Book review: Year of no Sugar, by Eve Schaub
Eve O. Schaub, a Vermont-based writer, became convinced in 2010 that fructose - the simple carbohydrate that makes sugar sweet - was toxic. She decided that she, her husband and her two daughters should swear off added fructose in all its forms (sugar, honey, juice, etc.) for the duration of 2011, and that she should blog about it. This blog resulted in a book deal.
There are many good reasons to reduce or eliminate added sugars from your diet: sugar consumption is associated with diabetes and heart disease, and research indicates that sugar messes with your body's hunger and satiety cues in a way other foods don't. But it's not yet clear at what consumption level sugar becomes dangerous. Year of No Sugar reads like a how-to manual for an eating disorder. Schaub becomes obsessed with eliminating trace quantities of fructose from her diet: mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers and deli meat are out. She finds that her project drives a wedge between her family and the community. "Turns out, at least for me, the social isolation of being on a different wavelength from the rest of the world around you was one of the most difficult parts of all."
Schaub devises ways to sweeten foods without breaking her resolution. She improvises desserts sweetened with dates and bananas (naturally occurring fructose is OK in Schaub's book) and with brown rice syrup and dextrose powder (sweeteners that contain glucose but not fructose).
For a project that stems from such a good idea - eat less sugar - Year of No Sugar comes across as a maddeningly arbitrary yet worryingly fanatical exercise in self-control. In Schaub's world, a hyper-controlling attitude towards food isn't a reason for concern; it's a completely normal trait. And cutting out fructose entirely seems to her not an unrealistic fantasy, but a magical solution to every conceivable health problem, "the Occam's razor, the simplest answer, I had been waiting for" (not to mention a profitable premise for a memoir).