Feature Archive

Sugar Busters!

What It Is

"Cut Sugar to Trim Fat" proclaims the dust jacket of Sugar Busters! Inside the book, you read that "Sugar is toxic!" And that's the basic premise of the diet. The authors tell you to eliminate all sweets made with refined sugar and certain fruits and vegetables with a high-sugar content because they wreak havoc on your biochemical system. The diet also promises to lower your cholesterol, achieve optimal wellness, increase your energy, and help treat diabetes and other diseases.

So proclaims the diet that became a self-published phenomenon in New Orleans, until a major publisher released Sugar Busters! in 1998. It's still selling so strong in the hardcover edition that the paperback hasn't been released yet. The four authors are H. Leighton Steward, a former CEO, and three doctors from the Big Easy: Morrison C. Bethea, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon; Samuel S. Andrews, MD, an endocrinologist; and Luis A. Balart, MD, a gastroenterologist.

Although the authors say that counting calories or measuring food is not a part of the Sugar Busters! plan, they suggest you "look at portion size," which is another way of cutting calories -- even though they claim that "calories are not the answer to weight gain or loss." In addition, the authors point out that moderate exercise will not significantly affect weight loss if you continue to eat foods with high sugar content. Finally, they caution that the diet is not for exercise fanatics.

What You Can Eat

While the authors say there are only a few things you cannot eat on the diet, these banned foods include some of the more common staples of the American diet: "You must virtually eliminate potatoes, corn, white rice, bread from refined flour, beets, carrots, and, of course, refined sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey, sugared colas, and beer." A short list, but note that you must stop eating all refined sugars.

The basic plan is to eat high-fiber vegetables, stone-ground whole grains, lean and trimmed meats, fish, and fruits. If you choose alcohol, you should drink 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.

You should eat:

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, and whole grains and cereals --- just don't add sugar to them! Spices and dark chocolate are also permitted. You should not eat:

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

How It Works

The authors use basic science to explain their theory -- up to a point. A snack or meal that is high in carbohydrates (of which sugar is the basic building block) raises the level of glucose in the blood stream quickly. This stimulates the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. This release produces too much insulin, say the authors, so that the body is not able to convert that glucose into glycogen (which is used for immediate energy needs). Alas, the body's ability to store or hold glycogen is limited to a measly few hundred grams -- an average of 700 grams can be stored in the liver and muscles.