Interviews / December 6, 2013

Interview with Nutrition and Anti-Sugar Guru Brooke Alpert

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: Brooke, thank you so much for doing this interview. Let me jump right in and ask why and how you became a foodie and/or health advocate?

Brooke: I think Ive always been a foodie and, to be honest, always a bit of a jock, too. But it wasnt until I started struggling with my own health and digestive issues that I went to see a registered dietitian and realized I was in the wrong profession. I signed up for school and left my job at Vogue within a year of my first appointment.

Diet Detective: Can a person really be addicted to sugar?

Brooke: I absolutely think sugar is addicting. In fact, its hold on us is so strong that cravings and withdrawal symptoms from sugar are equal to, if not worse than from some major hard-core drugs, like cocaine. So many of my clients think they dont have a sweet tooth so sugar isnt a problem for them. They just dont realize that all the white flour and refined grains theyre craving regularly are really the same as sugar!

Diet Detective: Fat, ugly AND old? Is that what sugar makes us? Can you tell us how (most specifically ugly and old)?

Brooke: Sugar basically causes us to age prematurely. All the extra sugar floating around in our bloodstream from consuming too much needs to go somewhere. So it attaches to protein molecules, mainly collagen and elastin. These protein molecules are mainly responsible for keeping our skin youthful and supple, but when sugar attaches to them it begins a process called glycation. When glycation occurs it produces what are aptly known as AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. These AGEs cause the collagen and elastin molecules to become brittle and stiff, and that leads to more fine lines in our skin, more sagging and drooping. Basically, sugar causes AGEs, which make us look old!

Diet Detective: Tell us: How can we get better skin and look YOUNGER? What a great idea for you to write a book with a dermatologist!

Brooke: By changing your diet to reduce the amount of sugar youre consuming you can absolutely change your skin. My co-author, Dr. Patricia Farris, always tells me that she can immediately tell if one of her patients sits in the sun, smokes or eats too much sugar just by quickly looking at the patients skin. How we eat shows up on our body and our face.

Diet Detective: What about fruit? Weve always been told that you can have as much as you want; is that true? What are the WORST fruit offenders?

Brooke: People can easily overeat fruit. We are pro-fruit on the Sugar Detox but it needs to be the lower sugar fruit and in proper portions. Too much fruit can affect our waistline and our skin. Obviously, wed rather you pick up a piece of fruit (of any kind) than a piece of cake or a slice of pizza, but in our diet plan we limit the amount of fruit you have and slowly bring it back in small portions until you complete the 31 days. We say no to bananas, watermelon and pineapple on the Sugar Detox mainly because of their glycemic index and the amount of fructose (fruit sugar) they contain.

Diet Detective: What about whole wheat? There are some experts who say this is not good, either that it also turns to sugar and is harmful.

Brooke: We bring back whole grains in Week 3 of the Sugar Detox. The whole-grain products we recommend have no added sugars and contain true whole grains instead of enriched or refined flour. This means they contain more fiber, which allows the sugar to be digested into the body at a slower rate. We also discuss in our book how to eat these grains always pairing them with a protein source or a fat source to slow down the absorption of the sugar even more. That way you can have your grains without causing a sugar spike!

Diet Detective: What about the glycemic index? What do we need to know about GI? How does it fit into the Sugar Detox?

Brooke: As I briefly mentioned earlier, we used the glycemic index plus fructose levels when deciding what fruits to allow on the Sugar Detox. I find the GI to be a great indicator of how the body will react to a certain foods. Its those sugar spikes that we are mainly trying to avoid in order to keep blood sugar stable.

Diet Detective: What happens to our body when we eat too much sugar? How does insulin play into all this?

Brooke: When we consume sugar, it causes insulin to be alerted. Its insulins job to tell all that sugar where to go, and it mainly tells the body to start storing fat. That was great when we were cavemen and might have to go awhile until our next meal. But in this day and age, insulin tells our body to store fat, and then we eat again and it tells our body to store more fat. All that fat storage and the constant presence of insulin leads to metabolic syndrome, which can then lead to diabetes and more.

Diet Detective: What is your all-time favorite healthy snack?

Brooke: I love nuts. Dark chocolate is also a personal favorite, but fortunately I can keep it pretty well portion controlled.

Diet Detective: Whats always in your fridge?

Brooke: We are never without eggs, Greek yogurt, lots of berries, mixed greens and always leftovers from dinner the night before. We are a big leftover family. Because of my crazy work schedule Im not always home in time to cook dinner, but by making bigger portions when I do have time to cook, we utilize the leftovers and make them into quick easy meals. My favorite is roasting a chicken on a Sunday night, and then throughout the week well have a version of chicken tacos, or I can throw chicken over mixed greens for a fast meal to bring to the office for lunch.

Diet Detective: Your breakfast today?

Brooke: Greek yogurt with Qia cereal (chia seeds, buckwheat groats and hemp seeds) and some blueberries.

Diet Detective: Your favorite junk food?

Brooke: I wouldnt say I like junk food. I like real food and food with ingredients I can recognize. Id rather go to a bakery and get something really delicious than worry about the chemicals Im eating. I feel the same way about feeding my child. No real food is off limits for her, but if it comes in a package with a far distant expiration date its a no-no for both of us. If I could have my pick in a bakery Id likely get a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Diet Detective: What would you choose for your last meal?

Brooke: Really good quality sushi lots of it, and then Id probably finish with a flourless chocolate cookie from my favorite French bakery here.

Diet Detective: Who and what influenced the way you think about food?

Brooke: My mother had a huge influence on my relationship with food. It was similar to how I raise my own daughter: Nothing was off limits, but if we wanted to eat cookies, shed rather we either bake them or buy them at a good bakery. There werent a lot of packaged foods in our house.

Diet Detective: Whats your favorite healthy ingredient? Whats the one thing youd suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy meals?

Brooke: Frozen organic veggies are my favorite staple. Throw them in with eggs for a quick veggie scramble, mix them with grains or even just poach on egg on top of them. My freezer is always well stocked with vegetables.

Diet Detective: Whats the one kitchen utensil or tool that you cant live without?

Brooke: My dishwasher! My daughter loves to help me cook, so I always try to prep everything ahead of time and then all the ingredients are in tons of small dishes. So theres lots of cleanup that makes me grateful for my dishwasher!

Please provide a few words on the following:

Diet Detective: Organic foods?

Brooke: Worth the price.

Diet Detective: Antioxidants?

Brooke: Hello red wine and chocolate.

Diet Detective: Artificial sweeteners?

Brooke: No way!

Diet Detective: Cooking sprays (e.g. Pam)?

Brooke: Id rather use butter.

Diet Detective: Food additives and preservatives?

Brooke: No, thank you.

Diet Detective: Nutritional supplements?

Brooke: Security blanket.






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