Are You Sickly Sweet?
Our love affair with sugar:
Sugar stimulates the “feel-good” chemical dopamine. Our “taste buds” detect sugar and other things in foods. When any type of sugar touches the tongue, our taste buds send a signal to the brain. Then the brain reacts in a way that we feel as pleasure.
We are genetically programmed to enjoy sweetness from birth. So to say “I have a sweet tooth” is like saying “I am a human being!” We control the extent of our sweet tooth in the decisions we make in our daily diet.
It is very easy to overeat sugar and the more we feed the desire, the sweeter our ‘tooth’ will be!
Sugar doesn’t only taste good, it adds texture and sweetness. It is also a preservative and can add colour to food. So there are some good reasons not to banish it completely.
What type of sugar do we eat too much of:
Carbohydratess are classified on their structure. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, which means it is a very simple structure so does not need much digestion. Therefore it can enter your blood stream fast and cause the blood sugar levels to go up.
Free sugar is any sugar that is added to a food or drink, either by the food manufacturer or us. Types of free sugars are, honey, syrups, sugar sweetened fruit juices. Vegetable juices & smoothies still count as free sugar intake. Whole fruit, vegetables & milk don’t count as free sugar because they are still in their whole form.
Your dentist and your bank account, as dental disease is a well documented downfall of a sugary diet. Your family and friends, if your health becomes compromised by a high sugar diet and an excess amount of weight is gained. This in turn can lead to type 11 diabetes and low level inflammation. The pandemic highlighted how dangerous this can be when a virus such as COVID strikes. That is beside the lack of energy that goes hand in hand with blood sugars that are rising and falling like the big wheel at a fairground!
What are ’empty calories?’
Any food that has no nutritional value.
You could gain an unhealthy amount of weight through consuming too many ’empty’ calories (no nutritional benefit) and this can cause low level inflammation. diet causes weight gain and high consumption of sugary drinks type 2 diabetes. Empty calories and inflammation.
What is too much?
Free sugars should not amount to more than 5% of our daily diet. That equates to 5-6 teaspoons per day for women and 7/8 for men. This the absolute max. To see how far from this we are, recent studies show that only 4% of children and 13% of adults are keeping within these targets. Most of us are way over the targets.
Remember, in moderation sugar provides us with much needed energy, but eat too much of it and it wil have the opposite effect as your body struggles to cope with the constant blood sugar fluctuations.
Do we need to stop eating it altogether?
No. Life is to short not to have cake! But, you can train yourself to have less of a sweet tooth and it’s not that difficult. Looking to whole foods rather than those with added sugar is a start and then looking at how much sugar you add to your daily diet in all its forms.
Why looking for alternatives is not always a good idea:
Replacing one sugar with another because we think its healthier is not the way forward. Learn how to reduce our sweet cravings in our diets makes more sense. Be mindful of the choices you make to keep within the guidelines. Sugar still intact in fruit does not have the same effect on blood sugar as free sugar does and it has chemicals and fibre that is really good for us.
Honey: Is it healthier? Honey contains flavornoids which have anti inflammatory properties and this widely sold to us a health benefit. What we don’t realise is that there are only only trace levels so the benefits are virtually non-existent. It is however soothing & sweeter than sugar. Despite the calorie increase (1 tbsp of honey = 64 calories as opposed to 48 caloriess in table sugar) you might use less to get the same sweetness. Make no mistake, honey will affect your blood sugar levels in the same way as sugar.
Argarve Syrup: This has fast become a favourite alternative sweetener, especially amongst ‘health bloggers,’ It comes from the argave plant which sounds like a promising start. However, during the processing, which is high heat, all the benefits of this plant are destroyed. It does not spike the blood sugar levels as much as sugar because it is low in glucose. It is in fact, 85% Fructose, the following note explains why that is not necessarily a good thing.
Note: Not every cell in the body can metabolise Fructose as it can glucose. It is metablolised in the liver just like alcohol. The liver can manage small amounts of fructose such as whole fruit which still contains its fibre but if we add sweeteners that are fructose-focussed the levels can have a negative effect on liver function.
Stevia: This is another plant, the Stevia plant and it is 30 times sweeter than than sugar in its whole leaf form. Once processed into its refined form, it becomes 300 times sweeter than sugar. There are no calories and it does not count as part of your free sugar intake and there is no effect on blood sugar levels. You can see why this as a popular choice amongst dieters.
The problem with such a sweet alternative, is that it does not address the sweet tooth, hence masking the underlying issue.
In summary, if we are to reach a healthy sugar balance, we need to address our sweet cravings. If you want any further information or tips on how to achieve this, I will be only too happy to help.