Let me introduce my good pals the Sugar Free Siblings for those who haven't come across them yet. Scottish sisters, passionate cooks inspiring us by focusing on a sugar free existence. Di is currently studying at the Centre of Naturopathic Medicine to become a Nutritional therapist while younger sibling Charlotte is coming to the end of her studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a Holistic Health Coach. With a mix of holistic coaching and scientific nutrition you'll want to watch the space with these two. Talk about dedicated sisters here to stay and change the way we see sugar. Both have a personal story as to why they chose to be sugar free. For anyone struggling with sugar I suggest you read on and feel inspired as I do.
1.) Firstly why sugar? Why are you both so passionate about being sugar free?
Like so many people out there, one of us suffered from chronic IBS, we’re talking not going for 10-14 days sometimes, it really was dire straits. As a result I (Diana) took prescribed meds for over 7 years in order to aid my digestive tract, the drugs worked an absolute dream, the only downside was that the packets were incredibly bulky – for real – and every time I wanted to go away for a weekend / a week or an extended period of time they’d take up a HUGE chunk of my suitcase….(!) I regularly questioned why I was taking them, then one day, after reading a few articles – I wondered if there was anything diet related I might be able to change in order to eventually come off the meds, perhaps there was a food group that I had an allergy to?
I, Charlotte, suffered from severe allergies, so when Diana decided to embark on the following chapter I was behind her alllll the way, and that was how it started, week by week, month by month we’d try cutting out various different food groups – grains / meat / eggs / fish / wheat /dairy / even some of our fave vegetables, but to no avail. Then I gave Diana a copy of I Quit Sugar, by Sarah Wilson, and that’s when things started to change.
Diana - If I’m honest it was a pretty large undertaking, but we decided to give it a go for a few weeks, and low and behold the change was so noticeable that those weeks became months and now those months have turned into years… and most importantly the meds were no longer.
2.)How different are your lives now you’ve eliminated sugar?
That’s always a tricky question, because who knows what life would be like WITH sugar – not as good that’s for sure…! Well we say that from a psychological perspective anyway, we don’t crave it, we don’t have mid-afternoon sugar crashes – like most office workers do at c. 3pm every afternoon, our skin is clearer and our nails / hair are that little bit stronger, we don’t rely on it and we certainly don’t miss it. I’d say our moods are more stable, and we are so addicted to NOT eating it that we spend every waking moment (whilst not at work – but at our desks too!) trying to figure out more ways in which to encourage others to do the same.
3.)What advice would you give someone wanting to go sugar free?
Going sugar free means knowing exactly what goes into your food, which means not buying ready-made / takeaway cr@p… #KnowEveryIngredient. People often presume that buying and prepping food at home (or in the office) is this huge burden which takes hours and is a total bore, they would be very much mistaken. Shopping for food, picking the Veg, smelling the Fruit, hanging out with your hunky butcher before coming home to slice, dice and cauli-rice your food is genuinely one of the most therapeutic & satisfying aspects of life (well, we think anyway!). It so does not have to be complicated, the most basic and inexpensive of foods can often taste the best – particularly when combined with a few store cupboard staples like some good extra virgin Olive Oil / Curry Powder & Turmeric / Apple Cider Vinegar / Tahini / Lemon juice / Nut Butters / Toasted Seeds – which can and will truly transform the most boring looking Beetroot or the most miserable of Mushrooms into something delish.
SO, we digress, the advice is quite simply to cook – that is all, clean that dusty pan, turn on that underutilised oven, fill that fridge and get cooking – be experimental, chop / grate / marinade / roast / grill / fry, go for it, you will not regret it and the pride you will feel at the end of the session will be worth every minute spent on making that EPIC concoction!
4.) Sugar is in everything; do you find it easy finding sweet alternatives?
Many of your readers may think this sounds made up, but it isn’t: as you ween yourself off the sweet tasting stuff your taste buds gratifyingly adjust themselves as well – so your cravings change, your taste receptors alter and before too long the 75% Chocolate becomes way passé and the 99% becomes oh so nouveau. In all honesty a piece of fruit, a teaspoon of nut butter, a handful of cacao nibs or a piece of one of our homemade SFS delicacies hits the spot every time.
DBI – my go-to at the moment is a raw organic hot Cacao with plenish Almond milk & a dash of cinnamon, seriously the dreammm!
CBI – mine would have to be Montezuma 100% chocolate, that stuff puts a fruit and nut bar to shame it’s so criminal in comparison! Oh and nut butters, they go down a storm every time!
5.) What’s the difference between natural sugars and refined sugar?
The BIG and MEGA important question. If we’re honest we don’t really like natural vs refined… because ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean ok to consume in huge quantities, just because it’s natural… It must first be noted that ‘sugars’ are found in tonnes of foods – like Vegetables, Fruit, Dairy and Whole Grains – but these are part of a super complex matrix that make up the cells of such foods – and are in noooo way to be avoided, oh no, these foods are the absolute building blocks that revive and restore our humble bodies!
The other sugars, that we reallllly want to avoid in excess, refer to some ‘natural’ and some not so natural products – namely HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), Sucrose (aka table sugar), Honey, Agave, Coconut Sugar, Maple Syrup & most products out there selling themselves as ‘natural nectar from a tree in the southernmost tip of Timbuctoo’ or something suchlike… All of the aforementioned products are made up of Glucose and Fructose – sucrose & HFCS are roughly 50/50, the others (bar Agave which is 90% Fructose) contain around roughly 35-45% Fructose, and the rest Glucose. In this form the fructose is incredibly addictive (more so than cocaine according to some studies), can only be broken down in the Liver – an overworked organ as it is – and promotes fat storage.
SO, to summarise, we’re not saying give it up – we just want people to be aware of what’s out there and the effects that excess consumption can have on your health – nobody wants to cut out a whole food group per se, that sucks man! Although saying that, we are the sugar free sibz have, because we’re (maybe slight!) extremists, but primarily because we are absolutely passionate about shedding some light on the reality of the sad fact that sugar has meandered its way into OH so many products out there that we are presented with on a daily basis….
6.) What is your opinion on fruit?
Fruit is the BOMBBBBB! We love fruit, but given our constant chat about fructose people often misinterpret that & mistakenly (and perhaps quite rightly) presume we don’t eat fruit – which would be moronic! Fruit is fantastic – super high in antioxidants / essential vitamins & phytochemicals… BUT – this refers to fruit in its whole form, not dried, not juiced, not covered in honey or agave. When we eat fruit in its whole form, the bulk (fibre/juice/pith etc.) mitigates the immediate dumping effect of the fructose on the liver – meaning that we don’t strain the body like crazy, it’s a slow release that the body can handle and won’t spike our blood sugar levels. PURE excess fructose (high quantities of refined and free sugars) will spike the blood sugar levels, will have long-term damaging effects on the liver / fat storage system and will not be a welcome surprise to our bodies.
7.) Do you have any quick and easy tips for people to quickly identify the ‘nasties' on labels?
YES – for those that genuinely do not have the time to cook, (and note we say time, not money, because it will always be cheaper buying the raw ingredients and making them into meals yourself), then reading labels correctly is key. On the back of all supermarket products and high street food chains it will say Carbs; of which Sugars – this is the important number – ideally you want it to be around 5g (or less) per 100g – note this does NOT include lactose (a sugar naturally occurring in Yoghurt etc.). Also be sure to steer clear of excess dried fruit, which often leads to labels selling themselves as ‘sweetened with all natural sugar’ – because here the fruit has been dehydrated to such an extent that you’re literally just left with some very high concentrations of fructose and a very menial amount of fibre / vitamins that it’s not really worth that ‘sugar rush’.
Secondly – it must be noted that we do have a bit of an issue with labels in general, because let’s be honest, 80 or ideally 90% of the foods we eat shouldn’t really have a label, because whole foods, your Greens and your Fruits and your Veggies and your Nuts, Eggs etc. don’t need identifying and don’t need analysing?! We vote #LessLabels & let’s get nourishing ourselves on the recognisable & real foods!
8.) In my opinion people struggle finding sugar free breakfasts, what would you suggest?
Brekkie – that is always the hardest part of the day – namely because our supermarket shelves are sadly ridden with cheap, heinous, ‘naturally this, naturally that’, dehydrated, refined pieces of cardboard, marketing themselves as a foodstuff.
As many of us believe, but sure not for all perhaps, Breakfast kick starts the metabolism, sets you up for the day and should be enjoyed as much as any other meal. Again – much like prepping and using leftovers, a little forward thinking is always a good idea – we suggest stocking up the cupboards with foods like: Chia Seeds / Linseeds / Jumbo Oats / Cacao Nibs / Nut Butters / Buckwheat Sprouts / Frozen Fruit / Cinnamon / Nut Mylks / Yoghurts / Vanilla Powder / Fresh Ginger. Keep leftover jars and make up a mixture from the above list the night before. 1tsp Chia & 8tsp Liquid (we normally use a mixture of Mylk & Water) or 2tbsp Oats and 8tbsp Liquid – plus all the other ingredients for flavour, depth and texture – mix them up and see what your favourite combo is. Another epic start to the day are Eggs with some humble Greens and a slice of homemade Nut/Seed Loaf or a smoothie – just remember to bulk it up with Veg and not to go cray cray on the Fruit J
9.) Where do you get your ingredients?
As you can imagine we’re pretty passionate about where our food comes from, and we don’t like to compromise! We have an organic Veg box delivered to the flat every week – we vary between Riverford and Abel & Cole at the moment. Our Game/Meat/Eggs we get from the #TheBestButcherInTown – HG Walter by Barons Courts – all sustainably sourced from the UK and truly the most wondrous of places. Our fruit we buy (usually Blueberries / Raspberries and other British produce when in season) from the supermarket, we try and buy in bulk when the Organic stuff is on sale, then we freeze it and add to our Breakfasts / Puddings as need be. The fish we consume normally consists of Anchovies / Mackerel (sustainably sourced) from the supermarket, or Duchy Organic Salmon & Prawns when we go all out J
10.) Is there anything else you want the readers to know?
I guess to sum up we’d just like to add that going ‘sugar free’ shouldn’t be some unobtainable, mission impossible, there is no point condemning the odd treat & occasional chocolate bar – because let’s be honest we all have to indulge sometimes… The point is be aware, consciously make an effort not to go over the absolute max. daily intake of ‘free sugars’ (aka the added, nutrient nil sugars). Some may argue that you ‘need’ them for fuel & energy, but the fact of the matter is we can, and do, get alllllll of our energy from REAL food, think to yourself when you hit the supermarket – can I immediately recognise what the origin of this foodstuff looks like?, if the answer is no then it’s probably full of processed gunk and tonnes of the nasty stuff so turn your back on it and say NO thank you!