Is sugar our enemy? Probably yes, especially added sugar. And nutrition guru Brooke Alpert, founder of B Nutritious (www.b-nutritious.com), thinks so, too. Brooke is a registered dietitian and nutritionist, as well as co-author of the book “The Sugar Detox” (Da Capo, 2013).
I had the opportunity to do an email interview with Brooke. Here are my questions and her responses.
Diet Detective: Let me jump right in and ask why and how you became a foodie and/or health advocate?
Brooke: I think I've always been a foodie and, to be honest, always a bit of a jock, too. But it wasn't until I started struggling with my own health and digestive issues that I went to see a registered dietitian and realized I was in the wrong profession. I signed up for school and left my job at Vogue within a year of my first appointment.
Diet Detective: Can a person really be addicted to sugar?
Brooke: I absolutely think sugar is addicting. In fact, its hold on us is so strong that cravings and withdrawal symptoms from sugar are equal to, if not worse than from some major hardcore drugs like cocaine. Many of my clients think they don't have a sweet tooth, so sugar isn't a problem for them. They just don't realize that all the white flour and refined grains they're craving regularly are really the same as sugar!
Diet Detective: Fat, ugly and old? Is that what sugar makes us?
Brooke: Sugar basically causes us to age prematurely. All the extra sugar floating around in our bloodstream from consuming too much needs to go somewhere. So it attaches to protein molecules, mainly collagen and elastin. These protein molecules are mainly responsible for keeping our skin youthful and supple, but when sugar attaches to them it begins a process called glycation. When glycation occurs it produces what are aptly known as AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. These AGEs cause the collagen and elastin molecules to become brittle and stiff, and that leads to more fine lines in our skin, more sagging and drooping. Basically, sugar causes AGEs, which make us look old!
Diet Detective: What about fruit?
Brooke: People can easily overeat fruit. We are pro-fruit on the Sugar Detox, but it needs to be the lower-sugar fruit and in proper portions. Too much fruit can affect our waistline and our skin. Obviously, we'd rather you pick up a piece of fruit (of any kind) than a piece of cake or a slice of pizza, but in our diet plan we limit the amount of fruit you have and slowly bring it back in small portions until you complete the 31 days. We say no to bananas, watermelon and pineapple on the Sugar Detox mainly because of their glycemic index and the amount of fructose (fruit sugar) they contain.
Diet Detective: What about whole wheat? There are some experts who say this is not good.
Brooke: We bring back whole grains in Week 3 of the Sugar Detox. The whole-grain products we recommend have no added sugars and contain true whole grains instead of enriched or refined flour. This means they contain more fiber, which allows the sugar to be digested into the body at a slower rate. I also recommend always pairing whole grains with a protein source or a fat source to slow down the absorption of the sugar even more. That way you can have your grains without causing a sugar spike.
Diet Detective: What happens to our body when we eat too much sugar?
Brooke: When we consume sugar, it causes insulin to be alerted. It's insulin's job to tell all that sugar where to go, and it mainly tells the body to start storing fat. That was great when we were cavemen and might have to go awhile until our next meal. But in this day and age, insulin tells our body to store fat, and then we eat again and it tells our body to store more fat. All that fat storage and the constant presence of insulin leads to metabolic syndrome, which can then lead to diabetes and more.
Diet Detective: What is your all-time favorite healthy snack?
Brooke: I love nuts.
Diet Detective: What's always in your fridge?
Brooke: We are never without eggs, Greek yogurt, lots of berries, mixed greens and always leftovers from dinner the night before. Because of my crazy work schedule I'm not always home in time to cook dinner, but by making bigger portions when I do have time to cook, we utilize the leftovers and make them into quick easy meals. My favorite is roasting a chicken on a Sunday night, and then throughout the week we'll have a version of chicken tacos, or I can throw chicken over mixed greens for a fast meal to bring to the office.
Diet Detective: Your breakfast today?
Brooke: Greek yogurt with Qia cereal (chia seeds, buckwheat groats and hemp seeds) and some blueberries.
Diet Detective: Your favorite junk food?
Brooke: I wouldn't say I like junk food. I like real food and food with ingredients I can recognize.
Diet Detective: What would you choose for your last meal?
Brooke: Really good quality sushi lots of it, and then I'd probably finish with a flourless chocolate cookie from my favorite French bakery here.
Diet Detective: What's your favorite healthy ingredient?
Brooke: Frozen organic veggies are my favorite staple.
Diet Detective: Please provide a few words on the following:
Brooke: Worth the price.
Diet Detective: Antioxidants?
Brooke: Hello, red wine and chocolate.
Diet Detective: Artificial sweeteners?
Brooke: No way!
Diet Detective: Cooking sprays (e.g. Pam)?
Brooke: I'd rather use butter.
Diet Detective: Food additives and preservatives?
Brooke: No, thank you.
Diet Detective: Nutritional supplements?
Brooke: Security blanket.