Don’t Quit Sugar.
It was the book that made headlines a few months ago, when news of its release first made its way onto the grapevine. And now that it’s actually been released, it’s back in the news.
A big, shiny copy landed on our desks first thing Monday morning:
It’s written by a nutritionist named Cassie Platt, who is also a personal chef and caterer. On her website, Cassie writes that she wanted to write the book in order to initiate some “sensible, evidence-based discussion” around the current climate of “sugar fear”.
There is no getting around the fact that everywhere you turn, someone else is giving up sugar. We’ve been bombarded with messages about the evils of sugar. Sugar-free recipes are everywhere – everything from chocolate cake to apple crumble can now be made with little-to-no sugar involved.
But Platt reckons that we’ve gone too far in the demonising of sugar; that it’s just like when fat was condemned as evil in the 80s and 90s (and now, any health-conscious individual will tell you that healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado, are absolutely essential as part of a healthy diet).
Platt believes that even in this modern age, science and facts have become obscured amidst a cloud of rhetoric, misinformation and emotionally-charged sound bites such as ‘sugar is toxic’, ‘sugar is addictive’, ‘sugar causes weight gain, diabetes and chronic disease’, ‘sugar makes us age faster’, ‘sugar is poison’.
In truth, she says:
None of these catchcries is supported by our best available science. It’s extraordinarily near-sighted to try and pin our modern ills on a single nutrient.
Physiologically, sugar is our cells’ favourite and most efficient source of energy. It facilitates growth, repair and reproduction, powers movement and promotes peak physical, mental and metabolic function day in and day out.
So what does this nutritionist advocate? Should we all start reaching for the Krispy Kremes and frozen cokes?
Well… not quite. According to the book, what we need to be consuming isn’t too much white sugar. Rather, we need sugar in its natural form – i.e. fruit, sweet veggies, honey, maple syrup, dairy. She points out that many quitting-sugar diets (such as David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison) encourage giving up fruits such as grapes, because of their level of fructose.
What people don’t realise, she explains, is that the evidence which demonizes fructose isn’t relevant to humans at all: “Experiments aren’t real world examples. They’re conducted in rats and mice, whose bodies’ process sugar entirely differently to ours and they use unrealistically high (almost toxicological) doses of fructose, which would be impossible for us to consume in the real world.”
She does encourage minimising your intake of processed foods and things like soft drinks – largely because, you know, they have zero nutritional value. After all, there is no nutritionist out there who would encourage someone to incorporate more Magnums into each meal of the day.
However, she doesn’t encourage an all-or-nothing attitude. Platt says:
Our relationship with food should never be characterized by ideas of drastic restriction – this isn’t sustainable or healthful in the long term. Rather, we need to take a step backwards to re-evaluate what a balanced diet should really look like (minus any fear, neurosis or guilt).
Quitting sugar is certainly a quick fix and an easy idea to latch onto, but it’s not based on relevant science and it’s not healthy or sustainable in the long term.
So. What happens if you do quit sugar?
Essentially, it’s explained in the book that every cell in our body needs sugar every day for energy to power growth, repair, reproduction and movement. And when we restrict sugar too much, our cells become stressed, which has a flow-on effect throughout the body.
This means that stress hormones rise and the metabolism falls, which then puts the body into survival mode. In survival mode, certain processes get put on hold; so digestion, hormonal health may be affected, reproductive function is compromised, as is immunity and sleep quality.
She reckons that claiming that sugar is as addictive as nicotine is not only an alarmist claim but also misleading – “yes, both stimulate the pleasure centres in our brain, but so does playing with puppies or having sex. And I don’t see anyone recommending we abstain from either of those! Just because you enjoy something doesn’t mean it’s bad for you.”
So… if we shouldn’t be quitting sugar now – what’s the best way to actually achieve a healthy weight?
Platt sends a similar message to many others out there: eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet and move your body more. Don’t vilify a single thing – whether it’s sugar or fat or carbs or anything.
The recommendation is, for someone who’s physically active, 5g of sugar for every 1kg of lean body weight. And this is sugar present in other vitamin-and-nutrient-rich food such as mangoes, dates, sweet potatoes and oats.
Now. Those familiar with Sarah Wilson, author of the book I Quit Sugar, might be interested in the title of Platt’s book – which seems like a direct jab against the ‘I Quit Sugar’ message. But Platt insists that she’s not hitting back directly, and that the title of the book simply embodies the message of the book perfectly: “I want readers to know that it’s unnecessary and unhealthy to have this all-or-nothing attitude towards sugar. Sugar is not inherently evil.”
We also asked Sarah Wilson about what she thought about the book, and she said:
To be honest I haven’t read the book yet, but from what I understand the messaging doesn’t actually conflict with mine. I support eating whole fruit, plenty of glucose and not getting draconian with your eating. I certainly don’t advocate quitting carbs along with sugar, which is something that Cassie Platt did. This seems to be where we diverge. That aside, anyone trying to improve our wellness gets my support. I wish the book well.
For those interested, you can read more about Don’t Quit Sugar here.
What do you think about quitting sugar?