DIET:JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 hidden sugars, lose up to 10 pounds in just 2 weeks (Grand Central Life & Style; $29.00)
CREATOR: JJ Virgin
CREDENTIALS: She is a certified nutrition and fitness specialist.
CELEBRITY EDGE: A three-time New York Times bestselling author, Virgin (according to her website) has provided nutrition and fitness advice to a range of celebrities, including Gene Simmons and Ben Stiller. Actress Suzanne Somers endorses her books.
CLAIM: Virgin promises her program will help you cut sugar out of your diet — without the cravings and the crashes. Her plan, she says, will also lead to high energy levels, better focus, less bloat and will reverse chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Oh, and for those of you who diet to fit into skinny jeans, Virgin says followers will “look and feel younger almost overnight.”
PROGRAM: Virgin’s three-stage plan forces dieters to cut foods high in sugar from their diet, first by replacing them with, what she calls, medium-Sugar Impact foods, then with low-Sugar Impact foods.
The first cycle, called Taper, is one-week long and is designed to help dieters wean off high-sugar foods. For example, you will swap whole wheat pasta for quinoa pasta, peanut butter for almond butter. The second cycle, called Transition, moves you from medium-Sugar Impact foods to low-Sugar Impact foods; during this two-week phase, most fruit is eliminated from your diet. The third cycle, Transformation, which includes more fruit and some traditional treats, is how you will eat for the rest of your life. Virgin recommends people redo Taper and Transition at least once a year to reset their bodies and diets.
SIDE NOTES: All sugars, from brown sugar to molasses, agave to maple syrup, are eliminated. Virgin provides a (short) list of alternative sweeteners, which include monk fruit, stevia, sugar alcohols erythritol and xylitol, chicory and inulin. Her dessert recipes, including blueberry ice cream and lemony frozen yogurt, are sweetened with monk fruit extract.
ALLOWED (Cycle 1): At each meal, dieters aim for proper portions of foods: A quarter plate of lean protein (lean meats, wild-caught fish and shellfish, pastured eggs, organic dairy), a quarter plate of healthy fats (oils, butters, avocado, nuts and seeds), a third of a plate of non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, collard greens, spaghetti squash, zucchini), filling the remainder with gluten-free, high-fibre carbohydrates and/or fruits low on the glycemic index (black beans, berries, oranges, tomatoes, wild rice, lentils and beans).
PROHIBTED (Cycle 1): Pretty much anything made with added sugars or artificial sweeteners, including breads, crackers, traditional sweets, store-bought salad dressings and balsamic vinegar.
EXPERT OPINION: At first glance, registered dietitian Lynn Weaver was skeptical about Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet.
The cover makes a bold promise: “Drop seven hidden sugars, lose up to 10 pounds in two weeks.” And Virgin, at least on the book’s cover, insists that her plan will be easy and pain-free.
Weaver knows that dropping 10 pounds in 14 days might not be achievable for some people. And that speedy weight loss always takes hard work.
But once she started reading, Weaver was won over by Virgin’s clear prose and sound facts on added sugars lurking in our modern diet.
Virgin explains the types of added sugars, how to spot them in foods and how to swap them for lower-sugar options; you might, for example, exchange BBQ beans for pinto beans or Nutella for almond butter.
Weaver says the diet would help anyone interested in watching their blood sugar levels or those who want to cut back their sugar consumption.
Many health organizations, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, recommend added sugars account for less than 10 per cent of total daily calories — about the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar.
It’s not an easy task since sugars, from corn syrup to cane juice, maltose to molasses, are hidden in many foods, including salad dressing, cereals and low-fat yogurt.
Even though she likes the overall message, Weaver does have some concerns about the diet. Virgin makes several claims not supported by the medical and nutritional community, such as encouraging all of her clients to cut gluten from their diets.
“I would never recommend a gluten-free diet for people who were not diagnosed with celiac disease,” Weaver says.
She also found the three-cycle plan confusing, particularly the lengthy sections detailing how to transition from high- to medium- to low-Sugar Impact foods. Weaver says dieters will likely have to read these chapters several times to get it all straight.
However, she does like Virgin’s meal plans and recipes, which focus on whole foods. Dieters, she says, will need to plan ahead — and be prepared to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Good advice for anyone who wants to embrace healthy eating.
EXPERT VERDICT: “If I have someone who is a new diabetic, I would get them to read this book. Some people can’t figure out what foods are spiking their sugars; this can be really handy.”