We all know that too much sugar in our diet is not healthy. But what many people are not aware of is the amount of sugar in so-called healthy foods. Let’s take a look at some so-called “healthy” foods and the amount of sugar they contain:
¾ cup of a leading healthy breakfast cereal ============= 5 1/3rd tspn sugar
A glass of no added-sugar orange juice (200ml) ========== 4 ½ tspns sugar
A healthy snack twist bar ============================ 3 ½ tspns.
An Iced Coffee Mocha (500ml) ======================== 13 tspns sugar
(equivalent sugar to a coke)
A medium low fat banana smoothie (450ml) ============== 13 ¼ tspns sugar
(slightly more sugar than a coke)
A 98% fat free strawberry yoghurt (170g) ================ 6 1/3 tspns.
Total – more than 30 teaspoons of sugar
Effects of Too Much Sugar
Sugar and carbohydrate create glucose when digested. Too much glucose when circulating through your bloodstream acts like sandpaper. This can damage blood vessels, arteries and nerves and result in inflammation. Inflammation interferes with hormone and neurotransmitter balance, all of which lead to rapid degeneration of your brain. Eating a high carbohydrate/sugar diet puts you on a roller-coaster of high and low blood sugar levels, creating big energy dips (think 3pm itis) and causing big sugar cravings.
Eating too much sugar also drives disease such as type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, fatty liver, heart attack, stroke, dementia and impotence. It also potentially causes cancer – as high blood-sugar stimulates tumour growth.
So where does sugar come from?
Sugar comes from obvious places like: refined sugar, sweets, sweet drinks, flavoured milk, and sweetened yoghurt.
It also comes from starchy carbohydrates including: cereal, bread, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes and legumes (like lentils, chickpeas and peanuts).
Fruit is also fructose, a type of sugar. Fruit juices in general are best avoided. When you eat an orange, you are likely to eat only one orange, including the fibre – as nature intended it. When you drink orange juice, you may be drinking the concentrated fructose or sugar of between 4 and 8 oranges.
How is insulin related to sugar?
The pancreas produces insulin to take the glucose from the blood and store it in the liver and muscles as ready energy. But if stores are full, it converts the glucose into fat, the kind that drives heart disease. High levels of insulin (which are produced in response to high glucose levels) drive fat gain and inflammatory disease.
So what about everything in moderation?
A recent study of about 28,500 people, over the age of 15, published in Diabetologia, found that all it takes is one can of sugar sweetened soda/soft drink per day to increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 22%. In my experience, most people would consider drinking one soft drink to be moderate.
Don’t think diet soft drinks are any better; the chemicals in those can have many side-effects one of which is cravings for more sugar!
The total amount of carbohydrates we eat per day is what matters
If you’re eating 100g of carbohydrate, it is still 100g of carbohydrate, whether or not it is coming from bread, pasta or the sugar bowl itself!
I recommend going back to real foods. Anything that comes straight from the farm to you without processing is recommended, such as seasonal vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds (not grains).
Here is a healthy diet that I would recommend:
Poached eggs, with some vegetables like onion, spinach and zucchini cooked in real butter or coconut oil for breakfast.
A small tub of full fat Greek yogurt, with 6 almonds and 2 strawberries.
A green salad with feta cheese, pepitas and salmon or tuna
Tuna with cucumber and avocado
Meat (grass fed), chicken or fish and vegetables, mostly greens, with two small pieces of pumpkin or sweet potato.
What about fruit?
If you are healthy and not overweight, a piece of seasonal fruit per day is fine. An orange, mandarin or berries in season are good choices. If you are battling health issues, weight problems, diabetes or have digestive problems, fruit is best avoided.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Clinical Nutritionist, Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre
Phone: 4722 2111