First we were told to avoid fat because it is was not good for our health, then came salt as the evil one and now sugar is the bad boy in town!
Our love story with sweet food is as old as we are, beginning perhaps with the first lick of icing from our birthday cake, followed by other sugary goodies like candies and ice cream. We are so enamoured with sugar we use it to signify our love with words like sweetheart, sweetie-pie, honey bunch, sugar pie and sugar cone, amongst many more.
SUGAR AS FUEL
It makes sense, it is programmed in our DNA since our cells depend on sugar (simple carbohydrate) from food converted into glucose for energy.
Today, it is becoming evident that the amounts we get from whole foods in nature versus added sugars matter with recommendations of keeping the added sugars to as few as 6 tsp (25 grams) per day.
NATURAL VERSUS REFINED SUGAR
Natural sugars present mainly as fructose in fruits and lactose in milk and cheese. They provide essential nutrients as well as antioxidants serving to protect us from disease. The fiber in fruits (mainly in the skin) helps us to feel full and keeps our weight in check.
Refined sugars, however, are void of nutrients and are extracted and processed from sugar cane or beets. White and brown sugars are examples we use in baking and in many of the items in the grocery stores. There are over 50 different names for sugar used in the production of food, normalizing it and making it hard to keep track of.
OVERFED BUT UNDERNOURISHED
Whereas our ancestors consumed sugar from fiber-rich plants after expending energy to find and then pick them, we are now bombarded with over 25,000 items in the grocery stores containing refined sugar. Many processed foods like cereals, breads, snacks, desserts, flavored yogurts and drinks, often contain high fructose corn syrup and more white starches (more sugar), are energy dense yet nutrient deficient, offering excessive amounts of sugar, bad fats and too much salt and contributing to overconsumption of empty calories. Many people get amounts of sugar of over 22 tsp per day versus the recommended 6 tsp. It is no wonder that the rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases are on the rise. We are overfed but undernourished and if you are pre-diabetic, reducing your sugar intake can be life-saving.
OCCASIONAL TREATS AND WHOLESOME OPTIONS
If we were to consume the occasional treat or opt for fiber-rich wholesome fruits rather than juice and cakes, perhaps make some of our own wholesome treats, we can surely prevent many of these diseases and maintain an optimal weight.
EAT THEM RIGHT
I help people to choose their carbohydrates (slow burning and fibre-rich) wisely and eat them early on in the day as our ability to handle them gets worse as the day progresses, especially if we are inert.
WHOLE FOOD VS PROCESSED FOOD
Naturally occurring sugars from vegetables, fruits and whole grains are healthy options.
To best simply describe what happens when we consume a whole plant food versus a processed food.
Apple with skin:
Contains many great nutrients including sugar (fructose) and fiber. The fiber must be broken down by our gut bacteria and so the digestion is slowed down releasing the sugar more slowly which is easier on our liver and our gut.
Soda/sports drinks and many processed foods:
The sugar (fructose) in soda (void of nutrients or fiber) immediately inundates our liver (causes fat buildup) and intestines preventing them from doing their jobs and raising our blood sugar levels much too quickly.
GOOD TO KNOW
Sugars: 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon
Read the label and divide the number
of grams of sugar by 4 to get the number
of teaspoons of sugar in any product
THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR
The occasional sugary treat will not kill us but:
Mother nature’s fiber-rich functional foods deliver the best form of sugar and antioxidants.
The closer we are to the plant the better the quality of the sugar.
The damage from excess sugar, fats and salt have a cumulative toll on our health
IT IS NOT JUST THE SUGAR…
Sugar is not the only culprit that can wreak havoc on your health, and an occasional treat won’t kill us, but rather the overconsumption of unwholesome calories in general, especially within the context of a sedentary lifestyle.
Somewhere along the way the surplus of calories from any source of food, sugar or other, if not burned off through exercise will inevitably be converted to fat, and the closer it sits near your heart the worst it is for you.
The good news is that it is never too late to start your journey towards health and in many cases reverse some of the damage.