Keep Slim & Trim with Domino Sugar Menus
It wasn’t meant to be provocative.
After all, the folks in 1954 cared just as much about weight loss as we do in 2020, and they weren’t dealing with nearly the same obesity epidemic as we are today. Over 70% of American men and women were considered overweight or obese in 2014, the last time the NIH reported data found from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) dataset.
Can we really expect to lose weight on a high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diet?
Carbohydrates are a group of nutrients that come from foods such as vegetables and potatoes, nuts and seeds, grains, fruits, honey, refined sweeteners (corn syrup, granulated sugar, etc.), and extracted starches. As you can see, some of the carbohydrate sources are healthier choices than others. Carbs from whole food sources are less of a health problem than carbs from refined sources, which are often found in large amounts in processed foods, snack products, and baked goods.
The CDC currently recommends that 45-65% dietary intake comes from carbohydrates, with less than 10% of daily calories from refined sugar. So for adults consuming 2000 calories, that’s up to 1300 calories from carbs, with 200 daily calories from added sugar. This equates to about 12.5 tsp granulated sugar. In 2010, the last time the CDC reported this data, the average American consumed about 13% of their daily calories from sugar, or 16.25 tsp. I personally think that’s still too much for both overall carbs and added sugars, as we’ll explore below.
Maybe you CAN lose weight on pure sugar. If you’re only eating about 1000 calories per day. (For most sedentary adults, the amount of calories recommended to maintain their current weight is 1800 calories for women and 2400 calories for men.)
Which brings us to the topic of starvation.
I don’t recommend extreme caloric restriction, as advocated by this vintage menu. The body thinks it’s starving and slows metabolism down to in self-preservation. We know this from evidence from various historical famines. A high-sugar diet also comes at the expense of other nutrients, especially when in the context of limiting overall calories.
As you can see, a diet high in sugar comes at the expense of a range of nutrients – these sugar-laden calories don’t “count” for bringing in much nutrition other than sugar to burn as energy. This is exacerbated by a low caloric intake that limits additional exposure to various vitamins and minerals, creating inadequate intake of nutrients such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D, and protein and fiber.
This diet is screaming inflammation and more problems down the road.
Why is a high-sugar diet so dangerous, even if the total calories are fairly low?
Besides inflammation, high sugar diets cause insulin resistance.
And eventual obesity. And fatty liver.
And type 2 diabetes. And cardiovascular disease.
And metabolic dysfunction.
High carbs, sugar, glucose & insulin, and the connection to weight loss
We all have a fasting glucose level; it’s definitely not 0, but adequate enough to fuel our brain. When we eat carbohydrates, be it from fruit, veggies, grains, or pure sugar, our blood sugar increases. Totally normal. Our body can deal with a moderate amount of glucose in the blood by releasing insulin to allow the body to use it for energy.
Our body knows that large quantities of glucose free-floating in the bloodstream can cause damage to our blood vessels. So in a high sugar state, it releases even more insulin to move the sugar out of the bloodstream and into our cells, where it can be burned for more energy. Such large quantities of glucose cause a proportionately large release of insulin, causing too much sugar to be removed from the blood – our blood sugar falls too low below the baseline. This triggers a food craving (usually for carbohydrates) or the body releases cortisol, a stress hormone, to raise the glucose back up to baseline or higher.
Meanwhile, as this dynamic is going on over time, our cells get smart to it. They realize that too much glucose pushed into them will also cause intracellular damage. The cells start boarding up the insulin receptors on the cell membranes to decrease the flow of glucose into the cells. The cells aren’t talking to the brain about their rationale, and so the brain keeps releasing insulin to try to get rid of the accumulating blood-based glucose.
The glucose can’t stay hanging out in the blood. This is dangerous. So the body starts turning this excess sugar into fats (triglycerides) and stuffing them into the liver to deal with later. The body also increases its demand for magnesium and has trouble converting vitamin A to its active form in this state, creating nutrient deficiencies.
It should also be noted that high insulin physiologically makes it impossible to lose weight.
What a mess.
We have created insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver, the precursors to metabolic syndrome and obesity, via dietary choices high in carbohydrates and refined sugar.
Over 84 million American adults are pre-diabetic, 32.6 Americans have type 2 diabetes, and 100 million Americans suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The 1950s got it wrong.
But we don’t need to.
So what’s a better way to lose weight?
One day’s weight-reduction dietary intake might look something like this:
- breakfast: 1 egg over 1 cup steamed spinach and some sliced tomato
- snack 1: 2 Tbsp hummus + 8 sweet potato crackers + a carrot
- lunch: 2 cups Greek salad with 3 oz grilled chicken breast and a whole wheat pita
- snack 2: 1 medium apple + 2 Tbsp almond butter
- dinner: 4 oz wild salmon with 1/2 C quinoa, mixed greens salad with 1 tsp sesame seeds and 1.5 oz olive oil (adding vinegar would be great), and 1 C broccoli (sautéed in water with garlic and red pepper flakes)
- dessert: 1 oz dark chocolate
When combined with normal activities – walking and cleaning up for 30 minutes each – in addition to intention moderate exercise, you can burn more calories than consumed.
As is, this menu meets the daily recommended amounts of protein and fat, fiber, iron, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, copper, zinc.
It’s slightly lacking in calcium and potassium on this day of food, which can easily be corrected by adding in more leafy greens to counteract this deficit.
This diet is slightly lower in carbs than “recommended” by the USDA, but this decrease in carbs can help with weight loss by decreasing insulin. Meanwhile, slightly higher fat and protein content will stabilize blood sugar and decrease insulin resistance.
My plan contains 42 g sugar, however, this comes from whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, plus a small amount from the dark chocolate. The fiber that comes with the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains stabilizes blood sugar so it doesn’t significantly peak as it would with straight granulated sugar; it won’t trigger a blood sugar roller coaster.
To cut calories further, omit the snacks, but also realize that this will also restrict some of the vitamins and minerals as well.
I think this is a pretty darn good alternative to what physicians were recommending in the 1950s to lose weight.
Either way, it’s enough options to not feel deprived.