Food25th April 2014

Quitting Sugar, For Life - Interview of Sarah Wilson

Australian Sarah Wilson writes about the importance of reducing sugar in our diet

by Camilla Davies

Introduction - Australian born author Sarah Wilson has written two cookbooks, I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar for Life. Her first book sold more than 100,000 copies. Through her own website, Sarah gives advice and information about sugar free cooking and invites people to take part in sugar free programmes. With diabetes running at records levels, the need to reduce sugar in our diets has never been more important. The problem is that sugar seems to be everywhere. In this interview, Sarah tells us a little about the problem and her books tell us what we can do about it. 

Sugar, it seems, is absolutely everywhere. Far from being restricted to the ‘naughty’ aisle in the supermarket, you’ll find the white stuff in the most unlikely of locations; your morning muesli, that 11am banana fix and in abundance in that ‘guilt free’ afternoon berry smoothie pick-me-up. Speaking to Australian chef and sugar free advocate Sarah Wilson, she informs us that despite adhering to what she thought was a healthy diet, she herself was totalling 25 teaspoons of sugar a day before making the switch at the start of 2011. All of a sudden we are a little concerned about our own sugar consumption levels…

With studies exposing sugar to be more addictive than cocaine, it’s no wonder it can come to rule our everyday eating habits. Having devised two bestselling cookbooks in the aim of reducing our dependence on the substance, Sarah explains that whilst we need glucose in our diets, ideally we should be eating as little sugar as possible.

“Sugar is sugar, it doesn’t matter whether it comes from sugar cane or from a date, it amounts to the same thing when we consume it” she begins. Having rid her own life of sugar, Sarah found herself affected less by mood swings, re-energised, and able to control her hashimoto's disease (a type of auto immune disease that affects the thyroid) with reduced medication.

“It can be daunting when you add up the sugar in your diet. Most of the problematic sugar is the hidden sugar that we have very little control over and that most people don’t even realise they’re eating.”

From an evolutionary perspective, we are designed to crave sugar as it used to be hard to come by – a berry here or there – but in today’s food market our liberal approach to the foodstuff is causing health problems.

“Part of the reason culling sugar is daunting is because we are highly addicted to it - it’s very understandable as there is very good biological and evolutionary reasons as to why we are addicted. People see it as a matter of their willpower, but it’s about biology – we’ve got to shift our bodies to rid ourselves of the sugar habit.”

Sarah’s foodie principles are at odds with eating patterns those wanting to slim down may have developed.  Instead of opting for ‘low fat’ options in order to shrink the waistline, Sarah advises replacing sugar with healthy fats instead, as low fat alternatives tend to be laden with sweet substitutes.    

“In many ways all sweeteners are problematic” She begins. “The most problematic part of sugar is the fructose, what causes metabolic issues, a sugar that doesn’t have an appetite control mechanism in the brain so we’ve got no tolerance for it. It’s processed in the liver, so it transfers directly to the worst kind of fat and is hard on our metabolism.”

But whilst fructose is a culprit, that’s not to say it’s the only issue. “Other sugars consumed in excess are also problematic, artificial sweeteners can continue the blood sugar rollercoaster and addiction so I’ve always been mindful to use less and less sweetener and to try to switch to a  more savoury way of living in general.”

Are any sweeteners better than others?

“Stevia, and rice malt syrups are what I advocate, and what my research has found to be the most effective. I’ve got some lovely desserts in my cookbooks that use some sweeteners and they should be treated as a treat - even though they don’t contain fructose.”

Thankfully, one treat you won’t be giving up is alcohol. “The good news is that in red wine the sugar is fermented to become alcohol so there’s very little sugar left - in fact recent studies have found that other properties in red wine are great for balancing out blood sugar. The important thing is to consume the wine with food, like the French do. I have one glass of wine every night with dinner, six nights a week and it really does help my digestion.”

One thing out of the question is ready meals, guilty of cramming in the sugars. But despite our qualms that eating out with friends would become a nightmare, Sarah insists it’s “super easy.”

“I’m all about sustainable meat eating, and London has great, accessible restaurants; they aren’t relying on sugar-laden sauces, they’re doing beautiful meat, cooked well with a side of vegetables. On any menu there’s probably one or two things I can’t eat and then for dessert I’ll have cheese but generally I don’t even need it. I eat a lot each meal, I don’t skimp and allow plenty of protein, and I don’t need something after.”

When the results of a sugar free journey appear so promising, perhaps we’ll have what she’s having?

Sarah Wilson’s second sugar-free cookbook, I Quit Sugar For Life, is available from most good bookstores and at £14.99, paperback.  To learn more and to take part in any of Sarah's sugar free programmes go to her website at

Article by Camilla Davies

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Food

25th April 2014