Sugar, saccharin, fructose, glucose, many names for essentially the same substance! It can be white, brown, raw, or in the form of honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut nectar and a host of other disguises. Sugar has massively come under fire in recent times, many of you will have heard on the ‘I Quit Sugar Diet’or the paleo diet, both of which call for dramatically reducing or avoiding the sweet stuff completely. Why you ask? Is it all a fad, a farce? Is there truth to these purported claims that sugar is the root of all evil, or is someone just taking us all for a ride and laughing all the way to the bank.
Let’s put this into some context. A lot of what I hear via patients, social media and family and friends is that is seems the “everything in moderation ‘ mantra is ok to apply everything we eat, including sugar. Where I think this theory (or excuse) falls a little flat is in understanding exactly where sugar hides. We all know that lollies, chocolate, ice cream, soft drink, cakes and pastries are full of it, but did you know that a bowl of ‘healthy’ cereal can have more sugar than a can of soft drink? That a serving of low fat yoghurt can have 7 teaspoons of sugar! 7! Fruit juice can have 18-20 tsp of sugar! The World Health Organisation stipulates that 6 teaspoons of sugar per day is ok, think about that. A fruit juice may contain your body’s sugar needs for 3 days in one 300ml serve.
Don’t worry, I can hear you all thinking, but fruit is healthy, aren’t sugars in fruit ok? And my answer to that is layered……. I think a big problem is that we are not consuming the WHOLE fruit or food. When we just isolate and drink the juice, we are not consuming the fibre and flesh which stabilises the breakdown of the sugars, not to mention to get a full glass of juice you would need 5-6 pieces of fruit! 1 apple has 3-4 tsp of sugar alone!
The moral of this story is that the theory of ‘moderation’ need apply to those foods high in natural sugars as well as completely omitting or drastically limiting lollies and soft drink all together. Our bodies need and crave fats and protein for brain function, cell health and optimum nutrition. The level of sugar that our bodies actually require is very little. 2 pieces of fruit daily is ample. Also remembering than starchy carbs in the form of rice, bread, pasta, muesli, muesli bars etc all break down to glucose in the blood. A few slices of white bread may as well be a packet of lollies, the body sees it in exactly the same light. A food does NOT have to taste sweet to pack a huge glucose hit in your body. Instead fill your bodies with healthy foods like vegetables, salads, eggs, Free range meat, fish and poultry, a little organic dairy, nuts and seeds.
Excess sugar consumption is now being irrefutably linked to the development of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases and auto immune conditions to name a few. When we consume too much sugar, or more than the body can handle at any one time that is not burnt for energy, it travels to the liver to be converted and stored as FAT. Fat is not making us fat, too mush sugar is making us fat and sick.
It dramatically effects mood, behaviour and mental health, energy, sleep and metabolism.
Sugar can be more addictive than smoking, alcohol and drugs. The same chemical is released after you eat sugar as when you take some recreational drugs.
So next time you crave bread, pasta, carbs and of course chocolate, lollies and soft drink, stop and think about how much sugar are actually eating. Most Australians consume on average, 40 teaspoons a day, 7 times more than is required…….. That is a lot of health problems waiting to happen. For those that would love to know more, do yourself a favour a watch ‘That Sugar Film”, its a game changer.