A zero sugar challenge

19 Apr / James Eastham

While there is no UK government health guideline for total sugars, the figure of 90g per day is used as a rule of thumb on labelling in Britain and across the EU.

That 90g equates to more than 22 small (4g) teaspoons of sugar.
BBC News, 2014 – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27941325

Would you put 22 teaspoons of sugar in absolutely anything you ate or drank? I think not…

I recently finished off a book named Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. It’s a fantastic account of the Okinawa region of Japan where life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. It is known as a blue zone.

Among the many factors that the authors and locals attribute to a long life, diet is one of the fundamentals. We all know diet has a huge effect on our lives, but just how much? Well, to stick with the lifestyles of the Okinawa region.

“Okinawans consume, in general, one-third as much sugar as the rest of Japan’s population, which means that sweets and chocolate are much less a part of their diet”

One whole third of what the Japanese eat. When you consider the Japanese are already way down the chart of average sugar consumption that is an astonishing statistic.

Time to take action, goodbye sugar

So, what can we all do about it? After a little bit of thought, I decided to undertake a 30 day zero sugar challenge. Mainly as an experiment in my own health and to see if I feel it makes a physical difference in my day to day life.

After putting this out on Twitter, I was inundated with people who have tried the same and loved it. Early signs are good!

I’m going to keep this post updated throughout the next month with regular-ish updates and any landmark occasions/noticeable points.

Day 1

Day 1 of the sugar challenge, and my first trip to the supermarket.

As a household, we do eat an awful lot of home-cooked meals made completely from scratch. So the vast majority of items on there didn’t cause me too much worry in terms of sugar content.

Then disaster struck…

I love anything in a wrap. Burritos, falafels, halloumi. I’ve eaten a cheddar and salad wrap in the past when the cupboards were bare (don’t judge me).

As it turns out, the innocuous, healthy looking and multigrain tortilla wrap contain added sugar. Why? How? What for?

Can somebody please help me out with that?

I’ve tried making corn tortilla’s at home in the past and they contain flour and water. Where does the sugar come into this?

Anyway, after that minor heart attack, I continued my shop. Pretty pleasantly surprised with how much of our shopping list didn’t actually contain sugar. The biggest culprits:

  • Tortilla wraps (again, I ask why!!)
  • Mayonaise
  • Tins of mixed beans (single beans were ok, but for whatever reason combined together they are a no go)
  • Almost any kind of sauce and condiment

My trusty tabasco sauce is sugar-free, and that’s all that really matters.

Day 2

Arriving in the workspace I spend a couple of days the empty desk next to me had a stray kit kat sat on it with no home.

It’s funny how the universe throws these things at us.

Old me would probably have considered dropping it in my bag, however, I reminded myself of the reasoning of what I was doing and on I went with my day.

That said, I definitely noticed a change in my senses when thinking about the Kit-Kat. I was 100% salivating more and could almost taste the chocolatey goodness.

This sugar addiction seems pretty legit!

Day 3

A slight cheat today, playing football for 90 minutes in 24-degree heat really takes it out of you. A glass of orange squash at half time almost definitely contained sugar, but given the circumstance I let myself have that one.

Aside from that, cravings are definitely still quite strong. I find the hardest time is right after dinner when a sweet treat would go down a treat just to finish off the meal.

Day 5

Hanging around at home all day, plus running a half marathon training run made sticking it out a tricky one today. Getting back from a run and seeing the plethora of Easter chocolate hanging around the kitchen certainly tests you.

A flatbread, some hummus and half a grapefruit with a drop of honey later and I’m feeling right as rain. I did think the cravings would have started to die down just a tad but they are still there in the background.

Maybe I need to hide some of this chocolate? Out of sight out of mind and all that.

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