Sugar is in fact essential to life, however sugar is a major contributing factor to much of today’s ill-health
Average dietary intake of sugar today is four times as much as it was 100 years ago, becoming a staple part of the Western diet.
If you walk into a supermarket today, most of the packaged and processed foods are packed with added-sugar in some form or other, even those that you find in healthfood sections. Added sugar is the problem, not sugar found in form of fructose in things like fresh fruit. The easiest and best way to get away from it is to cook from scratch, that way you know what is going into your food. Is it worth the trouble? I would say a resounding YES.
Health Hazards of Added Sugar
Added sugar creates inflammation in the body, raises blood acidity levels, causes excess mucus and is the fuel that cancer thrives on. Sugar converts to fat, contributes to blood sugar problems which in turn can contribute to diabetes. Heart health problems, high blood pressure, dementia and obesity are also linked with sugar. Each of these areas on their own could fill a book, as there is so much information about it.
The single most important piece of health advice I can pass on to my clients, is to avoid this kind of sugar altogether. This means as a habit don’t add sugar to your food or buy food that has sugar added to it. Of course, there are times where this isn’t realistic, but your daily habits are the thing I would like to emphasis and where you can make real gains. Also, there are alternatives, which I go over below.
A healthy diet should be very low in added sugar, low in non-vegetable carbohydrates and contain some protein.
Does the Body Need Sugar?
Sugar is broken down in the body to produce glucose. Glucose is used by every cell for energy, with the brain needing a large proportion and without which it could not function. This does not mean that lots of sugar equals a healthy brain – but the brain does need a steady supply. When the supply of sugar is not steady then there are clear side affects, such as hypo- or hyperglycemia (diabetes).
Your body controls sugar by secreting insulin, a hormone to keep sugar levels within a certain safe range.
Because sugar comes in many different forms and not just the crystalline granules we put in our tea or coffee, most average people get far too much and this glucose gets stored as fat.
Avoiding Added Sugar
Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever. In fact, added sugar leaches nutrients out of your body.
Unfortunately, when we label-read in a supermarket, there are so many names that sugar can come under, that’s it’s easy to miss. Here are just some:
Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup, Dextrose or crystal dextrose, Fructose, Maltose, Lactose, Sucrose, Glucose, Evaporated cane juice or fruit juice, Caramel, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Raw sugar, Dextrin and maltodextrin, Rice syrup, Molasses, Evaporated corn sweetener, Confectioner’s powdered sugar, Agave nectar, Other fruit nectar (for example, pear nectar)
Processed foods often contain high levels of added sugar that has been separated from its original co-nutrients. This means that it is ingested in the body without the fibre, healthy fats or protein that naturally slow down the sugar absorption.
Foods to watch out for include things like sweetened yogurts, breakfast cereals, snack bars, sweet treats, juices, fizzy drinks – with high amounts of refined sugar and fructose.
Sugar comes in many forms. Sugar is in syrups, candy, cakes, soda, alcohol, canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter and jam, pickles and relishes, mayonnaise, powdered milk, processed meat, bread and even cigarettes.
A double handful of dried pasta equals about three tablespoons of sugar. Potato, bread and rice also are very high in a form sugar, all of which your body has to process and which will end up being a form of glucose.
Giving your body high amounts of carbohydrates like rice, pasta, potatoes and bread, as well as other simpler forms of sugars, will contribute to weight gain and many more conditions, such as inflammatory conditions, skin problems, joint and muscle pain, insomnia, elevated cholesterol, increased mucus production, impaired immunity, mental fog, depression, lack of libido, and dizziness.
When blood sugar levels go up insulin is produced in the body which triggers fat to be stored on the body. It also creates free radical which act on the body by destroying cells and shortening their life span.
Fructose is the form of natural sugar found in small amounts in fruits and veg, which usually have a good balance of the different forms of sugar. If you are eating a balanced diet it’s not something to worry about because the body is geared up to metabolize these kinds of natural sugars with their co-factors that are found in the fruits and vegetables themselves. Including fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet is shown through research to help protect against disease and is a healthy option. Added sugar is the focus of concern, not natural sugars when eaten in their wholefood form.
One thing to note however, is that some natural products have very high amounts of fructose, such as honey and agave. In fact agave (which is often processed) contains more fructose than the dreaded High Fructose Corn Syrup. Evidence suggests that large amounts of fructose consumption is actually the most damaging form of sugar for your health. While honey is also a concentrated form of sugar, you can buy it in its natural form and if eaten in moderation does offer some health benefits.
Fat Free Doesn’t Mean Sugar Free
One of the troubles with low fat foods is that the way the taste is compensated for is often through added sugar.
Fat is not actually the problem. Healthy fats are essential to good health.
Of course we all like to have sweet treats and while alternatives.
I recommend avoiding processed sweeteners, such as aspartame.
The one sweetener I would opt for is the herb Stevia because it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels. You can use this in cooking or to add to your tea and coffee, meaning that you don’t have to sacrifice sweet treats.
Here is an example of the above with a client of mine who visited me.
When I saw Sarah she was a 32 year-old sales rep working long hours. Her main complaints were that she was over weight, constantly tired yet could not sleep well at night and was also experiencing mood swings that included anxiety and depression. She also said that she felt she looked terrible and her skin and complexion was lacking tone, with an unhealthy complexion.
Sarah was working some 50-60 hours a week and was relying on several strong coffees every day and a couple of alcoholic drinks at night to get her through the day.
On top of all this, her performance at work was now under threat since her production was being affected by her condition and this was causing her to go into a diminishing spiral of low morale and further emotional strain.
Sarah’s diet was our first issue. Typically she was having a muffin (packed with sugar), orange juice and a coffee with one sugar for breakfast. Sometimes she would skip lunch – but if she did have lunch it would be a sandwich with salad and meat. Dinner was typically pasta and vegetarian sauce or grilled meat with potato and vegetables with a glass of wine.
Well this is a pretty typical diet for most you might think – and you would be right!
Sarah’s orange juice, muffin and coffee were causing a massive spike of insulin – she said it helped her “wake up” but this was causing an acceleration of the ageing process and causing adrenal exhaustion in her body. The bread she was having at lunch was competing for digestion with the meat in her sandwich and causing more weight gain and the pasta at night was dramatically causing further blood sugar spikes increasing weight gain.
There is another key thing wrong with Sarah’s diet ? virtually no protein.
I got Sarah to drop out the pasta, muffin, orange juice and bread as these were the main culprits in her fatigue, weight gain and other symptoms.
In its place she introduced an omelet for breakfast made with 1 whole egg and two egg whites. Lunch was chicken or turkey with salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. This was followed by a salad in the evening with grilled salmon or tuna. I told her that having a glass of wine was fine with her evening meal. This was a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
In addition to this, minerals in specific forms and amounts were introduced. She also started on a homeopathic formula to help with stress and anxiety, a multivitamin mineral supplement to give her B vitamins and antioxidant and trace minerals for energy.
Two weeks later Sarah returned looking quite different; happy and bright. She was sleeping well and energy was way up. Sagging in her face and eyes was visibly reduced and her face looked toned and healthy. She said she was feeling bright mentally and her anxiety had gone.