Sugar – Bigger Sinner Than Wine? | The Food Party! | Laura Stec | Palo Alto Online |

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By Laura Stec

Sugar – Bigger Sinner Than Wine?

Uploaded: Jan 24, 2022

One measure of addictability is how fast the effect gets to your brain. Guess what commonly consumed substance tops the list?

Alcohol gets a tough rap - a lot of public lament about its effect on the body and spirit. A number of recent Food Partiers! described their relationship with alcohol, or lack thereof, based solely on religious rules. I get it – alcohol messes up minds if we overindulge. It also kills, and kills early in life, per my experience.

Sugar kills too, it just takes longer. We don’t hear as much about those evil ways, even though the American Heart Association blames sugary soft drinks for 180,000 + deaths each year. Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, as well as obesity can all result from over-consumption of highly processed carbohydrates. At least 1 in 10 Americans appear to suffer addiction, getting 1/4 or more daily calories from added sugar.

Seems like there should be more sermons chastising devil’s dust. Should we be praying for sugar salvation, rather than focusing so much animus on alcohol?

Compare this:

2/3 cup of Chunky Monkey (and who doesn't eat more?) = 41grams of carbohydrates / 400 calories

Five Swedish Fish = 27g carb / 100 cal

One Oreo = 12g carb /53 cal

Contrasted with a 5 oz glass of wine around 5g/90 calories, sugar seems a far bigger sinner. When I overeat sugar or processed carbs, my inflammation flares and body stores more weight, which is not the case with a glass of wine or two. And might the process of fermenting (a way of cooking/denaturing) result in sugars less harmful to the body than non-fermented sugars?

We asked Dalia Perelman, Research Dietician at Stanford, her thoughts:

“Too much alcohol is not good, we know this. The body needs to clear it out and the liver gets exhausted trying, storing the excess calories as fat in the liver, which can lead to fatty liver disease.

Sugar is similar – possibly more people develop an addiction to sugar and it’s hard to get off that. Your brain loves the endorphin rush; it’s comforting and gets me out of boredom. You don’t need to detoxify your blood from it, but the body has to secrete insulin for balance. We know too much insulin leads to all kind of problems. However, once sugars are fermented, they are no longer sugars- they ferment into alcohol, CO2, short chain fatty acids, or other metabolites. So "fermented sugars" is a confusing term."

Earlier this month I mentioned “carbo-balancing,” a non-scientific way to describe my relationship with carbohydrates. It was Dry January last year when I noticed how instinctively I replaced carbohydrates from wine with a nightly dessert, removing alcohol, but increasing daily carbo-load. I’ve also noticed if I reduce my carb intake for any extended period, the natural response is to crave and over consume a few days later. It’s like the body demands carbo-stasis (my term), having gotten accustomed to a certain balance and energy input. Problem is popular diets label all carbohydrates (fast acting and slow) as bad guys. We need carbohydrates for body functions, but eat so few whole (slow) kind, that of course we crave and grab easy to find (fast) carbs like chips, crackers, candy and cookies. Dry January reminded me I need more whole grains in my diet. Maybe that can help balance cravings? We will Food Party! more about whole grains this winter,

Well, we got one week left! Thank you Dry January 2022, you made this clear. Given a choice between dessert or wine, brothers and sisters, I have seen the light! Certainly not for everyone, but for me it's Pinot, not pudding.

Next time, you might consider a glass of wine for dessert, rather than the dessert.

Can I get an amen?

More on non-alcoholic drink options:


Mocktail Club
Made in the US with the highest quality and natural ingredients, these drinks are reminiscent of classic cocktails with a modern twist, including added antioxidants and digestive prebiotics for a new style of mixer. Tasters said: “good spices,” and “too sweet, but I like that chili pepper.” Are you a margaritas and whisky sour fan? These may be just what you are looking for. 12 oz bottle: 80 cal/20g carbs 4-pack: $16.94

For Bitter For Worse

New trends in non-alcoholic drinks don’t try and mimic traditional spirits, but offer sophisticated options that "are their own thing.” For Bitter For Worse takes you there and their recipe combinations offer even more. Not too sweet, but as we said last week, bitters and shrubs provide a chance to acquire an important taste beyond sweet. Ingredients are extracted in a neutral alcohol which gets removed, and then seasoned with ingredients such as Lapsang Souchong tea, monkfruit, maple syrup, Angelica and roasted Dandelion root and foraged Douglas fir needles. (patent-pending). Tasters said: “fruity upfront with a taste that lingers,” “complex - has a lot going on,” “good mixed with cinnamon tea.” 1.5 oz mixer: 35 cal/9g carbs. Trio of three 6.3 oz bottles: $29.95

Non-alcoholic spirits have really blossomed the last two years. Ghia, launched in 2020, creates a vibrant aperitif; fresh with bitters, citrus and notes of floral-earthiness. It’s modern and complex; serve straight from the bottle, or combine with sparkling soda, juice or tea. Tasters said: “lots of goodies,” “too bitter,” “well balanced.” The aperitif comes in a bottle or canned spritzer. 1.5 oz mixer: 15 cal/4 g carbo. Bottle: $33 8 oz can: 40 cal /9 g carbs. 4-pack: $18

More lessons from Dry January: recycle your old ice cube trays and replace with the new, BIG cube trays. One slow melting cube, instead of many smaller cubes, lends best results to chilled drinks.


Proxies by Acid League
Proxy – “the ability to stand in with authority for something else.” Bingo!
Finally a wine replacement offering a satisfying experience. Chios, a Mediterranean white, combines green apple, kiwi and verjus (sweet-tart pressed juice of unripen grapes) with notes of Gyokuro green tea, rosemary, wormwood and Tears of Chios (a resin from the Greek-based mastic tree). Serene, a full-bodied red, blends tarragon, black tea, French oak and vanilla, with plum, cherry and blackcurrant for a drink that pairs like Pinot; with spaghetti, steak and even salmon. Serve in a wine glass and enjoy the old times. Waiting for the nutritionals. Approx. $23 per bottle

Check out this interesting article about the explosive growth of quality no and low-alcohol wines, including the technology used to make them.

Noughty by Better Rhodes
Another example of non-alcoholic wines evolving into good options. This sparkling rose joined our dinner out, and it really added to the meal. The taste is light and bright and it paired well with food. Doppio Zero brought us champagne glasses which heightened the celebration. A wonderful alternative! 5 oz: 25 cal /9 g carbs $21.99

An effect of both this DJan and last has been sleep disruption. I’ve heard we “sleep better without alcohol at night,” however, instead of the usual 10-10:30 PM bedtime, sleepiness comes much later (friends had similar responses). Changing morning coffee to decaf was an early response, but I needed more. Luckily, The Food Party! learned about Nanea, an anxiety and stress reduction tea from Hawaiian Natural Tea. Combining chamomile, lemongrass, ashwagandha (medicinal herb) peppermint, moringa and mamaki (healing plant found only in Hawaii), I swear the tea helped me transition easier from evening to sleep.

- photos by LSIC