It’s no secret; we consume too much sugar as a nation. With the introduction of the sugar tax in 2018, we’re starting to realise the health implications, contributing to conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Sugar has truly earned its status as public enemy number one.
Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and your overall health depends on the type of sugar you’re eating; natural or refined.
Natural sugars are present in foods such as fruit in the form of fructose and in dairy in the form of lactose. These sugars provide us with essential nutrients (as with anything, when consumed in moderation).Examples of refined sugars include granulated table sugar (the stuff you’d put in your tea or coffee), icing and cane sugar, and are found in processed treats like cake, biscuits and chocolate. These sugars offer zero nutritional value; they contain none of the minerals we need to maintain a healthy body. They are empty calories; they don’t fill us up or nourish us therefore shouldn’t be a staple of our diets.
Our bodies break down refined sugar really quickly, causing our blood sugar to spike. Not long after eating, you feel a huge drop in energy. The horrible come down (that we all know far too well), and refined sugar’s addictive nature mean it’s probably the world’s most popular drug.
You can cut down on cakes and biscuits but how else can you reduce your sugar intake? So many foods that you would never think contain refined sugars, actually do. It’s these ‘hidden’ sugars that trip us up, adding to our overall consumption. Sneakily, these aren’t always stated as simply ‘sugar’ on food labels. Sucrose, maltose and dextrose are all refined sugars. The devil in disguise.
This devil is found in flavoured yoghurts, breads, tomato sauces, fruit juices, salad dressings, soy sauces, soups, peanut butters… The list goes on. It’s especially prevalent in ‘low fat’ products. So don’t be fooled thinking these are healthy options; sugar is used in place of fat to inject some form of flavour into these products.
As usual, we’re not at all advocating that you cut out ALL forms of sugar. That would be unsustainable and let’s face it, not that fun. We all need a bit of sinful indulgence (what would you eat on your birthday if it weren’t for cake)?! And sometimes, chocolate does just equal happiness and there ain’t nothing wrong with that!
Looking at the ingredients on the products you buy regularly can make you aware of how much sugar you’re consuming. The higher up in the list, the more sugar the product will contain. Try swapping some of those foods that contain a higher refined sugar content with low or no-sugar alternatives. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try the chocolate pudding recipe below. It uses dates as a natural sweetener (just ensure to read the label as many dates are pumped with sugar syrups).
Chocolate Avocado Mousse – Serves 2
Per portion (guideline): 182kcals; P: 3g F: 9g, C: 22g
- 1 medium banana
- 1 ripe avocado
- 3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 dates
- Splash of milk
- Pinch salt
Throw all the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Top with coconut, fruit, nuts or anything else you fancy!
It may take a few days to get over the cravings (sugar’s a drug, remember kids) but in time, once you’ve weaned yourself off somewhat, it could have a positive effect on your overall health. Your cravings will subside and allow your palate to adjust and embrace the taste of other foods. So challenge yourself this February; you might just find you’re sweet enough already!