Meet the experts – The bitter truth about sugar

Meet the experts – The bitter truth about sugar

Karen Lanson is a fitness professional, dancer, actress, and author of Can't Fry Me Love and When Life Gives You Lemons Add A Shot Of Tequila. She helps us understand the bitter truth about sugar. So put that crispy creme down and listen up.

We all know that sugar is bad for us right? Duh. We know that excessive amounts of it in our diet can make our clothes shrink and lead to excessive weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. This dangerous visceral fat has direct links to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancers, liver disease, decreased HDL (good cholesterol) and increased LDL (bad cholesterol), high blood pressure, increased inflammation (the root of all illness), acne, premature ageing, hormonal imbalance and poor oral health – all of which can be stopped and reversed by making a few positive lifestyle adjustments. Still reaching for that family size Dairy Milk? OK, keep reading.

Why is it that in spite of knowing all of this so many of us remain slaves to the white, granulated powder that is quite literally the cocaine of the food world? Sure, it tastes good. For like, a minute. However, that short term fix comes with a long term payback. Let's backtrack for a moment. Here comes the science.

The body requires fuel in order to function which it obtains from carbohydrates. Oh no! The c word! Friend or foe? Quite simply put, both, depending on the type of carbohydrate being consumed and the amount.

Sugar is broken down into 2 simple sugars in the digestive tract before it enters the bloodstream, glucose which is fast releasing and fructose which is slow releasing.

Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, oats, vegetables, legumes and fruits are a vital part of a healthy diet and contain fructose which is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver until it is needed. Excessive sugar that is not required is stored and then eventually emerges as fat.

Fructose is slow releasing and balances blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates also contain fibre which makes you feel full.

Refined carbohydrates on the other hand contain white and brown sugar, malt, glucose, syrup or honey and are found namely in white bread, refined cereals, pastries, cakes, and processed and fast foods. These foods are high in calories and almost completely lacking in any nutritional value. They are fast releasing and provide a sugar high followed by an even faster sugar slump. This then leaves you craving another ‘hit’ to get another high followed by another slump which leaves you…if you're rolling your eyes whilst reading this and enjoying yet another bowl of your refined cereal no shit Sherlock flakes, be warned that irritability, constant hunger, lack of focus and concentration, depression, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and nervousness are all symptoms of sugar spiking and unbalanced glucose levels in the body!

On another level, this honey trap can eventually result in insulin resistance which occurs when the cells have trouble absorbing glucose from the blood. Too much glucose in the blood has a toxic effect on the body and is an almost guaranteed stepping stone to diabetes.

Pilates and yoga classes are great for reducing stress levels and calming and focusing the body and mind, a good choice for stress or comfort eaters. All exercise provides a post workout feeling of ‘euphoria’ due to the release of the feel good chemical serotonin in the brain. This is the same feeling you get (temporarily) from a sugar high but with no damage to your waistline.

Be good in bed and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep (sorry) a night to avoid flagging energy levels during the day and reaching for sugary snacks.

Zap those sugar cravings by eating a balanced, whole food diet. Follow a GL (Glycemic Load) eating plan and combine good fats and protein with carbohydrate to lessen the GL of the carb. Fats and protein can be converted into sugar but not in the bloodstream and therefore don't effect the blood sugar levels. The GL reading shows you the amount of carbohydrate in a food and also how quickly it raises blood sugar levels.

Try salmon with wholewheat pasta, scrambled eggs on rye toast or mackerel with brown rice.

Instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame to flavour your food, use agave nectar or stevia.

Recommended supplements to support a healthy nutrition and exercise plan to help balance sugar levels include Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA), chromium, cinnamon, CoQ10, fenugreek, ginseng, grape seed, L-Carnatine, magnesium and zinc.