Sugarless by Nicole M Avena

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Sugarless by Nicole M Avena

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A seven-step plan to uncover hidden sugars, curb your cravings and conquer your addiction. Written for easy reading and with plenty of empathy and support. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: December 2023
Publisher: Sterling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1454947806

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This isn't a diet book. The last thing anyone needs is another diet book.

There was a time, not that long ago, when it was thought that sugary food was better for you than food with high-fat content. Fat was the demon food which was going to elevate your cholesterol and cause heart disease. Sugar was a carbohydrate, so good. There's a problem, though. Sugar is addictive and can hijack your brain in much the same way as drugs like heroin and cocaine. Does that sound over the top? Well, it isn't.

Eight years ago I cut processed sugars out of my diet completely. It happened courtesy of a health scare and my bloody-mindedness when a doctor suggested that I continue to eat as I had been doing but take medication regularly to lower my blood pressure. My BP came down (without medication) and I lost three stones in weight. I felt - and was - healthy. Then, a year ago, I was advised to eat a square of dark chocolate - a powerful source of antioxidants - each day. That's my excuse for what happened next although the truth is that I found myself in a situation where it was seen as churlish to refuse all processed sugars - and now I'm addicted again. I crave biscuits and chocolate. I need a strategy to get back to where I was. Sometimes, the reviewing gods are good to me - and Sugarless landed on my desk.

Consumption of added sugar has been linked to forty-five different negative health outcomes

We start with a clear-eyed look at sugar's impact on your health. It's not just the chance of diabetes. There's an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, cancers, mental health disorders and premature death. Yes - it's frightening and this chapter alone was sufficient for me to go and have a clear-out in the pantry. I spent a morning back and forth between the office and the kitchen.

A grande Starbucks® Caramel Macchiato can house 33g of added sugar per serving

The clear-out was more difficult because of all the places sugar can hide. There's a useful appendix which gives the names under which sugar can hide - and there are 259 of them. Some of them sound healthy, too. We need sugar to live but what we don't need is added sugar as our bodies will make sugar. Sugars are found in foods such as breads and pastas but you might feel more reassured about Sugarless when I tell you that the intention is to wean you off 'sweet', added sugars rather than pastas, breads and fruit.

Nicole Avena says that sugar 'can be' addictive. This has been established in the lab - it's not just anecdotal evidence. In many ways, it's not surprising when you consider the stresses of modern life. Just when you're convinced that it's a vicious circle with no way out, the book looks at ways of breaking our dependence. This is probably what is going to take the most time and effort simply because we're looking at long-term advantage rather than short-term (and probably unsustainable) gain. There's sensible, realistic advice on dealing with cravings, triggers and the withdrawal from sugar. Most useful to me was advice on managing stressors, setbacks and social pressures - particularly the social pressures. It's amazing how many people think they're doing you a favour by 'giving you permission' to have a cake or a sugar-laden drink. Sugarless is reassuring and empowering.

There are 30 recipes to help you get to grips with the new way of eating and there's something for everyone. I loved the granola and the oatmeal breakfast cookies. The chickpea avocado sandwich is a revelation and I liked the idea of a BLT without bread. I've one niggle and that's that the recipes use cups and I don't get on with them. It's a book by an American author and it's aimed primarily at the American market but it travels well and there's a lot to take away from the book even on this side of the pond.

The book is easy to read - the science is there but the jargon is minimal and comprehensible. I came away with a feeling that I could do this.

If you're worried about gluten intolerance, have a look at Wheat Belly: The effortless health and weight-loss solution - no exercise, no calorie counting, no denial by Dr William Davis.

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