‘Sugar is your enemy’, said a doctor friend as I was complaining about my waistline, still 35 inches despite a health kick that involves doing press-ups for the first time in my life. Also, he was worried that I wasn’t properly hydrated. ‘Try freshly squeezed orange juice – but diluted.’
I’ve always had a weakness for freshly squeezed orange juice, as opposed to the vile stuff that comes out of cartons. And I don’t fall for the old ‘made from freshly squeezed oranges’ sleight of hand by manufacturers who want you to think you’re drinking the real thing.
I bought a litre flask, splashed freshly squeezed OJ in the bottom and added tap water. As time went on, the proportion of water to juice slowly fell – but, what the hell, there was a two-quid-a-bottle special offer in the supermarket. I went for ‘with juicy bits’ as opposed to ‘smooth’. More fibre, you see, in a drink that was already awesomely healthy to begin with.
Meanwhile, no more slabs of Sainsbury’s Basic Chocolate (35p). Or breakfast muffins. Or Victoria sponge. Sugar is your enemy, remember. Mysteriously, though, the craving for sweet things didn’t go away, as it had when I tried the revolting Atkins Diet.
Well, now the mystery is cleared up. A spot of googling yesterday and I discovered that 500 ml of freshly squeezed orange juice contains roughly the same amount of sugar as 13 Hobnob biscuits. Thirteen! Even I couldn’t eat that many, partly because Hobnobs have always struck me as a bit sickly.
Since I’m incapable of consuming moderate portions of anything I really like, I was getting through far more than 500 ml of juice a day. It actually goes faster when you dilute it, because by adding water you’re ‘hydrating’. That feels virtuous and you keep reaching for the mixture just to make sure you’re not drying up.
In other words, in an attempt to avoid Type 2 diabetes, I was stuffing my face full of sugar all day long, adding 500 calories to my intake in the process. I might as well have been slurping Sunny Delight, the moreish ‘orange’ drink that was massively popular in the UK until someone checked how much juice it contained. Five per cent.
Freshly squeezed OJ, on the other hand, is presumably pure – but, as this article from The Atlantic explains, orange juice in any form is ‘basically straight sugar’ even when it’s not laced with additives.
I hate to agree with the fundamentalists of Action on Sugar about anything, but from now on I’ll be avoiding the stuff because I don’t want to become an obese diabetic. So it’s back to good old calorie- and sugar-free Diet Coke. Ignore the scare stories about aspartame (because that’s all they are) and don’t worry about the caffeine dehydrating you (it doesn’t). Water? I’ll give it a go, but it’s a tough sell, what with the absence of flavour and, worse, the disgusting spectacle of cyclists piously hydrating themselves in public. But don’t get me started.