Eating plans – Sugar Busters

Today’s topic reviews the eating plan proposed by the book “Sugar Busters!” by  H. Leighton Steward,  Morrison Bethea M.D., Sam Andrews M.D., and Luis Balart M.D. and published in 1998.  I would not call Sugar Buster! a diet because that word depicts a short term modification of eating that allows short term goals.  This plan is focused on a long term commitment to eating a certain way and therefore creating long term results.

What does this eating plan want you to do?

The name says it all – cut dietary sugar and refined carbohydrates to achieve wellness, increase energy, lower cholesterol and even help treat diabetes and other diseases.  Consideration of “portion size’ is preferred over measuring food and counting calories.

Allowed in the diet are meats, including:

  • Lean beef and pork
  • Canadian bacon
  • Poultry
  • Game meats, such as venison
  • Fish and shellfish

Vegetables, including:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Eggplant
  • Onions

Fruits, including:

  • Apples
  • Lemons and limes
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwis
  • Grapefruits
  • Apricots
  • Melons other than watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Tangerines and oranges

You also can have dairy products, whole grains, and cereals — just don’t add sugar to them. Spices and dark chocolate are also permitted.

You are advised not to eat:

  • Baked beans
  • Carrots or beets
  • Corn
  • Ripe bananas
  • Raisins
  • White bread, pasta, rice
  • Potatoes
  • Beer
  • Bacon, fried chicken, most cold cuts

If you must drink choose red wine. Bake, broil or grill meat, and cook with an oil that is high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats, such as canola. You eat three meals a day of moderate portions, and you can have snacks such as fruit and nuts, although fruit should be eaten by itself. And fruit is preferred over fruit juice, and best eaten a half hour before the meal.

How does this plan work?

“Sugar is toxic!” proclaims the 1998 best-seller Sugar Busters!.  “Cut Sugar to Trim Fat” is the both catchphrase and the premise of the diet where any meal, even a small one full of sugar or refined carbohydrate will cause a blood sugar spike which in turn causes an over-production of insulin.  This quickly converts all unused glucose to fat.  Conversely a high protein low carbohydrate meal “promotes the mobilization of previously stored fat,” according to the authors.  It does so by inducing the pancreas to release glucagon instead of insulin.  Once released the elevated glucagon level stays high for quite some time “so you can keep on burning that mobilized fat.” Additionally, they believe insulin inhibits the mobilization of stored fat and cite examples of people on skimpy low-calorie/high refined carb diets that were unable to lose fat because of the biochemical havoc wreaked on their bodies by too much insulin.

A more controversial claim made by the authors is that by keeping the need for insulin low by eliminating or severely restricting certain foods, we can reduce insulin resistance, a condition wherein our bodies have become insensitive to normal levels of circulating insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance results in obesity and frequently is the culprit behind type 2 diabetes, or the non-insulin-dependent form of the disease. “Fifty percent or more of insulin resistance can be reduced or even reversed as insulin resistance does not totally depend on our inherited genes,” say the authors.

How is this diet helpful or harmful?

I believe this plan is helpful by allowing a wide variety of foods which helps with boredom.  The allowed foods are not high calorie in themselves and thus the issue of relying on “portion size” works when applied with any common sense and removes the tedious weighing and counting that contributes to many diet failures.   One modification to this plan would be to eat 5 smaller meals instead of three moderate ones.

The only way I could see this eating plan being harmful is by making it too calorie restrictive or by using it to treat a health condition without professional advice.


I generally rate low sugar diets pretty high if they allow 4 meals or more and are not too calorie restrictive.  As recommended I give it 8 out of 10.  Modified slightly to allow for five smaller meals and occasional bacon and I give it a 9 plus.

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