“A definite must-read!” Jamie Oliver
That Sugar Book: The Essential Companion to the Feature Documentary That Will Change the Way You Think About "Healthy" Foodby Damon Gameau
The essential companion to the feature documentary, That Sugar Film, this is an explosive exposé on the dangers of sugar.
When filmmaker and actor Damon Gameau set out to uncover the truth about the sugars hidden in the foods we commonly perceive as healthy, he came up with a novel experiment: he would eat 40 teaspoons of sugar every day/b>/i>
The essential companion to the feature documentary, That Sugar Film, this is an explosive exposé on the dangers of sugar.
When filmmaker and actor Damon Gameau set out to uncover the truth about the sugars hidden in the foods we commonly perceive as healthy, he came up with a novel experiment: he would eat 40 teaspoons of sugar every day for 60 days-but he would consume only "healthy" foods like energy bars, low-fat yogurts, fruit snacks, juices, and smoothies. Damon captured his experience in the riveting and eye-opening documentary, That Sugar Film.
Now, That Sugar Book expands on Damon's journey, blowing the lid on the food industry, featuring in-depth interviews with health experts, and offering sensible advice on kicking the sugar habit. That Sugar Book includes a detox plan and over 30 recipes to show what foods to avoid, how to shop, how to read food labels, and how to cook sugar-free foods. Entertaining, provocative and packed with actionable advice, That Sugar Book is destined to change the eating habits of a generation.
“A definite must-read!” Jamie Oliver
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That Sugar Book
The Essential Companion to the Feature Documentary That Will Change The Way You Think About 'Healthy' Food
By Damon Gameau, Ariane Durkin, Alice Oehr, John Laurie
Flatiron BooksCopyright © 2015 Damon Gameau
All rights reserved.
THE EXPERIMENT: 60 DAYS OF SUGAR
'WE HAVE ENTERED INTO A FAUSTIAN PACT WITH SUGAR; IT'S A SHORT-TERM REWARD FOR A LONG-TERM TRAGEDY.'
DAVID WOLFE, NUTRITIONIST
When I was a baby in the late 1970s, a certain blackcurrant drink was extremely popular. According to the television adverts, it was full of vitamin C, essential for raising strong, healthy children. My dear mum, believing this nutritional advice – which was also promoted by the Nursing Mothers' Association at the time – poured it down my gob like coolant into a boiling radiator. Now, this blackcurrant drink may have contained 'hints' of vitamin C, but it also contained 'large kicks under the table' of sugar. And so, at the tender age of four, I had to make a very uncomfortable trip to the dentist to have five baby teeth extracted.
But then, like some wronged action hero, my adult teeth arrived and immediately sought revenge. It was almost as though they were expecting to be flooded with non-stop blackcurrant drink and so they beefed up, injected extra enamel and plunged from my gums like two giant sheets of ice breaking from a melting polar cap. I was a rare boy whose face grew into his teeth. Sniggering school friends would suggest I project home movies onto them and asked whether the tooth fairy claimed workers' compensation for damage caused as she carried them off into the night with her little wings.
Despite the taunts, my walrus chompers and I continued to carve through a whole range of sugary foods. For the next 20 years (with the help of some sensational dental work), I had not one 'sweet tooth' but two giant 'sweet teeth' leading the way (at night because the light would bounce off them). I drank a can or two of Coke a day (I especially loved the vanilla-flavoured one). I smashed candy by the packet, gulped down sweet yoghurt drinks, heaped sugar onto my cereal and demolished an unknowable number of Peanut Chews chocolate bars at the school tuckshop. Now I don't for a second want this to read as horrible parenting. This was a time when all the headlines were about the dangers of fat and the low-fat movement was in full swing. The sugar train was fully loaded, travelling at high speed and bounding freely down the mountain towards the unsuspecting villagers.
A NEW DIRECTION
Then, in 2002, I had the great pleasure of working on a film called The Tracker, directed by Rolf de Heer and starring one of Australia's true national treasures, the Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. David and I became good friends and after filming he invited me to spend two weeks with his family in his hometown of Ramingining, Arnhem Land. To this day, I have never been to a more foreign land – and I was in my own country.
There were many moments on that trip that shaped my then-confused self-conscious twenty-something self, but I have two clear and lasting memories: first, the warmth and generosity of the people I met, and secondly, the enormous consumption of a well-known black fizzy liquid.
I remember watching many of the Aboriginal women pouring Coca-Cola into their babies' bottles and feeding it to their crying children. When I questioned this, an elder woman marched me to the only store in town, pointed to a poster featuring young, beaming models with huge teeth to rival mine and said simply: 'Happy juice.' Her honesty of interpretation of that advertising has always stayed with me.
The years passed and, as often happens with a man just before it's too late, he meets a sensational woman. That woman will iron out a few creases, tame his wandering eye and give him a gentle reminder that he is, in fact, an adult. For me, it happened at 32. My body and my behaviour reflected years of sugar abuse. Then along came Zoe, a vision of beauty, balance and vitality, whose skin radiated as much as her personality. She understood that the food we put into our bodies is instrumental to the way we appear, feel and view the world.
In the formative weeks of a relationship, men will pretend to be interested in a whole range of things to win the affections of their new love. For me, it was pretending to enjoy cucumber and kale smoothies, quinoa salads with chia seeds, and plain yoghurt with berries. Love really does work miracles though, and as I got used to this new way of eating – and, crucially, as I began to feel better in both body and mind – I discovered I actually enjoyed it. As our relationship developed, I naturally ate less and less refined sugar, until one day a health-conscious friend of mine suggested I just remove it altogether. Truth be told, the thought made me a little uncomfortable but I decided to give it a go.
'IF THE AVERAGE AUSTRALIAN FAMILY OF FOUR HAD TO BUY THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR THEY ARE CONSUMING, THEY WOULD BE GOING TO THE SUPERMARKET, TAKING SIX ONE KILOGRAM BAGS OF SUGAR OFF THE SHELF – SIX; PUTTING THEM IN THE TROLLEY, TAKING THEM HOME, EATING THEM ALL THAT WEEK, THEN GOING BACK THE NEXT WEEK AND DOING IT ALL AGAIN.'
DAVID GILLESPIE, AUTHOR OF SWEET POISON
The first thing I noticed when I stopped eating sugar was how much I craved sugar. I realised that, despite my much-improved diet, sugar still had a strong hold on me. I began to read food labels and was surprised at how many seemingly healthy foods contained sugar. I now understood that the piece of chocolate I 'allowed' myself at the end of each day was really only the tip of the iceberg – an iceberg made of sugar.
What surprised me the most was how good I started to feel. My mood swings felt more 'playground' than 'theme park' and I felt lighter and more present in the world. And then there was the vanity. Being an ego-driven actor at the time, I basked in the flood of comments about my glowing skin, my radiant blue eyes and, I quote, 'sparkly demeanour'. Shallow maybe, but that's all it took for me to finally ditch the Choc Wedge and switch to the veg.
A couple of years later, I won Tropfest, a short-film competition, and was subsequently given the opportunity to make a feature film. At the time, I was writing a show about what the effects may be if you gave a healthy person nothing but hospital food for a month while they lay in bed reading trashy magazines and watching daytime television. Then one day my friend Charlie told me about fructose, and how theories were emerging about the damage it caused. Later, I heard the author David Gillespie talking about sugar on the radio, and the germ of an idea began to form. One thing led to another, plans were floated and then sunk; people and friends chimed in with thoughts and suggestions. Before I knew it, I was once again staring at a bowl of sugary cereal – only this time a camera crew was there to capture every mouthful.
'I EAT A LITTLE PIECE OF CHOCOLATE EVERY DAY BUT I UNDERSTAND THE ADVERSE EFFECTS IF I EAT TOO MUCH OF IT.'
PROFESSOR BARRY POPKIN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
The first step in the experiment was to assemble a cracking team that could guide me along the journey and monitor any changes to my body. This was to make sure that A: things were done correctly and B: I didn't die – although what a film that would have made. I enlisted a local GP (to monitor my overall health), a clinical pathologist (to check my blood readings), a nutritionist (to guide my food choices), a sport scientist (to accurately measure my weight, and also provide the coolness factor) and David Gillespie, author of the bestselling book Sweet Poison (to help me read food labels, understand the science, and perhaps acquire some sugar 'street cred').
At the start of the experiment, I hadn't touched any refined sugar for nearly three years, and I hadn't consumed alcohol or caffeine for five years. I am clearly in love with this girl, aren't I? I also just became addicted to feeling clear in my mind. (Perhaps I am a clarity junkie? I just visualised hooking up with a 'meditation dealer' on a wild night in Kings Cross and 'getting present' together.)
All the tests pre-experiment showed that I was in good health, especially in my liver, which often bears the brunt of an excessive lifestyle. My assembled team agreed I had a great body on which to conduct the sugar experiment – thanks, guys – because it was not affected by anything that would cloud or confuse the results, such as caffeine, prescription medications, drugs or alcohol (this test would have been a disaster in my early twenties).
For the next 60 days, things would be very different. Not only would I eat sugar – and lots of it – I would also remove a lot of the fats from my diet (found in avocado, cheese, coconut products, etc.). Everyone in the team was looking forward to seeing what would happen to my body, in an excited and slightly sadistic-masochistic way. We really didn't know what to expect.
IT BEGINS: BOOSTER ROCKETS FOR BREAKFAST
My first meal was breakfast. I chose a bowl of Just Right cereal, two scoops of low-fat yoghurt and a 14 oz. glass of apple juice. This apparently healthy meal provided 20 teaspoons of sugar – all before I had even reached the gossip section of the newspaper. That's more than twice the amount the American Heart Association recommends men consume in a whole day (I would use the Australian teaspoon recommendations but we don't have any).
After not having had refined sugar for two years, the first surprise was the immediate effect on my mood. I had naïvely assumed the first few days would be quite fun. I was secretly looking forward to having a few foods and drinks I hadn't tasted in ages. Schmuck.
Straight after my Just Right breakfast–dessert combo, I noticed the sudden ramping up of my adrenals and the booster rocket–type surge to my overall energy. It was like taking a set of jumper leads to my chest. I flicked into hyper-drive and casually threw a wave to the Millennium Falcon as I sped by.
I then looked for a target. I needed to talk or more accurately offload. Poor Zoe copped a spray of vowel bullets from my mouth gun. I could see the reality of the next 60 days descend on her in one terrifying swoop. She is a smart woman and that look of fear also implied a deep knowing that what goes up must come down. Sure enough, 45 minutes later life-of-the-party, what-are-we-doing-next Damon had morphed into grumpy, edgy, who-gives-a-rat's-arse Damon.
Now I acknowledge I might have been particularly susceptible to the sugary high (and low) because I hadn't had any in a long time, but I was still shocked, and so was Zoe. In that moment we knew that for the next 60 days there would be another woman in my life. She wore a white coat made of tiny crystals and would definitely be the one wearing the pants in the relationship.
HERE ARE SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF THE EXPERIMENT ...
HIDDEN SUGAR HOTSPOTS
Some 'healthy' cereals contain nearly as much sugar as the 'bad' ones you avoid. I began to notice the health claims on the cereal boxes too: 'Contains Essential Vitamins'; 'Great For Energy'; 'Wholegrain Goodness'. (How about 'Crammed With Sugar' or 'Superfluous Slogan'?)
LOW-FAT YOGHURTS are the secret dairy dens of the underground sugar gangs. Although they are marketed as a 'healthy' breakfast option, they should be swiftly moved to the dessert section.
In fact, low-fat foods in general are often higher in sugar than the full-fat variety. I noticed this with some weight-loss meal plans too.
Some MUESLI BARS or 'health bars' contain more sugar than Kit Kats or Milky Ways.
DRINKS are by far the swiftest delivery system for sugar. Juices, vitamin waters, breakfast drinks, sports drinks, organic sparkling juices, flavoured milks and SMOOTHIES are all high in sugar.
SOME JUICES (including apple or cranberry) contain more sugar than Coca-Cola in an equivalent-sized glass.
LOW-FAT MAYONNAISE and salad dressings are sugar hotspots.
PASTA SAUCES (and sauces in general) have sugar lurking in them – check out tomato and barbecue sauce for a laugh – or a wince.
Sugar loves CANNED SOUPS.
KIDS' LUNCHBOX SNACKS are a real concern. Fruit bars, fruit snacks, fruit rolls, jellies, sesame snaps and yoghurt muesli bars are all outstanding sugar vehicles.
When it comes to packaged food, look out for the words 'natural', 'mother nature' or 'valley' and/or a picture of a bee, flowers, a rolling meadow or a bright sun. These labels are worth a closer read. They will often say 'evaporated cane juice', 'organic palm sugar' or 'fruit juice concentrate' instead of just cutting to the chase and saying 'sugar'. (See here for more about other terms used for sugar.)
Many items in health food shops appear healthy but can still be packed with sugar or agave. It really doesn't matter if the sugar is organic or not, the body still deals with it in the same way. Agave is often 90 per cent fructose. (See here for more about fructose.)
I was pretty taken aback by these revelations. How many of us think that if we stop adding sugar to our coffee or tea and avoid sweets and chocolate, we no longer eat sugar? Wakey, wakey, good citizens of earth, we are practically bathing in the stuff.
SUGAR COMPARISON DAY:
THE DAY I ATE 40 ACTUAL TEASPOONS OF SUGAR
The first week had been quite an eye-opener into how prevalent sugar's role was in our food supply. So prevalent that it is now found in around 80 per cent of all items available in a supermarket. I wanted to find a way to help people clearly understand this and to see what 40 teaspoons of sugar looked like stripped of its attractive and cleverly marketed packaging. Here is an excerpt from a diary I kept through the experiment:
'THE SIMPLE MESSAGE IS THAT THE MORE PROECSSED FOODS YOU EAT, THE MORE FRUCTOSE YOU HAVE ADDED TO THE FOODS.'
JEAN-MARC SCHWARZ, TOURO UNIVERSITY, CALIFORNIA
A GLASS OF JUICE IS NOT THE EQUIVALENT OF FOUR APPLES, IT IS THE EQUIVALENT TO THE SUGAR OF FOUR APPLES.
MY JUICEPIPHANY AND THE FIBRE FACTOR
It became evident very quickly that all this sugar-eating was kicking my rapidly expanding arse. The 'Nobel Prize for Tolerance' should be invented and then awarded to Zoe. She got a glimpse of what I may have been like as a four-year-old jacked up on the blackcurrant drink. But somehow on Day 12 a moment of clarity burst through the petulance ...
On this day it occurred to me that much of my sugar intake was coming from liquids and that it rapidly flooded my system. Be it a juice, vitamin water or sports drink, these beverages were a sugary bullet train arriving at my internal organ stations with Japanese rail efficiency. (That is my final train metaphor.)
Let's get one thing clear:
FRUIT AND FRUIT JUICE ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS.
Fruit is a good thing if eaten with care. In its natural, carefully constructed casing, fruit is a balance of fibre, nutrients and the right amount of sugars designed to metabolise at the correct speed for our bodies. Many scientists and nutritionists I met during my experiment said that fruit is nature's dessert and when treated that way it is perfectly fine. Most recommended no more than two pieces a day and suggested going easy on the grapes, apples and pears because they are all high in fructose. Just remember that in nature fruits are seasonal. Sweet fruits were not designed to be readily available at any given moment, as they are now. (And real, organically grown fruit is very different from the enhanced versions displayed on supermarket shelves. Go to an organic shop and look at how tiny and withered some fruits can actually look. This is how they should really look, without any 'plastic surgery'!)
Fruit juice, however, gathered a very different response from the people I met. The origins of juicing can be traced back to the 1950s, when Florida orange farmers cleverly transformed their storm-damaged crops into juice to prevent waste. A new craze soon hit the streets, and 70 years later, it shows no sign of disappearing. Juice bars have popped up all over the world. Even packaged juice continues to be perceived as a healthy option. In 2009, the world's population drank 106 billion litres (28 billion gallons) of fruit drinks.
Professor Barry Popkin (I would call him 'Soda Popkin' if we were friends) from the University of North Carolina is a great expert in this field and is a crusader for public health all over the world. He told me: '98 per cent of juices today are a mixture of fruit juice concentrate, water and flavour.' He believes they are having disastrous effects and consuming them is no different from drinking soft drinks.
Jean-Marc Schwarz of Touro University, California, describes our juice and sweetened beverage consumption as a 'tsunami of fructose that floods the liver. It is a big wave of sugar that brings with it some serious consequences.'
Excerpted from That Sugar Book by Damon Gameau, Ariane Durkin, Alice Oehr, John Laurie. Copyright © 2015 Damon Gameau. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
DAMON GAMEAU is an award-winning actor who has appeared in a range of productions, including The Tracker, Balibo, Thunderstruck, Spirited, Secrets and Lies, and How I Met Your Mother. As a director, he was the winner of Tropfest 2011. That Sugar Film marks his first feature-length film. Damon is a passionate advocate for good health and is determined to help people find a happier way of living. That Sugar Book is his first book.
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