Is sugar the new tobacco?

Low sugar going big: Your news round up

Unless you were off skiing last week, you might have seen a number of news headlines hit home around sugar.  To remind you of some the key points, and in case you missed any of it, I’d thought I’d do a quick lowdown on the things you might be most interested to know. For more information and background, head over to read why eat less sugar.

The Credit Suisse report

Things really started to kick off back in September when Credit Suisse published their report ‘Sugar: at the crossroads’. Some of their findings were as follows:

  • 43% of the added sugar consumed comes from drinks.

  • 4.8 million die of diabetes every year.

  • 86% of their globally sampled doctors agree that sugar is linked to Type II diabetes, obesity & non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Over 85% of the doctors recommended Government intervention in reducing sugar consumption.

  • It was noted that colourful packaging could be replaced with plainer tones to reduce the appeal of products.

There’s also a video you can watch summing up the report.

Halving our guidelines

Then over Christmas (whilst everyone was polishing off the chocolates!) the World Health Organisation (WHO) leaked a recommendation that the advised sugar levels should be cut in half (reported in the Sunday Times 29.12.13) A few things to note here:

  • Cutting in half would mean the added sugar guideline going from 10% to 5% of total calorie intake. Note that is a maximum, you could actually live with 0% if you want.

  • That is a guideline of 8 teaspoons (32g) for men a day and 6 (24g) for women (including fruit juice and honey).

  • These guidelines have not been updated since 2003.

  • When WHO last recommended a limit, the sugar industry kicked off (in a big and  aggressive way).

  • Sugar Nutrition, who have opposed the changes, are owned by Associated British Foods, who made £435m in profit from the sugar business in 2013 (just saying).

  • Last week, Action on Sugar was launched – an organisation set up to encourage big companies to reduce added ‘hidden’ sugars by at least 30%  in their products over the next few years. To keep things balanced you can read an argument against it here.

  • A great video animation also surfaced showing you how sugar affects your brain, specifically your pleasure dopamine receptors. It explains nicely why we crave it so badly!

  • Forbes also reported on a systematic study on systematic studies around sugary beverages (I know confusing!). It concluded papers may be inclined to draw conclusions in line with sponsors interests e.g. Coca-cola sponsored papers not finding a significant relationship between drinks and obesity.

So is sugar the new tobacco?

  • This was the headline news last week. Sugar is addictive yes, but even Dr Robert Lustig claims not quite as much as tobacco and drugs. Is it really new tobacco? Well, let’s just wait and see how it plays out in the political field. I have to say, I think I’m in the yes camp.

  • Andrew Langley (ex-health minister) disputed the tobacco-sugar analogy and claimed we need to reduce on an incremental basis so not to shock consumers.

  • However, as Dr Malhotra rightly points out in another good article, the problem with sugar is that it’s consumed more widely that tobacco, so you could argue it’s even worse. It’s even so pervasive it’s hard to avoid when we want to (don’t we know it?!). What do you think?

Other random news

  • Lidl claimed they’re replacing checkout sweets with healthier options, to help reduce child pestering (I was one of those kids – sorry Mum!).

  • Monkeys at a zoo in Devon are now restricted with bananas – keepers are reporting they have better skin and calmed aggression. Interesting…

Also to note: I contributed as the expert for a piece in The Mail on Sunday about sweeteners & substitutes. I want to be clear that this article was to educate and I didn’t have full reign over it. To reiterate, once you are successfully ‘off’ sugar’, you don’t need these very often, if at all. I don’t eat any of these day to day. My comments were to help educate the public on what I think is a very confusing area at the moment, in light of all this news, rather than say it’s a good idea to drizzle a large amount of honey on your porridge.

So what do I think?

All in all the wider awareness of sugar is great. It seems there really is a bit of a movement starting. Starting this blog essentially was done for that reason and so it’s fantastic that so many people will take note now, look at sugar like you and me do, and start reducing it in their own lives – leading to improved health all around.

It’s also great because the sugar content will now reduce and lower sugar options are likely to emerge, as consumers like us vote buy buying the better options. Whilst low sugar produce is generally good news for the general public, I would still advise eating whole real unprocessed food as much as possible.

Not always an overnight job…

In response to the awareness, some people will just stop eating sugar and that will be that (I’ve found men can do this easier than women). However, if you’ve tried to cut sugar and you are anywhere near to what I was like with it, you’ll know it’s a longer, harder and potentially more emotional journey. Sometimes it can be nothing short of a depressing not-that-fun uphill struggle.

So take this news as continued motivation to keep going. Get talking to your friends and family, and convince them along for the ride. Do share this article if you think it will help someone you know get their head around all of this.

What are your thoughts on any of this? Is sugar the new tobacco and should Devon’s zoo monkeys be deprived of their bananas?!

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolate

How to buy low sugar dark chocolate

Recently, one of my lovely subscribers Noreen e-mailed me a question about dark chocolate…

“Have you found any chocolate that does not contain sugar or has a lesser amount? All the dark chocolate I have found still lists sugar as one of the top three ingredients.”

Great question Noreen – thank you! Let’s look at this….

Generally, there aren’t a significant amount of ingredients that constitute dark chocolate, so there’s a high chance that sugar will be in the top three. Bars that are lower in cocoa solids tend to have sugar as the 1st or 2nd ingredient, and for those which are darker, you may find it goes down to 2nd or 3rd, simply because the cocoa makes up more of the bar substance.

chocolate-gratings-pieces

What to look for

When you’re looking at dark chocolate, it’s better to look at the sugar per 100g so you can work out the % e.g. 10g sugar per 100g equals 10%.

Bear in mind, those with the same cacao % can still have differences in sugar amount. Here’s just a selection of chocolate that shows you the comparison (Highest in sugar first).

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolatedark-chocolate-70percent-green-and-blacks-organic

Lindt Excellence chilli

  • 46.4g sugar per 100g

  • 49% cocoa solids

Green & Blacks 70%

  • 28.9g sugar per 100g

  • 70% cocoa solids

Nero & Bianco (the brand that is stocked in my office canteen!) 

  • 27g sugar per 100g

  • 70% cocoa solids

Green & Blacks 85%

  • 13.8g sugar per 100g

  • 85% cocoa solids

Lovechock 100% Raw Pure Nibs

  • 12g sugar per 100g

  • 80% cocoa solids

Lindt Excellence 90%

  • 7g sugar per 100g

  • 90% cocoa solids

(I am going to do a full review of some of these in a separate post but I’m still in testing phase!)

lovechock-dark-chocolate-raw-100percent-pure-nibsdark-chocolate-nero-and-bianco-fairtrade-and-organic

More buying dark chocolate tips

Generally, what I first look for in a dark chocolate is sugar per 100g, and then it’s cocoa % because this is the powerful antioxidant element that has the health benefit. I think 12-13g is a reasonable amount, but I do also like the 90% which is only 7g. I appreciate you need to work up to these as your taste buds adjust their sugar sensitivity. Lots of people can find dark chocolate bitter, especially if they are accustomed to a sugary diet.

Think about the quality when you pick dark chocolate. Expensive good quality chocolate is usually associated with a nicer texture and deeper taste. It means you really savour each square and are more inclined to make it last rather than gobble it down.

Note: A year ago I used to love the Lindt Chilli chocolate but notice how that is top of the list and nearly 50% sugar, despite still being labelled as a ‘dark’ chocolate. Unfortunately I do find this one a bit sickly now but I love the flavour combination. (Hi Lindt, please can you make a Chilli 85% one just for me? Great, thanks!)

Some brands might advertise that it’s been sweetened with coconut sugar/nectar, xylitol or stevia which are all healthy-ish alternatives in their own way to raw cane sugar. I’ve posted on all three of these, so just make sure you’re clued up so you know what you’re ingesting when you eat them. At the end of the day, if it’s a square of dark chocolate eaten every once in a while, I’m happy to let this very small amount of raw cane sugar pass my lips.

To let you know, I now eat dark chocolate once or twice a week, if that. I used to eat it everyday. Consider that if you’re eating it everyday, you’re having refined sugar everyday and your cementing it as a habit, which with time will only get stronger. Try and break the routine if you can and do a good few days without it.

I hope that was helpful. What are your thoughts on dark chocolate? Do you love it or hate it? Find it so bitter it’s not worth having? Favourite brands?

P.S. I was delighted when Noreen e-mailed me with her great question so if you’ve a burning query, please let me know! (laura@happysugarhabits.com)

 

how-to-make-pimms-and-lemonade-low-sugar

Pimms & lemonade: How much sugar?

Recently we’ve been blessed with a spell of hot sunny weather in the UK and Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (Wahey, *fist punch*). This of course means mass summer celebration. Mass summer celebration in England usually calls for one particular beverage….Pimms!

I have always loved Pimms as much as everyone else.  I’ve enjoyed it over the years at Wimbledon, Ascot, many BBQs and various other social events. But HOW is this going to work with a low sugar diet? This post shall reveal all…

The sugar in Pimms

Pimms’s recipe is top secret, apparently only 6 people actually know it. Therefore there is a lack of ingredients and nutritional information on the label. A little bit of research and you can determine that ingredients generally include dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices and spices.

So Pimms has sugar. There is no escaping that fact, but let’s try and make it as low sugar as possible shall we?

Traditionally you mix Pimms with lemonade in a 1:3 ratio. This means the lemonade is the killer on the sugar front, rather than the Pimms.

Therefore my suggestion and strategy is, instead of worrying about the Pimms, which is pretty hard to substitute seeing as it’s a unique substance, we focus on limiting sugar in the Lemonade part.

how-to-make-pimms-and-lemonade-low-sugar

Lemonade comparison

Now I would advise anyone to stay away from lemonade full stop but if it’s a one off then it’s handy just to know this. I checked out the amount of sugar in lemonade and was at first quite surprised at the differences between brands.

With the worst offenders at the top, here are the sugar contents of varying lemonade brands (based on 100ml which is roughly what you might add to make a single glass of Pimms).ll stop but if it’s a one off then it’s handy just to know this. I checked out the amount of sugar in lemonade and was at first quite surprised at the differences between brands.

7up and Sprite (both 10.6g)

Schwepps (4.2g)

Asda Chosen by You (3.5g)

R Whites (2.4g)

Conclusion: Never ever buy Sprite or 7up. It’s got over 4 times as much sugar as others. That is just a staggering difference for what is essentially the same stuff.

You might be saying, well I’ll just have diet Lemonade with zero sugar. Yes this is an option as these usually have under 1g of sugar. You can read my take on sweeteners here, but generally be aware that with diet drinks you are drinking chemicals that we aren’t completely sure what they’re doing to us.

What I found interesting was that even the ‘regular’ lemonades still contained the artificial sweeteners, so don’t think you’re escaping the chemicals, you’re just drinking both!

The diet lemonades I researched generally contained both Aspartame and Saccharin, two of the most debated sweeteners on the block.

Every now and then when you really want a Pimms? OK. Every week or every day? Definitely not recommended.

Lemonade alternatives

Because my taste buds are accustomed to a lot less sugar these days, I find Pimms with Lemonade, even diet Lemonade, very sweet, so I’ve been experimenting…

Try mixing your Pimms with the smallest amount of lemonade (diet or no diet) you can manage and then top up the rest with soda/sparkling water. You can play around with the proportions to your own personal taste, but by doing this you’re diluting the sugar content and bringing it down to a lower level without too much compromise. Adding extra fruit and mint also enhances the flavour without the need for the sugary lemonade overload.

You can also do this soda water trick with gin and tonic to a certain extent. Just little ways of bringing the sugar content down without giving up everything that you like all at once.

What do you think of Pimms and lemonade? Too sugary or something that you’ll allow yourself on special occasions?

 

fructose

What everyone needs to know about fructose

Sugar in its many forms can be confusing, but if there’s one to get your head around it’s fructose. You might know fructose as the fruit sugar – I know I certainly used to a few years ago, before I got wise. It helps to understand fructose in a bit of detail, so here are the essentials you need to know (Don’t worry, I’m not going to bombard you with biochemistry here!).

What is fructose?

Fructose is a simple sugar that’s found naturally in fruit and in small amounts in some vegetables. It’s the sugar that makes things taste sweet and it exists as follows:

  • Refined sugar (white stuff on grannie’s shelf) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose
  • fructoseHoney is about 30-40% fructose
  • Agave nectar is a whopping 90% fructose
  • Fruits vary in fructose content. For example, bananas are higher, berries are lower

Fructose is unlike other sugars because it’s processed only by the liver. An excessive amount of fructose going through the liver puts strain on this organ. Our bodies just weren’t designed for the amount of fructose that is so readily available today (think fizzy drinks, 1litre cartons of smoothies and slabs of chocolate!).

The three main problems with fructose

1. It converts to fat & increases unhealthy cholesterol

Excess fructose in the liver converts to fatty acids as energy to be stored, so yes, it can lead to fat storage. This excess also increases bad cholesterol and uric acid. Whether it’s from honey, fruit, refined sources like chocolate, cake & sweets or agave nectar, you need to be conscious of your total fructose consumption.

2. You don’t feel full on fructose

Fructose doesn’t suppress your hunger hormones like other foods so you don’t feel as full on it. It’s why you can gorge or binge on sugar quite easily (now that explains my biscuit dilemma). Whilst fruit contains fructose, it also has fibre which does fill you up. This explains why you can’t eat 3 whole apples and a banana in one go (comfortably at least), but you could quite easily drink them in a juice or smoothie without feeling like a massive bloater.

fructose

3. It’s addictive

It’s this sweet sugar fructose that’s addictive. It’s the taste that hits the sweet spot when you’re craving, it releases the feel-good chemical in your brain and it wets your tastebuds for more. You want more and you need more to get the same hit. I know that feeling!

Managing your fructose intake

In your quest for low sugar, be aware that you want to really keep an eye out for the amount of fructose you eat day to day. Our bodies can tolerate a little a day, but not much. Different individuals may have varying sensitivities to fructose. I don’t count fructose grams (way too much hassle), but I’m largely aware of where it is and this is what guides me to eat it in moderation. I generally get my fructose from a few portions of fruit a day, if that.

You can build up a tolerance and taste for fructose. This is where you move towards sugar dependence or the addiction end of the scale. Likewise you can decrease your tolerance gradually reducing or detoxing off fructose.

In a nutshell, it’s important to consider refined sugar and natural fruit together in your daily fructose count and be aware of what it is (which this post should have explained).

I hope this has helped. Hit me if you have any more questions on fructose in the comments below?

Sources

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/28/new-study-confirms-fructose-affects-your-brain-very-differently-than-glucose.aspx

Dr Rober Lustig, Sugar: The Bitter Truth (You Tube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

The Skinny on Obesity (Ep.7 ): Drugs Cigarettes Alcohol…Sugar? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWnbMnnLo5w&list=PL39F782316B425249&index=8

stevia health benefits

What you need to know about Stevia

There’s no doubt about it, sugar substitutes like xylitol, the artificial sweeteners and ‘natural’ sugar sources can all be confusing. I’ve been reading, researching and filling my head with this for over a year now, and I still find it all overwhelmingly baffling at times.

I wanted to get to the bottom of Stevia. Sarah Wilson, my faithful sugar guru, goes with it. Others say it’s processed and natural honey would be better. I decided to do some deeper research and form my own opinion on the new kid in sugar-free town.

What is Stevia?

stevia health benefits

Photo from onezzzart

Stevia is touted as the ‘natural’ sweetener, derived from the Stevia leaf of a South American Plant. The refined extracts of Stevia called Steviosides are said be 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. The Japanese have used it for years, however it’s relatively new in the Western world and especially in Europe.

Stevia is growing in popularity and comes in three main forms:

  • White powder – this is the most processed form of Stevia. It has a ‘filler’ added to it and has spent time in a factory where it’s likely to have been bleeched or whitened.
  • Liquid – The leaf goes through an extraction process but generally, no whiteners, bleach or additives are added
  • Whole leaf (or green) stevia – this is Stevia in it’s purest form. It’s a bit like picking the leaves in your garden, drying them and crushing them into powder. It still contains the chlorophyll from the plant, which explains the green colour.

Stevia health benefits

It’s better than refined sugar. Why?

  • It’s from a natural plant source (although the white powder form could be argued on this point)
  • The sweetness comes from the Stevioside, not fructose, so you’re not adding to your fructose intake by eating it (your body can only really process a small amount of fructose a day which is the main problem with sugar)
  • Studies have shown it does not increase appetite throughout the day, indicating stable blood sugar and satiety levels (that full feeling)
  • It’s been used for years, particularly in Asia where it’s used as a diabetes aid

But…

  • Most of the stuff you buy in the shop is of the more processed nature
  • Research is continuing, we still really don’t know what the human body does with Stevia. As David Gillespie says ‘it’s your call’
  • Increasingly I’ve read that the green leaf Stevia “tastes like grass” (I haven’t tried it myself yet but that point might be relevant before you decide to fork out)
  • Lots of Stevia can affect your taste buds. This stuff is super sweet, so it’s not suprising that it potentially changes the taste sensations in your mouth after a while. Note: Don’t get addicted to it.

My take on Stevia

To be completely honest, I’m not really on the Stevia train, but I do think it’s useful. Here are my thoughts…

I cut back sugar and as a result don’t really need loads of sweetness in my life anymore. If you’re desperately looking for the sweet fix or replacement, you’re not really off it right? I satisfy my sweet with fruit, coconut produce and a little dark chocolate. This seems to work fine for me.

Many of the times I do eat sweet are due to those ‘in the moment’ occasions where I make the lifestyle choice to do so i.e. I’m on holiday and want to try a local speciality, I have a smidge of a homemade birthday cake or I have a pretty looking cocktail by the pool. I doubt they’ve used pure green leaf Stevia just for my convenience and I’m not going to stress about it.

I do think Stevia is great if you like baking or you’re making a dessert. You’re in control and you can make something healthy and sugar-free that still tastes good. I made a carrot cake with it and and no-one noticed. Occasionally I add a sachet to sweeten up a smoothie. I plan to experiment with the liquid variety a bit more in the future and share some interesting recipes, but I’m in no rush to bring it massively into my diet.

To sum up…

Consider Stevia a beneficial natural alternative to sugar (especially when baking) that is handy on occasion. However, don’t rush to buy all the new shiny ‘Stevia-fied’ products thinking they’re all saintly and virtuous, because chances are they’re going to be somewhat processed and unnatural. If you are feeding a sweet need, you’re probably better off with a natural alternative like a banana or a few berries.

I say concentrate on adjusting your tastebuds permanently to desire less sweet, banish your cravings and move towards a more savoury diet. If you want to get started with this, don’t forget to subscribe to Happy Sugar Habits and I’ll send you an easy tip each week for 6 months. Implement all of those and you’ll be well on your way. No regular Stevia habit required :)

Was this useful? Any more questions on Stevia please fire away? Have you tried it?

Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/54052-stevia-processed/
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/stevia/#axzz2SDavolKX
http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_Article/Frequently_asked_questions_FAQ/2269
http://balancedbites.com/2011/04/the-dish-on-sugar-sweeteners.html

Nakd cereal bars review

Review: Nakd cereal bars

Now I was in a quandary when Natural Balance Foods wanted to send me some of their Nakd cereal bars to review. I actually had to sleep on it. Why? Because at one point, these little bad boys fed my sugar addiction. They are not the most sugar saintly thing on the planet. Would it be right to review on my blog? And could I live in peace with a whole box of them in the house?

I thought about those who actually might be reading the post, and I figured I could put together quite an insightful piece on these. It could help those at different points of their sugar-free journey, in different ways. So here’s a review; a handy comparison on a sugar front (they sent me every flavour); and my opinion on when I think eating these is most appropriate.

Nakd cereal bar review: The good and bad

Nakd cereal bars review

One for the chocoholics!

Cereal bars were my thing. I was at the forefront of trying the latest one. They were the supposedly ‘healthy’ way to cure my sweet fix. About 2 years ago I discovered Nakd and I liked them a lot, for the following reasons:

  • Made with 100% natural ingredients i.e. not overly processed
  • Contain mainly just fruits and nuts. Not refined sticky rice puffs like other cereal bars
  • They are pretty substantial and do fill a gap
  • They have a little protein from the nuts
  • They taste delicious (I LOVED the cocoa orange one)

However, on a sugar front they are not so great, due to the following:

  • Most bars are made with dates and raisins. Nearly all of them are made with approximately 50% dates and then another 10-15% raisins on top.
  • Dates and raisins are two of the highest and most concentrated forms of sugar (and fructose) around. Some would even compare them to sweets.
  • They are big portions. 35g in a packet equals more sugar in one go (hard to not eat the whole thing)

How much sugar?

On average we’re talking 14-15g sugar per bar. This is near enough 4 teaspoons which is quite a lot in one hit. I’d say I eat 25g of natural sugar a day now, so it’s a big proportion of that. I found the average cereal bar, for example a Special K, usually was around 7g, so these are over double that. Natural sugars yes, but high in sugar nonetheless.

Nakd cereal bars review

Artistic shot of Nakd bars on my laptop!

Here’s a list of the lowest to highest sugar content by flavour:

  • Ginger Bread 11g
  • Pecan Pie 12g
  • Cashew Cookie 14g
  • Cocoa Orange 14g
  • Cocoa Delight 15g
  • Cocoa Mint 15g
  • Berry Delight 16g
  • Caffe Mocha 17g
  • Rhubarb & Custard 18g

The lower sugar ones are my favourite anyway and the Rhubarb & Custard tastes a bit chemical-like, so that makes picking easy in my eyes.

When to eat these?

So the question is, when are these appropriate? Here’s my view:

1. As a ‘better’ substitute/h4>
If you’ve decided you’re going to eat something sweet and are about to reach for a chocolate bar, a flapjack or a full on dessert, these are a better substitute. They were a definite ‘bridge’ for me in terms of switching bad foods to ‘better’ foods. However, now I would have a square of dark chocolate over one of these, and some greek yoghurt over that. I believe somewhat in a progressive journey.

2. When hungover

I’m most likely to have one of these when I’ve indulged on alcohol the night before. I’ve written about alcohol and blood sugar before, where you might find your body is craving energy while it processes the booze. One of these cereal bars can provide that sugar hit in a more natural way than a bottle of Lucozade if you’re on the go, and are desperately feeling awful.

In summary…

I’m hoping this post has been helpful to you wherever you are on your low sugar journey. I do think Nakd bars have a lot of sugar and they certainly aren’t something I’d advise to eat if you’re actively looking to cut down. They are a big NO for those on my Mentor Me Off Sugar programme and not something I eat regularly these days.

However, I appreciate, everyone is different and at varying stages of lowering sugar, so really, it’s your call. Some are mighty tasty and they are a lot ‘better’ than other sweet things. At least now you can save yourself some sugar credits by opting for the lower sugar ginger bread flavour and you’re fully aware of how much sugar you’re putting away when eating one.

I can’t believe I managed to sit with these on my desk and not eat all morning. A good sign I must have eaten a decent enough protein filled breakfast, and that I’m ‘safe’ from falling back to old ways.

If this has been useful please share, like, comment or wave ;)

What do you think of Nakd bars? I would really love to hear your thoughts on these….favourite flavour, when you eat them etc. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do you know the difference between a banana and a croissant?

Sugar can get a little confusing. Can you explain what the difference is between a banana and a croissant? I’ve been self teaching myself for a while now, and still sometimes I find it hard to explain quickly and painlessly the differences between various foodstuffs.

If you aren’t clear what the difference is between our yellow friend and the French speciality, then read on for where I’ve come to on these two…

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA banana and a croissant are made up of different types of sugar that are metabolised differently by the body
  • A banana contains some fructose (in fact, quite a lot compared to other fruits).
  • Fructose is the thing that makes things taste sweet. Table sugar and all similar ‘added sugar’ is about 50% fructose. If you’re tasting sweet, it’s probably fructose in some form.
  • Too much fructose is dangerous for the body but we can tolerate small amounts i.e. a few portions of fruit a day
  • A croissant doesn’t contain fructose, therefore it doesn’t taste sweet but it is a very refined source of glucose (also a sugar but not the sweet tasting one)
  • Refined glucose like this is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and spikes your blood sugar and insulin release, potentially leading to a later ‘crash’ (not good)
  • A banana on it’s own has a highish glycemic index and so will covert into blood sugar relatively quickly
  • A banana is natural, has fibre (which slows down sugar absorption), potassium and other useful nutrients for the body
  • A croissant is processed and has nada

Easier? Clearer? Hmm maybe not. There are still too many bullets there than I wanted to write.

Ideally you want to be eating a healthy meal or snack balanced with protein and fat which neither a banana or croissant on their own provides. However, if you were on a desert island with only these two options, a banana obviously is going to be the all round healthier choice.

If you are trying to get a handle on your sugar habits and know you’ve already eaten fruits or fructose during the day, it’s possible the banana could take you over the ideal fructose amount. I feel it’s important to be aware of this, because fructose is the sweet tasting ‘addictive’ sugar.

banana

I had a guy recently tell me he ate a few bananas a a day and still craved a maple and pecan slice…err way too much fructose dude!

When I was carefully watching my sugar in order to get off the sweet stuff and lesser my cravings, I was wary of bananas for a period of time. There are lots of other lower fructose fruits you can have as an alternative – berries, satsumas etc. As a result, my tastebuds have adjusted to fructose and when I have the occasional banana, my gosh, it tastes really flipping sweet.

I should also add that ripe bananas contain more fructose than their green tipped friends, so opt for greener ones if you’re on fructose alert.

Hope that helps a little to clear up any confusion. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, so it’s nice to finally let it out.

Any views on bananas? Do you eat them everyday or just occasionally?

Ouch, pretty shocking

Considering the sugar in orange juice and other drinks

The sugar in drinks these days is nothing far from shocking.

It’s one of the most deceiving places for hiding an insane amount of sugar and the easiest way to glug your way over a sensible amount.

Obviously soft drinks are the king of sugar drink sinners, but fruit juices, flavoured waters and the rest of them are all pretty bad. There’s really no way around this one I’m afraid.

The ‘Rethink your drink’ campaign is trying to raise awareness with powerful pictures. I struggled to find one based on drinks we have in the UK but I might try and do something similar in the future because it’s a brilliant visual that demonstrates the point at hand.

Ouch

My habits around drinks

Supposedly being on the healthy side of things over the years, I was never one to really go for Coke or Fanta on a regular basis. I was partial to the odd Lipton Iced tea when abroad and I got into the smoothies and fresh orange juice like many. Obviously they are ‘healthier’ than a  Red Bull but I now steer clear of juice and smoothies on a daily basis. My attitude is now more towards moderate use in the odd cocktail or as a treat here and there if the occasion presents. Juice and smoothies (unless they are mostly green) fall more into the 20% treat area.

Don’t be deceived by juice

Forget the argument that fruit juice has vitamins; you can get the same vitamins, with more fibre from other sources. Take Vitamin C for example, which most people associate with orange juice. Half cup of sliced red pepper or two kiwi fruits have got nearly double the amount of vitamin C as your standard glass of juice, and a heck of a lot less sugar. Broccoli, strawberries and kale are also excellent sources. Not to mention you physically fill more space in your stomach with the whole fruit.

I don’t see Vitamin C as good enough excuse for drinking sugary orange juice unless you are completely stranded from all other forms of healthy food desert island style.

A sweet tasting red pepper in your pasta, salad or just as a snack and you are fighting the flu just as good

Again another argument is that juice allows for better quick absorption of vitamins and minerals. However, it’s the sugars that are absorbed quickly into your blood stream so eating the whole fruit is in fact better to slow the digestion down.

If you’re a fan of juice or such drinks, this can be hard pill to swallow. It’s also quite disheartening to look at a colourful exciting drinks cabinet to know that water or milk are really the only viable options. I relate to the pain having been through it.

Important to also note that drinks with artificial sweeteners should not become the default daily choice. Maybe an occasional treat if water really won’t do, but nothing more. Especially not one to rely on. I explain why when discussing if artificial sweeteners are good for you.

I’ll admit, it makes buying a meal deal suck a bit. It makes you realise how much sugar is on our shelves and how cutting back really limits the choices.

Oasis, no.

Vitamin water, no.

Ribenia, a definite no.

Lucozade, I’ll let it go if the hangover is unbearable.

My best bit of advice. Really visualise the sugar in these drinks and programme your eyes to see it on the shelves. Pick up water without a second thought. Save your sugar spend for a moderated treat which you will really appreciate and not just wash your lunch down with. Once you train yourself to become blind to all fancy drinks 90% of the time, it’s a lot easier.

Remember if you want to join my low sugar community then sign up to Happy Sugar Habits here. At the moment you get a different tip e-mail each week and I’m soon to launch an exciting snack guide. I know I would have loved it two years ago when I was wondering what else I could eat to replace the museli bars.

What drinks do you grab on the go? Are you tempted by fancy colours or flavours? Does water just scream boring?

Ants and leaves not included

Mulberries as a sweet substitute & Go For Life giveaway winner

Ants and leaves not included

Dried fruit was one of my former sugar weaknesses. Oh gosh how I loved raisins, candid peel, dried apricots and prunes etc. Unfortunately, dried fruits are loaded with sugar despite having various health benefits. They contain a lot of fructose which is metabolised in the same way as any sugar.

In an ideal sugar free world, I would cut dried fruit forever and stick to fresh, but there will be lapses, especially with Christmas around the corner. When Go For Life sent me some dried mulberries as one of the healthiest dried fruit alternatives, I thought I would give them a try.

The nutrition facts

Mulberries are literally packed with goodness and loads of health benefits:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Fibre
  • Vitamins C & D
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants (especially reservatol, the same compound found in red wine which you can read about here)

I found two tablespoons suffices as a suitable portion and this contains about 65 calories and 9g of unrefined sugar.

The review

Go For Life mulberries in a handy pack

These mulberries are sweet and crunchy, so a good topping on yoghurt, porridge or a low sugar cereal if you feel you want to sweeten it up. They really do have a nice taste, I particularly liked them with some sunflower and pumpkin seeds for an easy snack.

They will satisfy a sweet craving so are a great substitute for something like raisins where they rank a zillion times higher in terms of nutritional benefit.

Eating them after an intense workout is a good shout where they are going to provide the quick carbohydrate and sugar hit whilst replenishing many of the lost minerals through sweating.

They are also not too sticky and quite easy to transport around. Why not pack a few in your bag if you know there’s going to be other refined sugary temptation later in your day

I will repeat however, they are sweet and sugar dense, so in terms of a low sugar lifestyle these should be a ‘better’ option that you use as a start to replace other foods. Christmas usually is a dried fruit bonanza, so provides the perfect opportunity to swap in some mulberries. Just don’t go to town munching them everyday, despite how tasty they are.

Moderation in the sense you want to be eating a maximum of 50g sugar a day, preferably nearer to the 30g mark, and as much of this unrefined as possible.

Remember, if you haven’t already, sign up to the Happy Sugar Habits weekly e-mail to keep updated with the latest posts and receive a free sugar busting tip each week.

Go For Life Competition Winner

Congratulations to Kim Winter from Devon who won the Go For Life chia seed and coconut oil giveaway last week. Keep an eye out for more giveaways coming soon.

Does anyone else have dried fruit weakness? Do you eat lots of dried fruit thinking they are ‘healthier’ sugars so they are all ok? Have you tried mulberries before and do you like them?

Sources

http://goforlife.eu/superfood-info/mulberry

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/generic-dried-golden-mulberries-482601

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/mulberries.html