What is So Bad About Sugar?
Sugar intake is not harmful in small amounts, however if you are having sugar in excess it can lead to further problems. The problem with excess sugar is that it is thought to:
Be Addictive – it is thought that sugar activates the pleasure centre in our brain much like other addictive substances.
Affect our Appetite Centre – can cause people to feel hungry all the time.
Cause Weight Gain – through conversion to body fat due to the effects of insulin.
Predispose Us to Disease – such as heart disease, diabetes, gout, and worsen polycystic ovaries.
Lead to Bloating – due to the bacteria in our intestines fermenting the undigested sugars.
What sort of foods contain sugar?
Sugar is found in refined white sugar as well as naturally in fruits and many vegetables, honey, rice malt or bran syrup, coconut sugar, rapadura, molasses, and agave syrup. It is often hidden in sauces, breakfast cereals, and snack foods. The average Australian consumes around 60 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar from all sources per day. Ideally our sugar consumption should be no more than half this amount.
How Do You Know if You Are Addicted to Sugar?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions then you are likely have a level of addiction to sugar.
- Do you have routines around sugar consumption such as buying a chocolate bar most nights on the way home from work?
- Do you need sugar hits daily?
- If forced to go without sugar for 24 hours, do you develop headaches and mood swings?
- Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without having ‘just one’?
How to Reduce Your Sugar Consumption?
Try the following tips to reducing sugar consumption if you suspect that you may be addicted to sugar:
- Avoid eating more than 2 pieces of fruit per day. Fill the rest of your quota of fresh produce with vegetables.
- Stick to low GI fruits as the daily norm such as apples, pears, stone fruit, mandarins, berries, kiwifruit, and grapefruit. Save high GI fruits such as watermelon, other melons, mango, and bananas for occasional consumption.
- Have protein with your fruit serves such as a small handful of nuts or plain yoghurt, which will slow down the absorption of the fruit sugar into the bloodstream
- Read labels and aim for foods that have less than 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams of product.
- Do not add sugar to tea or coffee.
- Avoid adding sugar to your baking. If you need to sweeten your baking consider using stevia or xylitol which are extracted from plants and do not spike insulin levels as much as sugar. Avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartate due to unknown long term effects on human health.
- Limit processed foods such as biscuits, muesli bars, desserts, cakes, muffins and pastries.
- Do not drink fruit juices regularly. This includes sweet vegetable juices, which often contain large amounts of apple, orange or carrots to sweeten them. Save drinking juice to the occasional outing rather than daily.
- Remember that alcohol is converted to pure sugar in the body and so rapidly spikes blood sugar levels. Keep alcohol consumption to moderate levels and when you do drink have a small meal at the same time to reduce blood sugar spiking.
- Do not have commercial cereal for breakfast. It is full of hidden sugars. Choose plain oats, bran, poached eggs, plain yoghurt with berries, or a protein shake instead.