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oh, sugar

January 12, 2014

%209780957106642.jpgSo my little diet book, The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight, is now available as a paperback, expanded with new recipes.

The reason that I took a year-long detour to research and write this book – which is not just about weight loss but eating for better health – is that the subject matter is something I feel very passionately about.

Modern food production has become something of a dark art, with manufacturers using cheap and questionable ingredients in order to cut down their production costs.

One of the controversial ingredients that I flagged up when The Marie Antoinette Diet was launched as an e-book in June last year, was high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or glucose-fructose syrup.

It's increasingly difficult to find a manufactured food or drink product that isn't pumped full of this cheap sugary gloop, which has been linked with dangerous weight gain in rats.

In one experiment, at Princeton University in 2010, rats that were fed high-fructose corn syrup, gained fat 300 per cent more quickly than those fed an equal dose of table sugar or sucrose.

To put it bluntly: once you start eating something containing this syrup, it's difficult to stop.

Yet, you'll find this ingredient in everything from confectionery to ketchup, pizzas to breakfast cereals.

So I am delighted to see that sugar, and in particular HFCS, has suddenly become a hot news topic.

What I'm not so sure about is the rush to suggest that sugar should be eradicated from the diet completely, as suggested by a number of books that have just been published on the subject.

The alternative view – and the one that I subscribe to – is that not only is this unrealistic for most people, but also that sugar per se is not the problem.

It has, after all, been around for over two centuries without causing the tsunami of obesity and health problems that are now being attributed to it.

Rather it is the quantity that we are eating, and the aforementioned HFCS, that are cause for concern.

Sugar is now routinely shovelled into foods that just don't need it – including, as I recently discovered, organic stock cubes, canned tomatoes and tinned crabmeat.

Yes, we definitely should be eating less of it, not least because it contains lots of calories and it's not great for your teeth. But banning it completely?

Good luck to those who are prepared to try, but for most of us, this is just not do-able as a long-term strategy – not least because life without sugar would be so joyless.

Never baking a cake again? No chocolate or wine? No almond croissant with your coffee in the morning. Once again, good luck with that.

The better strategy in my view, is to have it in moderation and in a way that causes least harm. (For example, one of the worst things you can do is drink your sugar, either by adding it to tea or coffee, or as a fruit juice or worse, carbonated drink.)

Despite its frivolous title, The Marie Antoinette Diet draws together a lot of nutritional science and research in, what I hope, is a readable way.

It also contains some delicious recipes for soups and cakes, for my argument is that, if you are going to eat cake, you should:

a) bake it yourself as that way you will know what is in it;
b) make it count nutritionally, rather than just scarfing empty, additive-packed calories.

But should you be eating cake at all if you want to lose weight?

As registered dietician and nutritionist Dr Mabel Blades, who acted as the consultant for The Marie Antoinette Diet says: 'One of the reasons why diets fail is that people start to feel deprived and the biscuit tin starts to sing even more loudly.'

'Allowing a small portion [50-75g] of deliciousness each day, will help to keep people on their diet.'

Mabel has more to say on the subject of sugar, on her own blog.

For this reason, my book contains recipes for lovely, homemade cakes, along with delicious soups; and lots of advice on the benefits of old-fashioned foods and cooking methods.

In the meantime – and apologies if I'm preaching to the converted – if you care about your health, scrutinize labels and do not buy anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, glucose-fructose syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.

As Mabel says, 'everything in balance'.

And now I'm going to climb down off my soap box and get on with Tout 4, aka (appropriately) Sweet Encore.

comments (6)

1. Posted by Tricia on January 12, 2014 11:55 PM

This is an interesting subject & I will be checking out the MAD now its out in paperback. The more we find out about what is is in the food we buy the more we should worry & a lot of what we were told to eat in the seventies onwards that was considered an aid to weightloss like low fat yoghurts, spreads etc, now seems, in the face of the latest research, to be very bad for us & may have had the opposite effect.
In the last few months I have lost 10lbs & the only change I have made is to stop buying any readymade meals & prepare everything from scratch. I have also noticed that when I eat my own cakes I don't feel the need to scarf it all in one go, instead it lasts for a couple of weeks - that never happens when I eat shop bought confectionery & cannot be a coincidence. And we all know that you never stop at one Pringle - what do they put in those things?
Now get thee to the laptop woman, we are all gagging for Sweet Encore :)

2. Posted by Diane on January 13, 2014 3:20 PM

I have been TRYING to eliminate sugars for 20+years since I was diagnosed with Low Blood Sugar. I KNOW how frustrating it was (and still is) to find products without sugar. I was appalled at the number of products I found that contained various forms of sugar (using different names to "hide" it). I cannot believe basic things, like even fruit juices, cannot be all natural. Speaking of which, All Natural has also come to mean that it contains NATURAL or ORGANIC SUGAR... so read the labels on All Natural.... doesn't mean without sugar

3. Posted by TheGreatZambini on January 20, 2014 8:18 PM

I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately as well. (New Year's you know...) I've now switched from the concept of downgrading cheap processed foods into expensive tasteless diet foods and have focused instead on upgrading to fabulous gourmet food that is fresh and real and undeniably yummy. And a piece of cake once a day. Because the world needs cake. I'll be sure to recommend your book to friends! thegreatzambini.wordpress.com

4. Posted by Serena on February 4, 2014 1:28 PM

In fact the better option is to eat everything but moderately. A little bit of everything so that the body has the correct nutrition without excesses. Food is a very hot topic. There are loads of diets on the internet and there are books about them which do not allow to eat certain types of food such as sugar. In order to have the correct nutrituion the body needs every type of food. I like the idea of the book "Eat Cake and still Loose Weight".

5. Posted by Yolanda on August 29, 2014 10:21 PM

This is very relevant to my life at the moment as I am currently trying to drop excess weight caused by steroids (along with the awful diet recommended by my doctors).I knew that the advice I was given was questionable - it dealt with my symptoms rather than underlying causes - & sure enough, I gained a massive amount of weight without ingesting very much in the way of good nutrition. I was advised to eat 'bland' foods: white flour, white rice, as little fibre as possible, & sure enough my health was transformed. For the worse. I decided to change things drastically & read widely about the latest thinking on nutrition. I've long since thought the low fat fad was nonsense, & I've since found out that the whole idea of it came about from a flawed study carried out on behalf of the US government many years ago. The whole thing was badly organised & results misinterpreted & oftentimes downright misreported. the whole obesity & diabetes epidemic we are now seeing is due largely to people eating in a way that causes the body's insulin production to go haywire. It is insulin that causes weight gain, not fat. & insulin is required when we eat carbs & sugar. We also throw our bodies out of balance by making them digest fats & carbs at the same time. I recommend that people research the Harcombe diet, as well as works by Karen & some other authors who are writing intelligently about diet, nutrition, & weight loss. I have cut out sugar twice in my life, & oh lawks, it is very hard to stick with it when you are a chocolate lover like me. However, I must say that both times, when I combined the sugar-free approach with a diet rich in good quality protein, no refined carbs, & keeping a few hours between 'fat' & 'carb' meals, I have lost all the weight I needed to lose without any of the nonsense of counting calories. I think the food industry has a hell of a lot to answer for; there are so many lies told about the so-called benefits of eating low-fat or no-fat products, & the consumer is never told (natch) that in order to make a product palatable without fat, it is loaded with sugar & all sorts of fillers & additives. Let's face it: if low fat diets worked, we wouldn't be in the middle of an obesity epidemic. Cutting out all processed foods is a huge step in taking control of what we put in our bodies, & there's nothing better than preparing a proper meal & truly enjoying the flavours of home cooking.

6. Posted by Teresa on June 14, 2015 1:23 PM

Merci, Karen. What I thought was just going to be a whim Kindle book, has confirmed many of my thoughts about eating. I will now put them into practice with your help and make myself my summer project. I plan to blog about the experience at http://thesabbaticalchef.blogspot.com.

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