There is a place for sugar in our lives; in fact, we need it to be healthy. Glucose is naturally produced by our bodies (via the process of metabolism) from certain foods and it is essential for energy. The key to fuelling our body with the right sugars is two-fold; consuming sugar in its most natural state and consuming it in moderation.
Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as some fruit and vegetables (fructose) and milk (lactose), but we can consume sugar in many different forms.
The most dangerous way of consuming sugar is not knowing that we are actually consuming it.
Hidden sugars, often found in some savoury foods such as breads, sauces, cereals and tinned vegetables, are particularly dangerous because every bit adds up, every day. It’s harder to keep track of our hidden sugar consumption, and too much sugar can:
• overwork your liver, resulting in fatty liver disease
• lead to obesity, particularly subcutaneous fat (fat that you can see, such as belly fat) and the more dangerous visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs that you may not see from the outside)
• cause insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes
• be linked to cancer
• raise cholesterol and contribute to heart disease
• be addictive.
The easiest way to cut down on refined sugar is by not adding table sugar to your food and drinks, or swapping with small amounts of raw sugar. Try dropping your white with one to just white. The next step is to minimise obviously sweet foods such as cake, ice cream, chocolate and soft drinks. While there are low sugar or naturally sweetened versions of these treats, they should still be consumed in moderation.
Educate yourself on how to identify ‘bad’ sugars in the food that you buy at the supermarket. This can be done by familiarising yourself with food nutrition labels and ingredient lists.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of exercise in managing your blood sugar levels. While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, being active can help your body handle the sugars (good and bad) that you are consuming.
For some tips on how to beat sugar cravings, click here.
Want to learn more about sugar and its effects on your health? Visit the Better Health Channel.