Sugar! What is all the fuss about?
I have an event coming up soon involving sugar free cooking, so I have been getting my head around all the research out there to really understand what all the fuss is about. In this post I am going to share the main points with you so you can get clear on why sugar is so bad for your health and what you can do about it.
Types of sugar
There are naturally occurring sugars in most foods and are particularly high in the carbohydrate category such as fruit, milk, vegetables, bread, pasta etc. These include monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose and galactose. These form the building blocks for disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides making sucrose, maltose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), amongst others. HFCS is increasingly being used in the food industry because it is cheap and very sweet. Then there are also sugar alcohols such as Xylitol, Sorbitol and Stevia. Then there is added sugar that is added to manufactured foods for many reasons; taste and preservation being the top two.
Finding out how much ADDED sugar you are eating is almost impossible as manufacturers are only required to state total sugar in a product. Sadly there are many tricks manufacturers do to confuse consumers including using many unfamiliar names for sugar. Here is a list of 61 ADDED sugars that you may see on labeling.
How much sugar?
The current guidelines cited by the world health organisation (WHO) for total sugar intake is 10% of your total daily calorie intake (with the aim of reducing this to 5%), this equates to 50g total sugar (25g added sugar) for women and 70g total sugar (38g added) for men. To put this into context a can of soda has 33g of sugar and a well know brand of bran and raisin cereal has 20g per serving!
Hidden ADDED sugar
These are found in most processed or manufactured foods, 74% of manufactured foods add sugar to be precise! There are obvious foods such as cakes, biscuits, cereals. But also so called healthy foods such as granola bars, low fat yogurt, ready meals. The most worrying aspect of added sugar is foods promoted to children. To put this into context an adult will have up to two teaspoons of glucose circulating in their blood stream at any time. A can of soft drink can have 33g of sugar around 6 teaspoons which is a lot for a small body to process.
What is so bad about this?
A whole host of modern chronic diseases can and are being linked to a higher intake of sugar. Obesity, Diabetes type 2, Heart Disease, Cancer and emerging research is linking Alzheimer’s, dubbed diabetes type 3 and non alcoholic fatty liver from a high consumption of HFCS (used in soft drinks amongst many other foods). ALL sugar (natural and man made) spikes insulin and then a hormonal cascade ensues which can exacerbate these modern diseases. On top of this, research has shown there are addictive qualities to sugary foods making it almost impossible to resist. Furthermore sugar can mess with your appetite hormonal regulation (particularly leptin) making it hard to know when you are full. A high sugar diet can also cause disruption to your delicate internal digestive eco-system; your gut micro flora which has been linked to depression, anxiety and IBS symptoms.
As you can see sugar does not serve you. Try to minimise your intake by preparing your own meals, eating whole foods as near to their natural state as possible, keeping cakes and biscuits for those special occasions (think 80/20 rule). Keeping away from fruit juices, soft drinks and reduce your alcohol intake.