"Sugar and me, we go way back. I love sugar. LOOOOVVVVVE it. I love everything about it: how it makes little occasions special and special occasions fabulous. How it performs hot bubbling magic on sour fruits, like rhubarb and gooseberries, to make the most succulent and mind-blowing pies and jams. And don't even get me started on chocolate."
Oh, how I can relate to the opening of Eve O. Schaub's new book, "Year of No Sugar: A Memoir" (Sourcebooks, 2014). Schaub's ode to sugar sounds dangerously close to an addiction and perhaps there's more truth in that than any of us would like.
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Since I started writing this column I've prided myself on creating great tasting, low-fat recipes for breakfast to dessert; especially dessert. I give myself an A+ for creating lower fat, sometimes fat-free, desserts that had no more sugar than they had before I started.
However, cutting sugar from desserts is one … ahem … tough cookie, since sugar plays multiple roles in baking, besides adding sweetness.
Cutting sugars to the bone in my food plan caused me to take a closer look at Sarah Wilson's new cookbook, "I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-week Detox Program and Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter, 2014).
Here's the skinny on Wilson: Thanks to a thyroid issue, the perfectly normal-sized Wilson gained 26 pounds and couldn't seem to take them off.
When Wilson answered "yes" to all of the following questions -- Do you get an energy slump in the afternoon? Do you need something sweet after meals? Does your stomach get bloated after eating? Are you unable to eat just one piece of cake and walk away? Are you pudgy around the middle, perhaps slim everywhere else? Do you often feel unclear? That you're not always sharp and on-form? -- she realized that she was addicted to sugar. Wilson worked at removing as much sugar as possible from her food plan and finally returned to a healthy weight (see her book cover).
Wilson's detox program is fairly simple and straight forward. Be aware though, that this is Wilson's non-scientific program based on personal opinion and anecdotal experience.
Her diet and detox program worked for her and it contain good ideas and methods so others can break their sugar habit. About one-third of her book covers the how-tos.
Yet, Wilson bases her program on questionable science. Fructose (one half of table sugar) has been strongly indicated as a health risk culprit, but that link is not currently rock-solid. She also relies heavily on the controversial and low-glycemic brown rice syrup. In November 2012, Consumer Reports noted arsenic levels in brown and white rice; even organic varieties. If you make Wilson's recipes calling for brown rice syrup, do so cautiously or in moderation until more is known about it. I tend to use organic stevia, which Wilson recommends as another sugar substitute.
Besides Wilson's detox program, you'll find 108 sugar-free recipes (but oddly no nutritional analysis) including Coco-Nutty Granola, Chia and Quinoa Parfait, Bacon and Egg "Cupcakes," Coconut Curry Meatballs, Foolproof Fennel Soup, Sausage, Walnut and Beet Hash, Daikon Chips, Sweet Potato Casserole. For the kids there's Avocado and Coconut Popsicles.
Want to try before you buy? Here's Wilson's recipe for Summery Quinoa Tabbouleh.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.