If like myself, you pay the slightest bit of attention to whats going on in the world then you will have probably heard all about our newest enemy: Sugar. There’s been such a kerfuffle about the stuff, I felt I had no choice but to investigate. So I set down my white chocolate mocha with extra whipped cream (18 teaspoons of sugar), and got to work.
The first thing that popped up was a questionnaire entitled ‘Are you addicted to sugar?’. As a relatively fit & healthy 19 year old (bar my Starbucks addiction), who never takes sugar in her tea and rarely orders dessert when at a restaurant, I really thought I’d sail through this one. The first question read: “Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking ‘just one’?”
I pondered this one for a second. I do like the odd treat. I didn’t hesitate when opting for a large drink this morning. “Start as you mean to go on,” I told myself. I’ll say ‘yep’ to this one.
Okay so next question: “Do you have routines around sugar? For example, needing a treat to relax in front of the television.”
Ummhmm, I can’t have a brew without a biscuit, that’s just criminal, but that’s normal right? Again, I sat gazing at my laptop, a wave of self-doubt washed over me; I knew where this was going.
“Are there times when you feel as though you absolutely cannot go on without a sugar hit?”
When driving past Starbucks (every day), I absolutely cannot fly-by with out grabbing a quick caramel frappuccino with extra whipped cream.
“If you are forced to go 24 hours without sugar do you develop headaches and mood swings?”
Finally one I could say ‘no’ to. I don’t get headaches, but if somebody told me I couldn’t have my morning Mocha then I would definitely not be happy.
My preconceived anxiety was then justified all too quickly as I read the next line: “If you answered yes to just one of the questions above, you are a sugar addict.”
Well, that was me told. I’m an addict. I waited for a moment as my new label sank in. It was at this moment I realised I was going to have to write this blog from a completely different point of view.
The most important thing that I have learned from researching this topic is that we all seem to have the same attitude towards the sugar topic. We all think that because we buy the sugar-free syrup, we are somehow exempt from the matter. Let me stop you there, my friend. I also made this horrifying mistake.
It’s all good and well buying sugar free products and saying, ‘No ta, I’m sweet enough!’ when asked if you take sugar in your brew. Fact of the matter is, sugar is there, in almost everything we consume. It’s crept its way into our production line and is hiding there in plain sight. And it’s actually a whole lot harder to eliminate than you ever thought.
So, you’ve probably seen those pictures of towers of sugar cubes representing a bottle of pop. Just FYI, a single serving bottle has around 65g sugar or 17 teaspoons. But what happens if you counted the sugar in that ‘healthy’ breakfast smoothie you had the other day? Would you freak out if I told you that the average 500ml serving had the same amount of sugar as 8 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts? Shocking isn’t it?!
If it makes you feel at all relieved, our sugar addiction is not caused by gluttony. Experts have reason to believe that we are actually developing a full-on addiction to the stuff. French scientists recently did an experiment on rats who were addicted to cocaine. Surprise, surprise, the rats choose sugar over the drugs.
The Science Behind It
Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is made of equal molecules of the monosaccharides, fructose and glucose, and is not metabolised the same way as carbohydrates. Some nutrition experts actually think that fructose tricks our brains into thinking we’re not full (what the hell?!). Fructose is the nutrient that nature put into fruit to entice humans and birds to eat them.
Excess fructose cannot be converted to energy by the mitochondria inside our cells, instead they turn the excess into liver fat. This causes a huge insulin resistance, which leads to chronic metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Here’s some other fun facts about fructose:
– it inhibits our immune system, making it harder to fight off viruses and infections.
– it upsets the mineral balance in our bodies, causing deficiencies as well as interfering with mineral absorption.
– it messes with fertility.
– it speeds up the ageing process.
– it’s linked to dementia.
– it has been connected with the development of cancers of the breasts, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gall bladder and stomach.
– it causes an acidic digestive tract and indigestion.
– it can cause a rapid rise in adrenaline, as well as hyperactivity, anxiety and a loss of concentration.
So, What Can We Do?
As sugar is an addictive substance, the only way to really break the addiction is to completely stop consuming it. I know this sounds daunting and probably impossible to some of you, but I’ve been trying to wean myself of sugar for a long time and I’ve not been doing so great; eventually I always cave. However, after learning that the best way to quit is to completely avoid the stuff it actually became a lot easier to give up.
If you can tell yourself that the only reason your craving sugar is because it’s addictive, its actually fairly simple to just refuse. Its better to quit cold-turkey than ease yourself off sugar because your body needs to recalibrate. You need to find the new set-point, allowing yourself to have a little sugar in your diet, some honey here, a bit of fruit there – won’t give your confused system chance to rid itself of the cravings. So, if you’re serious about stopping, the below need to go.
– fresh and dried fruit, fruit juice
– muesli and muesli bars
– jams (even if it says no added sugar)
– condiments containing sugar, particularly tomato and barbecue sauces, balsamic vinegar
– flavoured yoghurts
– palm and coconut sugar
– chocolate, soft drinks, etc
Replace sugar with good fats. This is the trick that makes this whole process click for me; eating proteins and fats instead of sugar takes care of cravings and the need for ‘treats’. You wont feel that you’re denying yourself either emotionally or physically. Here are some of the fats you should try instead:
-animal fats such as chicken skin and bacon
-full fat diary products
Become a label detective; it’s the only way to know what you’re really eating. As a general rule, eat products with less than 6g of sugar per 100g/ml. This way you can avoid hidden sugars and fructose that are stashed away in our general groceries.
Some swaps you can make:
– toast and butter with a few avocado slices > toast with jam.
– eggs on toast > muesli and low-fat yoghurt.
– herbal tea or soda water > juice and soft drinks.
– popcorn at the movies > a bag of sweets.
– cheese after dinner > dessert after dinner.
– if you drink sugar in your tea and coffee, halve the amount and add in extra milk (which tastes sweet but contains no fructose). Or, only as an interim measure, use artificial sweetener instead (fake sugars are not a good idea but for now, to get you off sugar initially they can help)
All in all, sugar is the root of all evil and we really need to start thinking about the amounts we consume as our health could really be at risk! I would just like to point out that I am not a health expert, the information in this blog is a combination of facts that I found via research and my opinion. If you choose to follow my advice, please be aware of this. If you do decide to quit sugar, please let us know how you’re getting on and if you are feeling the benefits.
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