing sugar with my husband last night. We have leftover birthday cupcakes in my house right now. I told my husband that the more sweets I had, the more I want to eat. I tend to want something salty after having a cupcake. I do realize that the cupcake/ice cream do not satisfy me at all. I need to get better about this.

I will have to watch the video when I have more time.

Valerie said...

Just watched the video & I thought it was great! I, like Amy, have been trying to pay attention to how I feel after eating. White flour and sugar definitely make me feel BAD! Now how do I convince my 13 year old daughter, who loves to bake, to be on board with this?

Wendy, your blog is amazing and your passion is inspiring! :o)

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Thanks for the video link, I'll have to watch it soon. I've also been wondering about all of the "healthy" vegan baking posts on blogs written by the thin, beautiful women! I follow Dr. Fuhrman's plan and find I need to be very careful even with his dessert recipes. Standard vegan desserts really need to be off limits for me as I cannot stop at just one piece! I've also found that on days I eat sugar, the following days I have cravings that I don't normally have when I follow ETL.

Thanks again!

Sindy said...

Munching by proxy - I love it! Fabulous, fabulous post. I'm guilty for sure of baking and then eating and eating the "healthy" vegan desserts. I really like to bake for my family and friends. Guess I need to think twice about calling it "healthy."

Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day said...

I am often shocked at the food I see on blogs day after day.. because I know if I made food like that I'd binge on it til it was gone. When I make sugar stuff, I give it away to people or my kids eat most of it.. I am going to bookmark the video and watch it later tonight..

and.... Cleveland! Oh yeah! I will definitely take you up on your offer. I am still planning, but I will probably be there the second week of July give or take a few days. Maybe we could teach some cooking classes together?

Sindy said...

Who can answer this burning question for me. Are decaf soy lattes bad for you? Is the soy milk -- which has a yummy and sweet vanilla flavor - included in this bad sugar category? (Don't answer for a couple of minutes. I'd like to finish my latte in peace).

healthygirlskitchen said...

THANK YOU to everyone for your amazing comments!

Sindy-I have no idea about the health or non-health of your starbucks habit! You are on your own for that one. But as far as the sugar goes, you do not suffer from an excess of body fat, so I do wonder if sugar would be considered unhealthy for you vs. an overweight person. It's an interesting distinction. Sugar without fiber is toxic according to Dr. Lustig, but what is the harm for you, a very thin person? Have you watched the video?

liz said...

I am pretty sure that sugar is bad for everyone - your body just doesn't need it. And I say that with no judgement because I love sugar as much as the next girl!

I think a lot of people eat "healthy" desserts because it keeps them from eating the really unhealthy stuff. It is a lot easier to walk away from a lard-filled cake at a birthday party if you know that you can have a homemade vegan cookie when you get home.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post and sharing your thought process. If I could add an idea for your possible feedback: I agree with what you said about splitting the juice from the fiber in the fruit. Do you think if both things (say apple juice from the apple, and the pulp from the same said apple) end up getting cooked together in the same pan of quinoa, that there are still the same metabolism problems, or does that constitute eating a "whole food"? I have been curious about the concept of separating the juice from the pulp but then eating them prepared together.

Jessica said...

I would like to recommend another excellent blog - as a complement to this one - excellent posts (though not as often as our girl Wendy!) and very thoughtful. Roxanne Sukol is a doctor especially concerned with Diabetes prevention and the problems with eating the SAD/ lots of processed "foods". I love reading both blogs. The site is 'your health is on your plate' and if you google it you will get right to the home site. Thanks, as always Wendy, for keeping my brain active!

Chef AJ said...

I am a vegan/raw pastry chef at a restaurant and healthy dessert is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a healthy dessert except for fruit. Just like all processed oils are harmful, so it is with ALL processed sugars. It doesn't matter if you called in organic cane juice, succanat, white sugar, brown sugar, agave, maple syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup etc., sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar. It is all highly processed and refined, contains no fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants or micronuntrients. It takes well over 3 feet of sugar cane (a whole food found in nature) to make one teaspoon of sugar. How many people eat one teaspoon? The AHA and USDA say we should eat no more the 5% of our calories from processed sweeteners. With can of soda containing more than twice that, how many people are meeting these guidelines. The other problem with all processed sweeteners is that they are an anti-nutrient, which means it actually contributes to the depletion of other nutrients from good food you eat. In addition, most desserts contain other non-nutritive highly refined non-food items such as flours and oils. We are designed to eat WHOLE FOODS as found in nature, foods as grown. That means fruit, vegetables, WHOLE grains, legumes, and a small amount of nuts and seeds. Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy. Sugar is an addiction and we are meant to satisfy our sweet tooth with fruit. If you have trouble doing this, read "The Pleasure Trap" or go to True North and fast.

Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner said...

Girl, this post is AMAZING!!! :D

I love this lecture!!!! I so want to watch it again! IT has changed my life forever.

What was the part that stuck out to you most about what he said? I loved how he explained EXACTLY how different sugars (glucose, fructose) are digested and what happens to them. :)

Yes, that white stuff is deadly! POISON! That's why I use fruit in my baking, NOT that white poison. What's so sad is that it is in everything! So we are being poisoned everywhere we turn. That's why it is important to check the labels, etc! :D

The occational treat is fine with me, but if I have something like that, I make sure it is RARE! Though, once you cut out the sugar from your diet, you don't get the cravings for it. Things with the sugar become TOO sweet. Your produce new taste buds like every 2-3 weeks, so it is possible to train your new tastebuds to not like the sugar, but love the fruit! :D

This is one of my absolute FAVORITE posts!!! :D
xoxo
Kathleen

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