Why eat less sugar?

People everywhere are being mislead and misinformed everyday and are consuming more sugar than ever. I should know, I was one of them. A ‘low fat’ junkie who, in pursuit of a nice figure and good health, ended up loving all things sweet and having a bit of a sugar addiction.

This widespread love of sweet is going to lead to long term health problems and increase everyone’s chances of serious disease. You might have noticed we have an obesity epidemic going on, but you don’t have to be overweight or obese to have a problem with sugar.  It can and does affect a much wider range of people, from the super fit gym bunny to the skinny men who appear not to each much. Why? Because it’s flipping addictive.

What’s the science behind it?

Well, if you’ve time, start here with Dr Lustig’s online lecture. My favourite quote…

“Fat’s going down, sugar’s going up and we’re all getting sick”

It’s a fact, diabetes is on the up and is predicted to affect 4.4 million people in the UK by 2020. Recent studies show that sugar is closely associated with diabetes. It discovered that if more of your calories are from sugar (over anything else), your chances of diabetes increase. That throws out the calorie counting argument a bit. A calorie is not just a calorie, it is very important what that calorie actually is i.e. fat, carbohydrate (including sugar) or protein.

Why the great sugar misunderstanding?

In the 80’s and 90’s fat became the source of all evil in the world of weight loss. “Low fat” became a whole new market overnight and now brands like Be Good to yourself and Shapers are stable brands found in UK supermarket baskets widespread. Fat makes things taste good – I mean where would toast be without butter?…dry cardboard anyone? To make fat free produce taste good, the usual culprit to be added is sugar or sweetner in some form or another. So here’s the problem, low fat can sometimes means more sugar and not everyone is fully aware of this.

If you take the sugar out you could be back to cardboard and that’s not fun. Some basic awareness, a sense of balance and a bit of everything is the most sensible approach, but it’s not easy when you have skilled marketers convincing you this is the golden ‘diet’ product you’ve been looking for in your slimming woes.

Brown or white it is pretty much the same

In the UK the NHS recommends 50g sugar for women[1] and American Heart Association recommends 30g[2]. In Britain the current average is 72g a day. There’s quite a difference in these figures and fair to say there are lots of different opinions about the recommended amount. Research on the internet and you can end up completely confused.

One thing is pretty clear however, whatever the recommended quota – we’re on average eating way too much. Ideally our bodies were only designed for a few pieces of fruit a day. NOT a smoothie, a fizzy drink, a slice of cake and some microwave meal with yet more added sugar.

Quick info bite: Type 2 diabetes is caused by your body becoming less responsive to insulin – a key hormone that controls your blood sugar level i.e. transfers the energy from your food to your cells.

If you’ve eaten quick releasing sugars like cupcakes, cookies or white bread throughout the day, your body will have been secreting insulin like it’s no tomorrow. It’ll have been up and down like a big dipper and chances are you will have felt it (energy slump anyone?). Sustain this for a long period of time (i.e. years) and your body is going to get bored of having insulin around all the time, so much so, it’ll possibly start to ignore it. Type 2 diabetes is when people need artificial insulin injections to help them convert food energy to their cells because they can’t do it themselves.

What you want is to balance your blood sugar throughout the day so you have a normal amount of insulin doing the rounds. Protein, fat and complex fibre rich carbohydrates are what will help do this. You don’t feel hungry and you stop craving the next sugar or bread-like carb craving . That’s a pretty nice outcome. I’d say it’s preferable to eating a muffin, suffering a sugar crash and then half starving the rest of the day whilst you try to limit the calories to balance it all out i.e. the worst thing to do.

Mr big juicy muffin, are you really worth it?!

Fructose

Fructose is the part of sugar that tastes sweet. Fructose is found in fruit and it constitutes 50% of table sugar or ‘added sugar’ as you may know it. Too much fructose is dangerous for the body. It produces fatty acids in the blood and our bodies are really only designed for small amounts of it.

Lots of fructose = lots of fatty acids = more fat. Ideally a few portions (1-3) of fruit is enough fructose per day.

Fructose is the addictive part of sugar. That’s why I used to love dried fruit, because it massively hit that sweet spot and was a very concentrated source of fructose.

In getting your 5-a-day (which should be 7) you really want to be eating more vegetables than fruit. Fruit should be moderated sensibly.

Take your pick…green veg are gooood!

So now you’re clued up, you can start to become a bit more aware of the big bad sugar wolf and keep a careful eye out. Eating enough fat, understanding what good snacks can keep the blood sugar on an even keel and watching your fructose consumption is without doubt better than yo-yo dieting and starvation.

Your relationship with food doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ and ‘good’. You can just start to listen to your natural hunger once you get off that sugar high.

If this blog can change just a few of your sugar habits on just some occasions, then good job done. If you start to slim down, notice you don’t suffer ‘god I need chocolate now’ cravings or just enjoy your lifestyle without the worry of weight gain then even better :)

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[1] http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1139.aspx?CategoryID=51&SubCategoryID=167

[2] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Sugar_UCM_306725_Article.jsp

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth
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