The Truth About Sugar
How to get off the crazy sugar cycle
You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed the newest research suggesting that sugar, not fat, is the main culprit for the global obesity epidemic and for the increase in lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease (Boseley, 2016).
These things are obviously always going to be incredibly multi-factorial, but if there's any truth to the alarming amount of new research coming out, we owe it to ourselves to rectify our own sugar addiction (if you have one!? but be brutally honest with yourself!) and try to avoid this outcome for our children and the future generation.
Decreasing sugar intake requires a basic understanding of why it's so addictive and plentiful to begin with!
WHY DO WE CRAVE SUGAR?
Sugar acts within the brain’s “reward center”. When we eat sugar, our brains release a 'feel good' hormone called dopamine, the same one that’s triggered by other pleasure mechanisms and addictive substances. With frequent sugar intake, the brain eventually gets accustomed to the 'high' it gets from sugar and become less sensitive to it, needing more next time for the same rush! To demonstrate, say you eat a slice of cake, your blood sugar levels will then spike, and your body releases dopamine (a good thing!) and then insulin (not so good). Insulin then triggers your body to store the sugar as fat. After a few hours, your sugar level plummet again and you get that 'crash' where you feel tired and hungry, so what do you do? Reach for another sugary treat! And on and on it goes....up down up down, perpetually hungry and a slave to your cravings.
So you've got the desire to break the sugar cycle? The desire to go for longer periods of time between meals, stop snacking, stop being 'hangry' (hungry/angry! Use to be me completely) and stop the cravings for good? But how do you do it? How does it look on a day to day basis and how do you navigate the supermarket aisles?
BREAKING UP WITH FRUCTOSE
First, lets just clarify what I mean by 'sugar'? All carbohydrate foods are broken down into: glucose, galactose and fructose. It is the 'fructose' portion of sugar that we want to reduce. Glucose can be broken down by the body and utilised as energy, but fructose passes directly to our livers and promotes fat storage and leads to inflammation. Fructose is also addictive and makes us eat more. Fructose has been linked to a number of metabolic disorders, including immune disorders, cancers, diabetes… the list goes on (Rooney, 2016).
Did you know there are 61 different names for sugar on food labels? A key is to avoid anything ending in “-ose” like sucrose or maltrose. Also look out for words such as “syrup,” “nectar,” “cane” and “sweetener.” And 'natural' sugars, like agave (90% fructose!!) honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar still contribute to your daily sugar limit!
TIPS FOR AVOIDING ADDED SUGARS
Watch out for liquid sugar. We all know fizzy drink is bad but what about the “healthy juice” from your local juice bar? Unless it's cold-pressed unsweetened vegetable juice, you’re better off eating a whole piece of fruit which comes with a dose of fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals. While fruit does have sugar in the form of fructose, it’s nothing in comparison to added sugars and doesn’t cause the same blood-spiking mechanisms. So two small pieces of low fructose fruit a day such as berries or kiwifruit is completely fine.
Take control of your own sweetener. What do I mean? Buy full fat greek yoghurt and add berries for sweetness, you'll be guaranteed to be consuming a lot less sugar than in the the low fat fruit flavored varieties.
The easiest thing to remember is to keep to whole foods (my favourite catch phrase is JERF - Just Eat Real Food!). If you're eating meat, fish, poultry, fresh leafy vegetables and fruit, basically items from the perimeter of the grocery store, you don't have to worry about deciphering food labels as there aren't any!
Now if you're a baker like I am, and find being in the kitchen therapeutic, then you'll want to have a few handy safe sweeteners up your sleeve for special occasions. What do I recommend and use personally?
I use sweeteners that do not spike insulin levels. My top pick is Stevia, a completely natural sweetener, derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant and totally fructose free! I use powdered Stevia in baking and also use Stevia gylerite drops for chia puddings and liquid desserts. Be careful with stevia however as it is NOT a direct 1:1 conversion for white sugar, Stevia is 200-300x sweeter than sugar so you can use a lot less for the same sweetness! Bonus.
Rice malt syrup is my second go-to in baking. Rice malt syrup is slow release, made from fermented cooked rice and is a blend of complex carbohydrates, glucose and maltose. It’s 100% fructose-free.
As your palate changes, you will need smaller amounts of sweetener to satisfy and you can experiment with using sweeter vegetables in baking such as pumpkin, carrot and kumera puree to sweeten muffins, pancakes or brownies (I have a great recipe for this on the site).
So you've taken out the sugar...now what do you eat? All the fat! Fat brings satiety and despite what we've been told for decades, does NOT make you fat. In fact, our brains NEED fat to function and by upping your dietary fat from good forms such as avocado,coconut oil, ghee, butter, olives etc. we can feel full, be nourished and stay off the sugar crazy train!
But the fat thing is another blog post...
Boseley, S. (2016). Sugar, not fat, exposed as the deadly villain in Obesity Epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/
Rooney, B. (2016) Here's what Fructose does to your body.Retrieved from https://iquitsugar.com/why-we-
Long Gillispe, D. (2016) The Shocking Truth about Sugar Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/