Sugar: Friend or Enemy?

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Sugar: Friend or Enemy?

Sugar… friend or enemy?

Is sugar bad for me?? I hear this question a lot and the answer is not a simple yes or no. Sugar, like most things, in proportion is not bad for you and a small amount is recommended in your diet. The problem arises when we consume sugar in excess and here lies a bigger problem… do we really know how much sugar we’re eating?
Sugar is hidden in many products we consume today, ranging from the obvious to the not so obvious. We know there’s sugar in chocolate bars, sweets, cakes and biscuits but what a lot of consumers don’t know is about the sugars hidden in products such as ready meals, cereal bars, yoghurts, bread, cereals and the list goes on. This then leads us on to a scarier thought; if we didn’t even know it was in there we sure as hell don’t know how much is in there, and let me tell you it’s not pretty!

The recommended daily allowance for women is 6 teaspoons and for men 9 teaspoons, in a simple can of fizzy drink there can be 8 teaspoons of sugar!

So this our battle, how do we cut sugar out when we don’t know what we’re eating. In today’s fast paced society where quick, easy and convenient foods are sometimes the only option this is easier said than done. So here’s some simple tips for you to try:
• Avoid ready meals, pre-packaged sandwiches, pasta salads,
• Stick to 2 pieces of fruit a day; while fruit is good for you it is full of natural sugars, so make up the rest of your 5 a day with vegetables,
• Avoid low fat products; when removing the fat in products sugar is added to improve flavour. It would be better for you, and more beneficial to weight loss, to have some natural fats than added sugars,
• Have regular snacks to maintain your blood sugar levels, when your sugar levels drop you crave sugary foods. Avoid these cravings by keeping snacks on you such as unsalted nuts, vegetable sticks or oatcakes. Try to have something to eat every 2-3 hours,
• Don’t be fooled into thinking sugar is only in sweet products, it is also hidden in savoury products such as pasta sauces etc.
• Lastly be that person in the shop checking all the packets for the ingredients, there’s no shame in checking what you’re putting into your body. Ingredients are listed from the highest volume ingredient to the lowest volume ingredient so you know if sugar is first, second or third on the list the product is far too high in sugar! Also look out for other names for sugar such as sucrose, fructose and dextrose.

It is now useful to be aware of the two different forms of sugar; simple sugars and complex sugars.
Simple sugars are released quickly into the bloodstream therefore giving you a sugar high and a resulting sugar crash. This will cause you to crave further sugary products to give you that sugar high again. The jury is still out on whether you can be physically addicted to sugar however I think we need to be well aware that this sugar crash and the resulting craving for further sugary foods is a form of addiction and can lead to serious health problems.

Complex sugars are known as ‘good’ sugars as they are released slowly into the body, giving you a steady stream of energy therefore avoiding such dramatic energy highs and lows.

Simple sugars are found in refined foods such as white bread, white pasta, cakes, biscuits and also some natural products such as fruits and milk products. These simple sugar products are known as ‘empty calories’ as they more often than not have no nutrients meaning all your consuming is the simple sugars with no vitamins, minerals, proteins or other necessary nutrients. Therefore I suggest swapping these for the more nutrient dense, slow releasing, complex versions such as brown bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Sugar is becoming the enemy due to the rise in diet related obesity and high cholesterol which in turn can lead to heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. However we can avoid this and make sugar our friend if we just start to pay attention to how much sugar we’re putting into our bodies and engage in mindful eating… trust in yourself and not the big corporations to give your body what it needs.