This week, our in-house nutritional coach, Nichola Flood, speaks plainly about Sugar and provides some easy ways to improve our diets. Nichola was responsible for developing our 8 Week Weight-Loss programme and she approves all of the recipes on our Recipe Blog as being appropriate for weight-loss and sugar levels.
Did you know that sugar is one of the most highly addicted substances to mankind? It can cause all sorts of diseases and has harmful effects on our metabolism. In order to understand why sugar is so bad for our bodies, it helps to understand what it is made of:
- Glucose is found in every living cell on the planet. If we don’t get it from the diet our body produces it.
- Fructose, present in ripe fruit and in many other manufactured products, and is not produced by our bodies because our bodies do not really need it! But when it’s consumed, our livers metabolise it anyway. If we eat small amounts from fruit, the fructose will be stored in the liver until we need energy, energy we could get from glucose. However if the liver is already full of glycogen (glucose), eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver and it will turn the fructose into fat. If we are constantly eating large amounts of sugar it can eventually lead to fatty liver and more serious problems.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid sugar in your diet;
- Heart disease – For many years, even decades, we blamed fats and saturated fats for heart disease. However new studies have shown that sugar, not fat, maybe one of the drivers of heart disease.
- Cancer – If our insulin levels are constantly elevated (a side effect of sugar consumption) this can contribute to cancer. Inflammation is a potential cause of cancer and sugar consumption can cause inflammation within the body.
- Sugar is highly addictive – Sugar releases dopamine in the reward centre of the brain, the same as the effect of abusive drugs. Processed foods are full of hidden sugars and when consumed, they can cause massive dopamine release much more than when we consume foods found in nature. This is one of the main causes of how people become addicted to junk food.
- Type II diabetes – This is another disease that is caused by sugar. Diabetes is when the pancreas fails to produce adequate amounts of insulin when the blood sugar levels rise. When sugar in concentrated amounts enters the system the body goes into shock from the rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Eventually the pancreas will wear out and diabetes will set in.
How to cut sugar from your diet
- Be a food label detective
- Sugar can be disguised as sneaky names: molasses, sucrose, brown rice syrup, honey, fructose, invert sugar, corn syrup. Look out for these on food labels and avoid!
- Be wary of foods labelled as ‘low-fat’, ‘diet’, ‘low-calorie’
- A lot of these products take out fats but replace with sugar to improve the taste.
- Sneaky sugar substitutes can also be contained in these products in high quantities.
- Use protein and fat in your diet
- Avoid white carbohydrates as they are loaded with sugar that can cause our blood sugar levels to rise quickly and drop even quicker.
- Always ensure to have good quality slow releasing carbs in your diet: sweet potatoes, brown rice and pasta, brown bread.
- Always have protein, a good quality fat source and fibre with each meal. This will slow down the blood sugar release in your body and keep you fuller for longer. So for breakfast make sure to have your porridge but add a teaspoon of nut butter/nuts or seeds to it. For your snack add a piece of turkey with your piece of fruit or have a small handful of nuts with it.
Check out this sample day’s food plan that should show how to ensure you get the appropriate amounts of sugar to sustain your energy levels more effectively:
- Porridge made on water with almond milk added after cooking.
- Top with blueberries, raspberries and a teaspoon of seeds.
- One piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts (not processed, dry roasted or salted).
- One filet of wild salmon.
- Small portion of cooked brown basmati rice.
- Green salad and/or vegetables.
- 2 wholegrain rice cake.
- 1 tablespoon hummus.
- One chicken breast marinated in soy/ginger/garlic and lime juice.
- One medium sweet potato.
- Spinach and sweet corn.
- Two tablespoons Greek yogurt.
Strawberries and grated 70% dark chocolate.