Tag Archives: fat around the middle

What is ‘blood sugar’ and what’s the ideal level? Fructose v’s Glucose


There is a lot of information and advice out there and sometimes we might take that advice and run with it but not really understand why.

A person’s blood sugar levels are a very important indication of overall health. As the average blood sugar level is rising so is the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, as well as other health problems.

Blood sugar is simply the measurement of the amount of sugar in your blood stream at any one time. It is usually measured as “fasting blood sugar” by a test where your blood is analysed after having not eaten for 8-12 hours.

Normally, your blood glucose levels rise after you eat. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. Insulin moves the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for fuel.

Normally, the human body keeps blood sugar in a very narrow range for good health. This is because constantly high blood glucose levels can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. Over time, these constantly high blood sugar levels can cause a condition known as insulin resistance, which is when chronically high levels of blood sugar and insulin have caused the body’s mechanism for regulating insulin and blood glucose to fail – because there is so much insulin circulating in the body, the cells become less responsive to it.

Tsp of sugarAt any one time, a normal body has only ONE teaspoon of sugar circulating in the blood. When you drink a can of fizzy drink, or eat a plate of pasta, you are dumping an extra 12 to 15 teaspoons of sugar into your bloodstream in a very short time. Over time, all this extra sugar can do a lot of damage, to both your health and metabolism (weight!)

Whenever insulin is released into the blood stream (in response to a blood sugar level higher than that one teaspoon) it stores the excess sugar in our fat cells, which are all over the body but there are lots more of them found around our mid section, bum, and thighs. And the higher our blood sugar level goes the more sugar there is to be stored as fat.

Keeping your blood sugar low means lowering your intake of carbohydrates. When you eat less of the wrong types of carbs, your body is far more able to keep the levels of sugar in the blood within a normal range. Carbohydrate foods basically turn into sugar once eaten, some turn into sugar instantly and some turn more slowly, providing a nice slow drip feed of energy and keeping the level of sugar in the blood closer to the ideal range.

What exactly are carbohydrate foods and which are best?
The carbohydrate food group refers to a large umbrella of foods, all affecting blood sugar in some way, but very differently depending on what they are. E.g. regular table sugar raises blood sugar levels instantly and high, white bread turns to sugar when its digested and this too happens quite fast, porridge oats break down into sugar more slowly and so drip feeds the sugar so you wont get fast spikes, then vegetables like say broccoli, courgettes and spinach break down very slowly into sugar and in a very low amount, almost having no effect on blood sugar J

So, what we DON’T want to do is eat foods that raise our blood sugar level higher than that one-teaspoon level. That means sticking to the types of carbohydrates that breakdown into sugar slowly, over time. These are known as ‘complex’ carbohydrates, whereas carbs that breakdown quickly into sugar are known as ‘simple’ carbs. Then there are the obvious sugars like regular table sugar, sweets and confectionary, cakes and biscuits etc. These are the ones that will raise blood sugar level to multiple teaspoons.

So ideally we don’t want to consume any added sugar throughout the day, relying only on complex carbohydrates for our (steady and drip fed) glucose/energy supply. Unless you are doing a lot of endurance activity like very long runs or bike rides, in which case your body would need and be able to handle some ‘simple’ sugars as well.

What is fructose and do we get energy from it?

Fructose is a sugar naturally found in fruit, and you can also buy fructose as a white powder. The problem with processed fructose is that it is totally refined and all the goodness and fibre that would be in the fruit isn’t there.
Initially fructose was thought to be a healthy form of sugar, and suitable for diabetics because it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels like glucose or sucrose does. BUT it just other negative effects on your health instead.

Fructose goes straight to your liver, which has to metabolise it, in the same way as alcohol. So it can make you gain weight, increase your appetite and also build up your fat around the middle, nice!

Fructose interferes with your production of hormones like leptin, which should send signal to your brain that you have eaten enough, and fructose can raise levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and has you craving.

Fructose does not supply any energy at all to either your brain or your muscles; it is only stored as fat.

So ‘glucose’ is the ‘sugar’ we need in our blood stream (that one teaspoon) and here is where it should come from in our diet:

  • Snack - hummus, carrots, olives, flax crackersAll vegetables especially dark green leafy ones, broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, leeks, cabbage, etc etc (go for 6-8 portions a day)
  • Root/starchy vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot, parsnips, and carrots
  • Whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and rye.
  • Low sugar fruits like berries, apples and pears (limit to 2 portions per day)

Sources of fructose to AVOID:

  • Honey
  • Agave syrup
  • Maple syrup (use in moderation as its almost 40% fructose)
  • Certain fruits like grapes, figs, dates, and raisins, keep these low and stick to the low fructose fruits already mentioned (berries, apples, pears)
  • Fizzy drinks and sweets

Including protein and healthy fat with every meal and snack, and using the above-mentioned good carbs will do wonders for keeping your blood sugar level in check. This is my favourite snack at the moment (and has been for aaages)…

healthy snacksCashew nut butter thickly spread and 1-2 thin slices of banana on an oatcake (usually x 2).

I also love hummus, olives, flaxseed crackers and carrot sticks..

My next blog will be my ultimate sugar alternatives guide, which I hope will help you to reduce your sugar intake and ENJOY the process and FEEL GREAT for it!
Love Francesca x

Coca cola – for a ‘Life’ of sugar addiction


So Coca Cola have launched their new ‘life’ drink, their so called healthy alternative to their regular coke. Coca cola think that by replacing a tiny proportion of the sugar in Coke with a Stevia based sweetener, that they are helping to reduce the incidences of obesity at a time when the Western world is facing an obesity epidemic. There are 5 teaspoons of sugar per can of Coke Life, compared to 8 teaspoons in a can of in normal Coke. Whilst this 3 teaspoon reduction is positive, it hardly warrants the term ‘life’ or ‘healthy’ to be associated with the drink. Maybe the best of a very bad bunch of drinks? If only these companies would take responsibility and accept that they are partly responsible for the obesity epidemic we are facing, advertising this new stevia based drink as ‘healthy’ is just absurd. The marketing behind these drinks is powerfully attractive, using green labels and words like ‘life’ to the unsuspecting public. The labels of these drinks shows the amount of sugar per 100ml, but 1 can contains 330ml, so that number needs to be multiplied by 3.3, furthermore most people don’t even read labels, they may just trust that a drink with a green label that uses words such as ‘life’ and ‘natural’ is healthy. You can be forgiven for allowing the attractive and clever marketing to reel you in but please don’t be fooled into thinking this green labelled version of coke is a healthy alternative.

Read labels! Know how many grams of carbs ‘of which sugars’ there are and see how many ml’s that value is referring to then check how many ml’s you are actually drinking and work it out. There are 4g of sugar in one teaspoon. So if you see 12g of carbohydrates of which sugars per 100ml that’s 3 teaspoons of sugar.

A day in the life of a blood sugar roller coaster


Here is a day’s food diary that one of my clients sent to me prior to our first meeting (don’t worry she was more than happy for me to use her case for this purpose!).

This client came to me because she had low energy and trouble losing weight despite her best efforts in the gym and ‘watching what she ate’.

For the purpose of this blog let’s call this client Laura. Laura is 33. She works in the city 5 days a week, and is currently single and has no children. She is a member of a gym to which she goes about 3 times a week, usually taking part in a spin class. Laura wants to lose a stone, and tone up. She has been going to the gym for almost 2 years, before that she used to go for jogs outside here and there. She has been struggling to lose her excess weight for the last year and it was her main motivation for joining the gym. She is frustrated that she hasn’t managed to shift any weight, although she does say she feels good and quite energised for going to the gym regularly.

Here is Laura’s food diary which she filled in just before we met for your session together:

Breakfast – 1 bowl of bran flakes with skimmed milk 1 banana 1 glass of fresh orange juice 1 black coffee (Nescafe) with 1 sweetener.

Lunch – Jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw 1 can diet Coke Snack Flapjack (Starbucks)

Dinner – Usually 1 chicken breast with roast potatoes and cabbage.

Following a diet like this Laura would certainly have trouble losing weight despite any exercise she might be doing, and her energy would no doubt be low.

Although Laura believes she is doing the right thing, here’s why this way of eating won’t help her to reach her goals.

Most of Laura’s food shown here is made up of simple carbs, which means they break down to sugar as soon as they’re swallowed, and this sugar is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. There is little protein, very little good fats, and it’s low in fibre.

Insulin and fat storage

the more simple carbs we include in our diet and the less protein, the more of a job insulin has to do. Insulin is a hormone that’s released by then pancreas in response to sugar that we eat and send into the blood stream. Insulin moves this sugar from the blood stream into the cells to be used as energy and any leftover sugar gets stored in the fat cells. The trouble is if we are constantly eating sugar and simple carbs, we are constantly left with excess sugar to be stored in the fat cells. This is when we start to gain extra weight (usually around the middle, and hips and thighs for women) that’s hard to shift no matter how much exercise you do or how many calories you count. A diet high in sugar and these simple carbs will also have you energy levels fluctuating all day long – leading to hunger and cravings you can’t control!

Let’s look at Laura’s diet meal by meal:

Breakfast – bran flakes are marketed to us as a nutritious source of fibre, but in reality any of these commercial cereals break down into sugar quickly in our body, plus they have extra sugar added to them as well, whether they are plain bran flakes or with added things like honey or dried fruit (even worse). Per 30g serving of Laura’s breakfast (but I’d assume she would have more like 50g) there is 6g of sugar which is 1 and a ½ teaspoons.

Laura uses skimmed milk, this is whole milk with all the fat (and nutrients) stripped out of it and per 200ml (roughly the amount she may use) there is just over 2 teaspoons of sugar. Full fat milk would be a much better choice (natural fat is good for us and the fat also slows down the body’s absorption of the natural sugars in milk).

The glass of orange juice (if a small glass) contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar, and little fibre due to the fact it is not the whole fruit. So the sugar total here is about 10 teaspoons, before the day has even begun.

Protein really helps to balance our blood sugar level and keep it from spiking too high (which is what causes insulin to be released and fat storage). As Laura has very little protein its likely that her blood sugar level is constantly too high or too low, and either scenario will mess with energy levels and lead to fat storage on the body.

The coffee would be better if it was freshly ground rather than processed simple because processed coffee is difficult for the liver to process whereas ground coffee beans come with some health benefits!  But! Having caffeine on an empty stomach can stimulate the release of sugar into the blood stream in the same way that eating sugar and refined carbs do. So its best to have your fresh coffee with some protein to prevent this from happening.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity and some studies suggest that although its not sugar, the artificial sweetness may still trigger an insulin response , and then lead to fat storage. Plus the liver struggles to process artificial sweetness and we really don’t want to be burdening our precious liver.

Snacks – Laura leaves 6 hour gaps between meals which, would be fine for someone with a healthy diet with enough protein, healthy fats and fibre, but it’s not great for someone who eats mostly refined carbs, sugar and little protein and fat. Her blood sugar level will likely drop too low in-between meals causing cravings, hunger, irritability, mood swings, and fatigue. In Laura’s case she would benefit from putting a snack in between her meals that contain some protein and fat, such as a couple of oatcakes with a tablespoon of olive oil hummus.

Lunch – White jacket potatoes will break down quite quickly into sugar once eaten, which is fine if you’re doing intensive cardio training e.g. training for a half or full marathon, but for the regular person who works in an office and goes to the gym a few times a week its probably too much simple carbs. She would be better off with a small sweet baked potato instead which is much lower in glucose and higher in fibre. Shop bought coleslaw will most likely contain a fair amount of sugar, just adding to the load. Laura will feel sleepy after lunch and probably crave something sweet a couple of hours later.

Mid Afternoon snack – Flapjacks are usually laden with syrups and sugar so this will just raise her blood sugar again, cause fat storage and a drop in energy shortly after.

Dinner – her dinner finally see’s her having some quality protein! But by now the blood sugar rollercoaster damage has been done and Laura will have felt pretty rough all day and have stored new fat on her body. Chicken breast is high in lean protein which will keep Laura fuller for longer, the cabbage is a good source of fibre and nutrients (as long as it’s not overcooked!), all she needs to do to improve on this is replace the potato with either lots of extra green veggies or a small sweet potato, handful of brown rice or quinoa.

To learn more about constructing an ideal food plan for you and your needs give me a call today on 07860 573 901 :-)

12 Tips to Cut Sugar, for Good!


A Sugar Craving Society…so where did it all start?

To cut a long story short, in the 1970′s an American physiologist Ancel Keys wrongly campaigned that fat was causing obesity. The food industry began moving towards low fat foods and this was backed by the US government. This removal of fat from foods basically meant that our sugar consumption increased because without fat, food doesn’t taste great, and so sugar was added to these foods to make up for the loss of taste.

Sugar became a staple ingredient to be hidden in most packaged and pre-prepared foods such as sauces, cereals, yoghurts and breads to name a few. The biggest increase of sugar in the diet came from fizzy drinks, fruit juices and confectionary.

However, whilst fat was removed from many foods and a low fat craze was born, rates of obesity in the US did not decrease, no one bothered to question really until recent years, and now we are seeing more and more research emerging to show that fat is not and never was the problem, but sugar is.

So, to help get YOU off the sugar addiction train I’ve come up with 12 simple tips to help you cut out sugar and move into 2015 a healthier (and slimmer) better you and put you in control of your health. Making these tips a way of life can really make a significant difference to how you feel, look and perform. There is no reason why you cannot achieve a sugar free, or majority sugar free lifestyle, using healthy alternatives to satisfy the occasional craving for something sweet.

Here are your 12 easy tips, start implementing these now!

1) Set your intention

First and foremost first make the decision to cut out sugar for 21 days, write this down, mark the first day in your calendar and consciously remember this decision every day along with why you are doing it, for example it may be because you want to lose weight, you may know that quitting sugar will transform your health and appearance, whatever the reason, write it down and remind yourself constantly of your goal. You may want to set a motivating calendar note in your smart phone to repeat daily for 21 days to remind yourself daily of this decision and ensure you don’t veer off track, its just 21 days. Setting your intentions and goals is all important in succeeding.

2) Don’t buy fat free or low fat!

Fat free labeled products contain sugar, as mentioned at the start of this blog, sugar is added when fat is stripped out, to make up for the loss of taste. Furthermore when fat is removed so are the nutrients, remember fat is not the enemy, sugar is! Go for full fat products instead and enjoy.

3) Don’t be fooled by so called ‘healthy’ Yoghurts

I’ve touched on this already but here it is again. Fat free yogurts, flavoured yoghurts, ‘friendly bacteria’ yoghurts and yoghurt drinks are full of sugar, do not be fooled by these they are not healthy! Most of them can have as much sugar as a bar of chocolate if not more. Go for full fat natural yogurt and add cinnamon and a handful of low sugar fruit such as blueberries if needed. some sweetness.

4) Don’t buy Processed Foods

Probably one of the biggest changes to make to your lifestyle with regards to significantly cutting. Near enough every packaged and pre prepared food contains hidden sugars. Some examples are pasta sauces, Chinese style sauces, condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, mint sauce, chutneys etc, cereals, microwave meals, low fat/fat free yoghurts, and dairy products, concentrated fruit juices, and many many others! Making your own sauces is actually far cheaper and can be very quick, once you’re in the habit of doing it, you won’t even think twice, it’ll just become second nature, which brings me to my next tip.

5) Make Your Own Pasta Sauce

I always make my own sauce which I use with buckwheat or brown rice pasta. Just sauté some chopped onions and garlic with some fresh herbs e.g. oregano and parsley, add a teaspoon of tomato puree then add fresh tomatoes. I usually use baby plum ones as these are lovely and sweet and juicy but you can use any fresh tomatoes, once softened mash them with a potato masher utensil. Add some fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste and simmer. This takes a maximum of 10 minutes but the longer you can simmer the better taste wise.

6) Choose Whole, Fresh Fruit Over Juice, Dehydrated, or Other Fruit Products

Juice, fruit roll-ups, and dehydrated fruit taste great, of course: they’re almost pure sugar! Added to this is the fact that all or most of the fiber is gone. Treat your body to the natural benefits of fruit and eat it fresh and whole. Choose berries, cherries, grapefruit, lemon, and limes over apples, bananas, and other fruit; the former are higher in glucose and lower in fructose and tend to have a lower overall content.

7) Don’t use shop bought salad dressings

Pre prepared salad dressings hide so much sugar, especially things like Caesar dressing or thick vinaigrettes. Always make your own, it’s cheaper too. All you need is some extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. You can add a pinch of honey if you need the sweetness or some mustard if you like it bitter. The ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. Other good oils to use are cold pressed walnut oil, avocado oil or hemp oil.

8) Allow yourself a % of sweetness

If you are someone who eats a lot of sugar daily, e.g. you are used to having dessert every day and or a bar of chocolate then start implementing all of these tips daily from now but allow yourself a small percentage of sweetness in the form of a small amounts of good quality honey and dark chocolate (at least 70% dark). So if you are used to having dessert daily try replacing this with a few squares of the dark chocolate or a full fat Greek yoghurt mixed with 1/2 tsp of honey and or some goji berries. You should also try warmed blueberries, cashew nut butter (as this is quite sweet but healthy) and stewed apples, (these are things you can always include). Then, start to be mindful as to whether you are feeling like you must have something sweet every day, if this is the case start to challenge yourself to at least 1 or 2 days away from any sweetness each week, this is a good way to gain back control, and know you are not a slave to the sugar addiction born out of the last 3 decades.

9) Don’t Keep Sweet Treats at Home

Ensure you home is a treat free zone, only stocking up on healthy alternatives for emergency cases such as honey and good quality dark chocolate. If the bad stuff is there it WILL get eaten, don’t allow it, then, once you have control of your sugar habit you can start to decide on what occasions you might allow yourself some sugar, outside of the house. If something you crave isn’t available to you and you have to go to efforts to go and get it you are far less likely to fail.

10) Be wary of sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are not the alternative here, the BEST answer is to wean yourself of off sweetness in general, by following all these tips you can do just that. Most sweeteners, for example, aspartame, are just toxins that your liver does not need to add to its burden. Furthermore, they just retain our taste for sweet things, acting only as a plaster not a cure. The aim here is to not crave sugar OR sweetness. Research has shown1 that sweeteners still send a signal to the brain that you are eating sugar which releases the hormone insulin to into the blood to process the ‘sugar’, the more we secrete insulin the higher our risk of diabetes, so you can see now why sweeteners are not the answer, for more reasons than one.

11) Avoid Sugary Alcohol Drink Choices

If you like to enjoy a tipple and can’t quite manage to cut this out then stick to pure, and good quality spirits like gin and vodka, mixed with soda water and fresh lime. Stay away from cocktails! These will usually contain so much sugar. Good quality champagne, in moderation, is also a better choice. Fizzy drink mixers including tonic water, cordials, wines, and dark spirits should be avoided.

12) Stick to Water!

There really is no better thirst quencher than water, there is so much to be said for water but I’ll save that for another blog. Cutting out all other drinks will cut out so much sugar. Fruit juices, yes even freshly squeezed orange juice, fizzy drinks and squash, all contain lots of sugar. Start drinking 2 litres of water daily coupled with cutting all this sugar and you will be bounding around with energy you won’t want to look back. Try water (filtrered or bottled) with fresh lemon, fresh orange pieces or fresh lime to add some natural flavour, if you need it. Try ice cold soda water with the same fruit if you need something fizzy sometimes.

And a final note, the more healthy fats and good quality protein you start to include in your diet the less sugar and sugary foods you will crave, and the more satiated you will feel, and full of energy! Include a protein, good fat and complex carbohydrate source with every meal and snack. Examples are avocado with some mozarella cheese and baby tomatoes, tin of peppered mackerel on a slice of toasted rye bread with rocket and red onion, baked sweet potato wedges with a homemade turkey burger and spinach, gluten free oat cakes with hummus. The choices are endless, and tasty

Best wishes, FLNutrition

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