We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for you. In fact, ‘sugar’ is the new ‘cholesterol’ we need to veer away from as it’s become the new culprit to bad health! But the media loves to look at the extreme of things to make them newsworthy and doesn’t always represent what’s actually good or bad for you. So before you throw out all your high sugar fruit and reach for that slice of bacon as a justification for healthy dieting according to new protocols, here are some facts you should know.
Both simple and complex sugars are found in the foods mother nature makes. It’s a natural carbohydrate found in milk (in the form of lactose), in fruit (in the form of fructose), and in honey and natural sweeteners (in the form of glucose).
Yes, these are calories and yes, these do increase your blood sugar content. But your body and brain need some carbohydrates to function. So rather than seeing the world in black or white, in bad or good, in sugar or sugar free, consider that the biggest concern to health isn’t just natural sugars found in mother nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables, but in the processed and refined sugars that contribute to the added sugars we tend to consume in excess on a daily basis.
So why is all of this so important?
Nearly one third of the world’s population is either overweight or obese. Our sugar intake has increased more than 5 times over the past three decades. This has resulted in an increase in diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, renal failure, kidney disease, blood pressure problems and macular degeneration. The countries with the highest numbers of obesity are US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia, according to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. UK, Canada and Australia are not far behind.
This might sound worrying, but you can take charge of your added sugar intake and make a real, positive change to your health. Here are some ways to reduce your daily sugar intake:
1. – Go for spice instead of sweet.
Adding spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint and other flavors can make something really tasty without having to add the sugars. For instance, add cinnamon and nutmeg to a baked apple for a sweet dessert.
2. – Fill up on the healthy foods.
If you eat the amount of vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats your body needs and should be eating, then there’s really little room left for lots of cakes, cookies and ice creams.
3. – Skip the juice and sugary drinks.
We often pay attention to the type of solid food being consumed and try to have a healthy intake that way, but forget about the liquids being drunk. Alcohol (beer, wine and liquor) has a lot of sugar in it, just like soda and even fruit juice. Even those few teaspoons you put in your morning coffee can add up. So pay attention to having little more than water and tea throughout the day and keeping the rest at a minimum.
4. – Avoid “low fat” foods.
The reduction of the fat content often means that the manufacturers have had to increase the sugar content to make the product more palatable. Always look at labels and aim for items that have the most natural food products (ingredients you can actually pronounce and recognize) and that are free from additives, including added forms of sugar.
5. – Read the labels.
Foods that end in “ose” like glucose, fructose, galactose (all forms of monosaccarides or simple sugars), maltose, sucrose and lactose (forms of disaccarides which are complex sugars) are forms of sugar. If you see these, then you’re seeing forms of added sugar. Similar are syrup types (corn syrup, rice syrup, etc) and nectars (like agave nectar). Foods that ense in “tol” like xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are sugar substitutes. Because they contain a fraction of the calories of sugar and syrup, they are often used in low-sugar and low-calorie foods. Get to know the names of the artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. These are very sweet in taste and send the sweetness message to the brain, but can create confusing messages to the neural system leading to over-eating and sweet-tooth cravings.