About sugars and real life: intake


So, you have now read my previous posts about the addictive properties of sweetness; you know what sugars are and you know that added sugars have negative health effects, and that these effects are different when you talk about fructose or glucose, or when they are naturally present in food or added as external ingredients. Surely you also remember that if all sugars are carbohydrates, not all carbohydrates are sugars and therefore not all carbohydrates should be limited/avoided (as I too often hear in the “health conscious” community)…! Up until here, you might have found many other blogs, websites, articles and people talking, all mentioning similar concepts (let’s be fair though, this time you liked it better, right…?!?).

But one thing you might have found more difficult to read about, is how to put all these nice and healthy theories into practice… And this is one of the reasons that actually drove me towards the creation of this blog. What I am going to try with this post is indeed to help you wean off added sugars. Remember, they are addictive, it is not your fault if the more you have, the more you want; and if you put it together with the concept of a “toxic, obesogenic society” and the “Big Food” industry, whose aim is not to keep you healthy, but to sell you more food, then you would easily realize I am embarking in a David vs Goliath task…

And you will understand why you need to “wean off” sugars. It is easy to say “quit the desserts and go to the gym”, as you will have read and heard millions of times, but if it has not worked until now, I believe it is because that is just not enough… Otherwise there would probably be no obese as much as there would be no smokers nor drug addicts in the world either…

What follows is an approach that not only I have experimented on myself several years ago, when I moved form an added-sugar-rich diet to an added-sugar-moderate diet before moving to an added-sugar-limited one, with current stints of added-sugar-free nutrition (I do not reject the odd dessert, but I choose when to have one, rather being tempted into it)… And please note, it is not by chance that I have repeated the word “added” so many times… Sugars are present naturally in many foods, every fruit and vegetables, most grains and dairies and they are part of a healthy diet. What science more and more points at as a likely reason for the current epidemic in food-related diseases (often referred to as “non-communicable-diseases”) is added sugars (the “empty calories”), and that is the one thing I would invite you to and help you to try to reduce/eliminate from your diet. What that has led me to, is a lifestyle that allows me to be active and on my feet most of the day every day, working out between 10 and 15 hours a week and still have plenty of residual energy, have an impeccable cardiovascular risk factors profile and a body fat percentage at pro-athlete levels for the past 3+ years.

If the health benefits are already a big drive for me to be willing to share my knowledge and experience, several side-effects are of no secondary importance…: tasting food at a much “deeper” level (I have learnt to taste the difference between an earl grey tea, a black tea, a green tea macha or senchu…something I would challenge you to do, once you fill your cuppa with one, two or even more teaspoons of sugar!). Sure you can survive without all that, but I can promise you, the enjoyment of food once you widen the spectrum of flavors you can recognize at every bite or sip will make you repel all that processed stuff that fills aisles and aisles of supermarkets and will make you fast rather than eat the sugar-laden desserts offered in poor quality eateries and stores…; be able to control yourself and win your fight against Goliath and in doing so regain full control over your food-choices (remember, I choose when to have a dessert, I am not chosen by the dessert…). It is a multi-step approach, and as such, I will discuss them in different blog post to make it easier to digest, so to speak…:

  1. Acknowledge and measure your added-sugars intake
  2. Recognize the easy-to-avoid and easy-to-correct sugary habits, thus moving to a moderate-added-sugar diet with little effort
  3. Fill the gap with more nutrient-dense foods and improve the macronutrient profile of desserts
  4. Progressively move from a moderate-added-sugar diet to a limited-added-sugar diet (you will soon find out, the less the merrier..!)
  5. Be completely in control of your nutrition


The first step into reducing your intake of added sugars is to recognize its presence in your diet… Sounds obvious and simple, right? Wrong…! I am not just talking about the sugar you put in your coffee and tea (a good first step anyhow)… I include here the sugars you have when you drink your soft drinks and juices (and do not be fooled by the “sugar-free” theories, they might not have caloric sugars, but still have artificial sweeteners, so they keep you addicted to their products! Remember it is not the sugar but the sweetness to be addictive and promote overeating…), or eat your organic jam/marmalade or honey (again, do not be fooled by the wording, organic does not necessarily means healthy!), or have the fat-free frozen-yogurt (if you ever tried to make an ice-cream or sorbet you will know that to keep a good texture and avoid ice crystals forming in the ice-cream, you have to put either sugar or fat, and apart rare exceptions, if you reduce one you have to increase the other…!) or your diet cookies and snack bars (“diet-” is mainly referred to fat reduction, which most of time means they have increased sugars to maintain flavor). And if again, all these listed foods have a sweet flavor that can hint towards the presence of sugars, although you might have never thought about it, much more subtle but equally damaging are the sugars added to ready-made sauces (no exceptions, from ketchup to mayonnaise, mustard to barbecue sauce), packaged foods (from frozen burger patties, to nuggets and fries, to ready-made meals) and any other snacks.

I will help you at the start by providing a list of some common foods and their sugar presence here. However, what will have to follow, to have you fully in control of your diet and sugar intake, will be to read the nutritional information and ingredients list of what you buy, and understand it… If at the beginning this is a time-consuming task, it will help you understand what I mean when I say that added sugar is everywhere… And after you have learnt how to interpret the label and you have gone through the process for your most commonly used products, it will become much faster and will direct you automatically towards “healthier” options when available… Because listing all foods in this post would be never-ending, what follows is just a list of the most common products found in the supermarket, with the amount of sugars you would have with a reasonable portion (not always matching the portion-size mentioned in the nutrition label, because let’s face it, how many people eat 9 chips??!!??).

And as a reminder, the World Health Organisation has recently proposed to officially reduce the recommended daily intake of added-sugars (including honey and sugars in beverages) to 25g. As you will see, some single portion of commonly consumed foods and drinks alone exceed that amount!!!

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I hope you spent even just a couple of minutes looking at those figures… That would be enough to start thinking how much more sugars is present in processed food than you would probably think…

Can you believe, a seemingly “healthy” fruit smoothie from Caribou Coffee would land you 66g (!!!) of sugars?!? Or a frappuccino and muffin at Starbucks 67g?!?! These alone, would set you almost 3 times over the proposed daily intake of sugars from the World Health Organisation! Have a thought next time you want to meet for a chat with your friend, or browse the internet at the local coffee-shop…


As an extra comment in this post, I thought it might be useful to go through how to understand what you are actually buying and eating.

This is a supposedly healthy morning cereal, read the ingredient list!
This is a supposedly healthy morning cereal, read the ingredient list!


One commonly disregarded but in my opinion extremely useful way to rate the basic nutritional quality of processed / packed food and drinks is as simple as looking at the ingredient list. Not just WHAT is listed (remember it should be an edible product…for once probably you can confidently say that the less, the merrier!), but also in WHAT ORDER ingredients are listed (by FDA regulation, they need to be listed from the most present to the least present!).

That means that if you would like chocolate, the first ingredient should be cocoa, right? Well, not always.. Actually, very rarely that is the case! Sugar is most likely to be the most present ingredient in your chocolate bar! So it should technically be called a sugar bar…!

And in general, when sugar is listed among the first three ingredients, you can be sure that is is present in reasonably high amount. At which point you might wonder if it is really worth the purchase… If you are looking for an ice-cream, maybe you could expect that, but if you would like a tomato sauce or a soup, is that necessary?

If being present high up in the list of ingredients is an indication of likely high amount, to be even smarter you can combine that with what you can read in the nutrition facts label.

How to read the label (from http://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/)
How to read the label (from http://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/)

A product that has sugar (or any synonym, like sucrose, fructose, HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup, etc…) in the top ingredients and shows sugars in high amount in the nutrition facts label, can be confidently be avoided for health…!

But be careful, despite the FDA has proposed to change to regulations, there are still many tricks companies use to show what their products are not… The nutrition fact label often only reflects the amount of macronutrients in one portion, or in 100g… READ CAREFULLY, as it is likely that you are going to eat a lot more than that…! As briefly mentioned above, one serving of chips amounts to about 30g… When was the last time it took you 12 times to finish a medium bag of chips??? Or 5 times to finish a 500g tub of ice-cream? And did you know that the nutritional information displayed on a bottle of sports drink (typically 500ml) is related to 250ml of it? You will likely have to do some simple maths, and multiply the indicated amount by a factor of 2 or even 3…

So now that you have all the tools, next time you go out for a drink or to the supermarket, invest a few minutes to read the ingredient list and nutritional information of the food and drinks you regularly consume… I bet you will be surprised and in the long term, you will be happy you did… Remember, it is never too late to regain you health and you taste buds…!

If you found this post interesting, I hope you will stay tuned for what is coming up, another practical post on how to progressively reduce your sugar intake, what to expect and how to fill the nutritional gap in your diet (with what I believe are not just healthier, but also much more satisfying options…).


My Detox Experience – Part 3 – Objective changes

They are here, they are plain, they are numbers… And they are finally coming…!!! The physiological markers, the health parameters… All the geeky part of the experiment that will hopefully shed some “scientific” light on the adaptations of the body to a sudden and rather significant diet change. In this section, I will discuss the most relevant findings, in addition to publishing some of the raw (yep, even numbers can be used raw…!) data on myself (not on the other people in order to respect their privacy).


As you can see from my PRE-detox numbers, if there was a reason I wanted to try the detox diet, it was to see whether I would feel “refreshed” or “energised”, or what it would feel to be “detoxified” (I evetually ended up doing it as part of a group activity and an experiment on myself, but that is another issue…). I was not aiming at losing weight nor body fat, and in fact, I was more concerned about not losing fat free mass than anything else. Starting at 70.77 Kg (by 1.75 m tall, giving a BMI of 23.1 Kg/m2 for those who believe in it…), I ended at 67.46 Kg (BMI 22.03 Kg/m2), with a total loss of 3.31 Kg (or 4.68% of my starting weight). Considering that total body weight is a very poor marker of health or fitness (as is the BMI, on which so many guidelines are based…) my next question was: where did this weight come from? If the numbers don’t lie, 1.14 Kg were fat-free mass, while 2.14 were body fat.

Anthropometric data PRE vs POST
Anthropometric data PRE vs POST

Before celebratory parties get started, I would like to make a couple of considerations:

  • I said if, for the simple reason that at such low level, minimal changes in the machine reading (the so-called reliability of the measuring device), would show as major changes in percentage points. Did my body fat really went from 9% to 6.8%? If I am sure I lost weight (I felt it, I could see it and the scale is much more “reliable” than the BodPod), I can think that most of it was fat, but certainty would need much more data (if it was ever to achieve…). And even then, was it a good thing? With minimum body fat recommended to stay above 5% in elite male athletes, I would leave the answer to you…
  • As mentioned previously, I was not aiming at losing weight or body fat, but rather at maintaining fat free mass while feeling the benefits (if any…) of a plant-based, raw, juiced dietary regime. My fat-free mass went from 64.42 Kg (91%) to 63.25 (93.8%). Maintaining the same consideration as above, this was an unwelcome adaptation, that will lead me to the next part of my data analysis about energy deficit.

For those out there who love playing with numbers, we can indeed see that to lose over 3 Kg in such a short time, a few things need to happen. First and foremost, you must be kept in quite a significant energy deficit (more of that in a moment). This was somehow a pleasant surprise for my brain… I was not just a wimp (if you read Part 2 of my detox experience you will understand), my body was actually paying a rather heavy bill, on a daily basis… Secondly, considering that the mathematical idea of 2.14 Kg of fat equaling 19,260 Cal would give a daily energy deficit of 3,852 Cal (even ignoring the other 1.13 Kg of fat-free mass, a rather unlikely occurrence), my glycogen stores were likely to have been depleted carrying water away with them (pure speculation on this point, if you can suggest any other explanation, I would love to read it in the comment box…). Another pleasant surprise for my brain: my legs and arms were feeling so heavy for a reason!

On another note, I did indeed question the validity of the nutritional information I was given, and would surely recommend the Detox Delight nutritionists to double check their data. So, I lost weight… But how did the rest of my body adapt?


This was a big one indeed…! If there is one test I would recommend to anyone interested in looking at their cardiovascular disease risk (CVD, essentially the risk you have of suffering from a heart attack or similar, the number one causes of death in the Western World), it would be the LPP. Without going too much into details (I might in future posts, but if you cannot wait I would strongly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s blog) the LPP measures not only the classic total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), TG and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), but it also measures LDL particle number (LDL-P), LDL subclasses, HDL2b, insulin, high sensitive CRP (the most accurate marker of inflammation) and it gives you a Metabolic Syndrome risk score (what you should essentially be concerned about).

Considering the attention I pay to my diet and the amount of physical activity I undertake, I did not expect any major surprise here. And indeed my Metabolic Syndrome risk score started from 0…! And not just that, my HDL-C (the so called “good cholesterol”) was very high with an LDL-C (the “bad boy”) defined as “above optimal”. First sign that my usual lifestyle already works…

Unfortunately though, you might notice a flashy red number next to my LDL-IV particle number… If initially that was a surprise and a concern (recent studies have shown a much higher atherogenic risk of LDL-IV and LDL-III over the bigger LDL-I and LDL-II), it also sparked an almost insatiable hunger for more knowledge and understanding of this part of lipidology. Hours and hours of reading and discussing with other practitioners later, this ultimately let me understand the even higher importance of LDL-P (the actual number of LDL particles, rather than their size) over LDL-subclasses, and even more so, the importance of “concordance” between LDL-C (in my case low) and LDL-P (also low). In this situation, essentially, the mere size of my LDL was irrelevant, as there were so few of them, carrying so little cholesterol, that everything else did not matter…

I would strongly suggest you to refer to other websites and blogs here or from my links page (The Eating Academy or DocsOpinion to just mention a couple of the most useful in my opinion and in my personal journey to understanding these not so widely addressed topics) if you want to know more. It would be not just out of the scope of this page, but surely it would be way far from my competence and knowledge at this stage.


If I defined the LPP test as the one not to miss to measure your CVD risk, the Organix was supposed to be one not to miss to see the effects of the detox diet… If indeed changes in blood lipids and aminoacids might take some time to happen and be recorded, the Organix Profile measures a number of metabolic markers that can be affected by shorter dietary interventions. Not only this, it also measures markers for a number of situations relevant to the so called “functional medicine”, that discipline that deals with sub-clinical insufficiencies or higher concentrations of molecules and minerals that could potentially represent non-optimal health (as much as we know about it at least) or lead to clinical conditions if left untreated. I would like here to stress this point: I am now discussing about biomarkers used in functional medicine, a very different area from the more common concepts of medicine where abnormal indicators are almost invariably associated with a clinical condition or at least prompt some intervention. These biomarkers per se mean hardly anything. More than in other scientific fields, a clinical connection between these markers and clinical symptoms have to be made before considering an intervention. After this short intro, these were my findings, before and after my detox diet:


Wow, I thought after seeing this…! I don’t think there is much to explain when a rapid look at the summary shows such a marked change from various abnormal findings to an almost perfect sheet of “no abnormality found”… If as I explained in the previous paragraph, I and the consulting functional medicine practitioner were not concerned by the PRE findings anyway (I did not present any symptom that would require additional investigations or treatment anyway, as for example if I had sleeping issues associated with my high neurotransmitter metabolism markers), the “normalization” of almost all markers was still a pleasant surprise.

In particular, if the detox diet was meant to help my body somewhere, I should have expected to see some changes in the oxidative stress and detoxification processes… And guess what? My liver seemed to fully reap the benefits of the diet indeed…! My corrected levels of p-hydroxyphenillactate possibly meant a reduced cellular oxidative damage, while the improved detoxification indicators showed that my liver was now working under less pressure.

If until now the effects of the detox diet was just marginally showing some positives, the Organix profile test, surely tilted the balance towards its likely effectiveness, at least into doing what the name suggests: help the body detoxification system…

My Detox Experience – Part 1 – Introduction

Here it is, the drop that made me start my personal blog. My 5-day “detox” juice-only diet. I will start by clarifying that I have no personal interest in any of the companies or tools mentioned in this post. The only reason I will put links, names and comments is to give you a better understanding of the process and if you are interested, to get more information about the topics.


A detox diet is often defined as a nutrition plan lasting a limited amount of time (it varies between a few days and a few weeks), during which most providers will claim that you “flush your system from toxins” or “detoxify your body” from the toxins normally ingested with your diet, or by smoking, etc… In other instances, you will be promised to “alkalize” your system, starting from the principle that too much “acidity” in your system is deleterious and today’s environment will most likely cause your body to be acid. To my knowledge, none of these claims is scientifically proven. However, talk to anyone in a detox plan and you are likely to hear one of these effects… Depending on the company (there is indeed no standard on the program, or on the final objective, apart being “detoxified”) you will be told to avoid certain foods (most commonly animal products and alcohol) and you will only be allowed to eat certain others (usually plant-based only, sometimes only in juiced form, some other times salads are included), often only in their raw form. [Future blog posts will discuss the reasons behind all these restrictions and the potential benefits of raw food (from a scientific point of view)]. The chapter of nuts would also deserve a full dissertation on its own [and it will soon be discussed], as in some programs they are totally banned, while in others they are the major source of proteins and fats, although they will probably be soaked or somehow treated before eating [you will learn why in one of my future posts, just stay tuned].

Detox Delight Middle East is the Dubai franchise of a company headquartered in Germany. In brief, they offer several “detox programs” in which they deliver food to your door at regular intervals for a certain period, so that you do not have to do anything more than just read the information provided and eat what they serve. No shopping, no cooking and no cleaning is required. One of their (very valid) selling point, is indeed their convenience. The foods and drinks come in an ice-box and are freshly made in their own local kitchen, using organically grown and locally sourced products (in Dubai their main provider is Greenheart Organic Farms). Normally the products will have a shelf life of two to three days, so that you have enough food before the next delivery. They offer plant-based raw food only and depending on their programs, they might offer a juice-only package or include salads and snacks. Out of their deliveries you are recommended to only drink water and herbal teas (which they also provide), while you should abstain from any other food, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Detox Delight Middle East is run by two incredibly passionate women, Claudia and Nicole. They will make sure everything works smoothly and you have all the support you need to make a change (often a big one) in you diet.

Active Detox
Active Detox


Following the positive results achieved by some of our friends with one of the detox program offered by Detox Delight ME (weight loss, improved general wellbeing), I and six other physically active friends decided to try the Active Detox program. It involves having a juice-based only diet of 8 x 500ml juices (mixed fruits, vegetables and nuts) for 5 days. On top of that we also received a daily 250ml bottle of nut milk to take after training.

Before fully throwing ourselves into the program, we agreed to make it in a more “scientific” way. Through Diagnostika Laboratories in Dubai we had the Spectracell Lipoprotein Particles Test and the Metametrix Organix Comprehensive ProfileAmino Acid Profile and Plasma Fatty Acids Profile tests done, in addition to measuring our body height, weight and body composition, using the Cosmed BodPod. All these tests and measurements were taken on the day we started our detox program and then repeated the morning after the end of it, in order to see whether the detox would show any changes in any of the parameters observed. The main parameters to look for were related to cardiovascular risk factors, including blood insulin and inflammatory markers (Lipoprotein Particles), macronutrients metabolism (Organix Profile), plasma pool of amino acids (Amino Acids Profile) and fatty acids (Fatty Acids Profile) and body composition (mainly weight and body fat %, via the BodPod, recognized as one of the most accurate measuring tool by the scientific literature). In a less scientific approach, I also decided to run my regular distance and perform a set workout the night before the start, and then repeat it on the last night of the program, to see whether my performance, personal feel or heart rate would be affected. We agreed not to change our training routine during the program (despite it is recommended to “take it easy” during the detox) as we love training and changing other parameters would have added confounding variables to our results.

Wanna know about the results of our experiment and my personal feedback and review of all parties involved?  I will divide them into personal feelings (what I felt, energy, cravings, good and bad feels, etc..), training and performance changes (HR, running times, fatigue, weight sessions results, etc…), objective health parameters modifications (bloods, urine and body composition) and final review and comments… So, for now… Stay tuned, there is plenty to come…!