This article is written by nutritionist, Christine Bailey from Advance Nutrition Consultancy.
With Easter upon us you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by the mounds of chocolate, Easter eggs, sugary candy in our shops. But you don’t have to eat sweets and chocolate to still be addicted to sugar. Sugar is everywhere in our foods – drinks, cereals, breads, pastries, yogurts, sauces, desserts – in fact most processed foods.
You don’t have to consume white sugar lumps to be addicted to sugar. Refined carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, pastry goods, crackers etc all have a similar effect on our glucose levels and can result in unstable blood sugar, energy dips and cravings. Importantly it will also cause you to put on weight.
There is a vast amount of research indicating that sugar in the diet is detrimental to health. Excess sugar consumption has been associated with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, obesity and premature aging; and restricting sugar intake is recognised as crucial in preventing the development of such chronic diseases.
It is easy to become confused by the various sugars and sweeteners available. Not all sugars are created equal and just because something is termed ‘natural’ does not mean it is necessarily beneficial to our health. Even healthier sugars and sweeteners should be limited and used sparingly.
One of the worst offenders is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose and is now present in many processed foods and drinks.
HFCS is absorbed so quickly that in high amounts the liver can become overwhelmed, leading to elevated blood levels of triglycerides, very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) – a risk factor for heart disease.
But don’t resort to artificial sweeteners – these such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame and saccharin, have been linked to a variety of health conditions, despite being low in calories. They may even stimulate sugar cravings leading you to put on more weight.
The best approach is to focus on whole unprocessed foods including plenty of protein rich foods, nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruit. But if you are looking for a healthier sugar my favourites are xylitol, Sweet Freedom and pure stevia as well as using dried fruit and fresh fruit in recipes to provide sweetness.