Tag Archives: sugar

Ultimate Sugar Alternatives Guide

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Trying to reduce your sugar in intake? Do you eat a fair bit of fruit everyday thinking its a much better alternative to regular sugar? Not always the case! Fructose is a type of sugar that increases our risk of things like heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, so eating too much fruit isn’t really ideal. Keep reading for more on this.

There’s a lot of popular sweeteners out there that health conscious people are using in place of regular sugar, such as coconut sugar, agave syrup, molasses, honey, and maple syrup. These sweeteners might come with some nutrient benefits but the trouble is they still contain fructose, which is the type of sugar we want to be avoiding.

 

Why do we want to avoid fructose?

Every cell in our body can metabolise glucose but fructose is metabolised (broken down) only in the liver, in the same way that alcohol is, and too much of it can put a real strain on our liver. It can make you gain weight, increase your appetite and create that all too well known fat around the middle, not to mention non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

 

How does it do this?

Because fructose doesn’t affect blood sugar levels (and so doesn’t spike insulin) it was thought of as an ideal sweetener for diabetics and given the label of having a ‘low GI’ for that very reason. Fructose interferes with your production of appetite-regulating hormones like leptin, which should send a signal to your brain that you are full and happy, if leptin gets ‘switched off’ this signal can no longer get to the brain and we are left feeling hungry pretty much most of the time. To add to that fructose can raise our levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin, which too increases our hunger!

Honey
Fructose doesn’t supply any energy at all to either your brain or your muscles, it just gets stored as fat. So it’s certainly not a sweetener anyone should want to use, diabetic or not.

 

Fructose is of course naturally found in fruit, and in fruit it comes with vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other nutrients. When we eat fruit in its whole form the fructose is combined with glucose, which is the natural sugar that we should be using for energy, and because there is also fibre contained in the whole fruit this can help to slow how quickly the glucose is released into the blood stream.

 

However it’s still beneficial to reduce the amount of higher fructose fruits you consume, just to ensure there isn’t too much fructose heading for your liver. The lowest fructose fruits include berries (e.g. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries), apples, melon, peach, plums, lemons, grapefruit, and sour cherries. Just note that when it comes to sugar intake we should ideally stick to no more than 2 pieces of low fructose fruit per day.

Donut

 

Sucrose is your regular white table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and rapadura sugar. It contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose. So the fructose will hit your liver whilst the glucose will affect blood sugar levels significantly so we want sugar in general kept to a minimum.

 

 

So what are the alternatives?

Below is a list of popular alternatives with a brief description, I hope you will be able to see from this list that there isn’t really a perfect alternative to regular sugar but there are a couple that are more ideal than others. However, the key is really to reduce your need to sweetness, and when you do fancy something sweet its in moderation and uses the more ideal sugar alternatives.

 

Agave syrup: a sugar substitute made from the same Mexican succulent that tequila is made from. It is about 90% fructose. Look out for it on labels of ‘healthy’ bars, smoothies and other ‘healthy’ products and avoid!

 

Coconut sugar, nectar or syrup: This is more commonly used nowadays in a lot of healthy food products. But it is between 38% and 48% fructose so it’s not an ideal choice.

 

Honey: whether raw or organic it doesn’t matter when it comes to the fructose content. It’s about 40% fructose so best avoided.

 

Maple syrup: often used as a healthier sugar alternative, and it does contain good amounts of the minerals zinc and manganese. But it can contain up to 40% fructose so use sparingly. There are a few different grades of maple syrup so make sure you get a higher grade one.

 

Dates: a popular choice for sweetening ‘sugar-free’ recipes, but they are about 30% fructose and quite high in sugar per date compared to other fruit. Plus you will usually need to use a lot of them to properly sweeten a recipe in place of regular sugar, so your sugar intake is likely to be no better.

 

Blackstrap Molasses: a very strong flavoured sweetener made from heated raw cane sugar and sugar beet. Sugar crystals are extracted leaving a black tar-like substance. It’s rich in iron, calcium & magnesium which is great but its about 25% fructose and high in glucose so use it sparingly.

 

Xylitol: the name sounds worse than it is but it’s still not the most natural of sweeteners as it’s usually been highly processed and the end product will contain some chemical residue. It doesn’t spike blood sugar levels at all so it’s a good choice for diabetics. Just make sure you source xylitol from the bark of a birch tree as opposed to xylitol from corn. It’s best used in moderation as it’s known to have laxative effects.

 

So Breakfast bowlwhat are the most ideal choices?

  • Brown rice malt syrup: made from fermented cooked rice. It’s a blend of complex carbohydrates, maltose and glucose. It’s 100% fructose free which is great, and it would be my favourite choice, and certainly the sweetener I use when I need one.

 

  • Stevia: a plant-based sweetener that’s also completely fructose free. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar. I’d just avoid using it in large amounts because it can leave a bitter aftertaste, but as its so sweet you don’t need to use much. Just make sure you use ‘whole leaf’ stevia (in powder form or drops) and nothing that’s been processed and made into a sweetener. You might need to source it online or somewhere like Whole Foods or Planet Organic.

 

  • Yacon Syrup: It’s natural and has a lovely flavour but its not as sweet as the others. It has a very low effect on blood sugar levels so is suitable for most diabetics without being full of fructose. Yacon is a root vegetable and the roots contain inulin, a type of fructan, the syrup contains 50% fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is an important prebiotic that helps our gut’s beneficial bacteria to grow. Note that the root contains about 35% fructose so practice moderation.

 

  • Lucuma powder: a low sugar sweetening powder that’s made from a Peruvian fruit similar to a peach. It contains some beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, and calcium. The powder can be added to food or smoothies to give it a small sweet kick, some say it tastes like a cross between sweet potato and maple.

 

Chia pudding and raspberriesWhat’s the bottom line?

Obviously we want to avoid using white table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and rapadura sugar. We also want to avoid high fructose things like fizzy drinks, which are very high in processed fructose. Avoid processed foods and check food labels for the ‘of which sugars’ part which should be ideally less than 10g or sugar per 100g of the product. Anything over 15g is too high in my book. Know that one teaspoon of sugar is about 4g so if you see a label on a healthy bar for example that shows ‘of which sugars’ as 16g that’s about 4 teaspoons which is too high and will just raise your blood sugar level too high and spike insulin, energy crashes and fat storage. So start checking labels on foods like pasta sauces, other sauces, bread, dressings, ‘healthy’ mueslis (which are usually detailed per a 40g portion and most of us will pour a lot more than 40g into our bowls!), and ‘healthy’ bars and drinks. The other day I picked up a bottled smoothie in a health food shop and it had 38g of sugar, that’s 9 and a half teaspoons, and the World Health Organisation (in 2015) says adults should have not more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per DAY (not including the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, or those naturally present in milk).

 

When it comes to sugar alternatives these should be used in moderation and the ones highest in fructose shouldn’t be used at all e.g. agave and even honey. The best thing to do is to reduce our need for sweetness gradually so that we soon need to use less and less of the ideal sweeteners I’ve mentioned here.

 

I hope this guide has been helpful and will help you on your quest to reduce your sugar intake and who knows one day be sugar-free!

 

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

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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

5 tips to help you break up with sugar

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I never used to last a day without a bar of chocolate, or two, it was just something I didn’t even think about. Then there was all the ‘hidden’ or not so obvious sugar I was eating such as bowls of pasta, sauces, dressings, white wraps, big jacket potatoes, breakfast cereals, crackers etc. Back then my health wasn’t great, for a young girl in her 20’s, I should have felt and looked much better. I had skin break outs, weak nails, patches of psoriasis and dry skin, IBS which was quite severe at times with numerous hospital visits, terrible PMS, constant headaches, and of course I was overweight with stubborn fat around the middle.

Our ancestors had sugar so what’s wrong with it?

We are born with a natural sweet tooth. To our early ancestors, foods that were sweet meant that they’d be a good source of energy, whilst bitter tasting foods were thought to be a source of toxins. However, back then, access to sweet foods was limited and so no one went overboard! In fact, nature has made it quite hard for us to access sweet foods (apart from fruit) when you consider how strong a sugar cane is on the outside and the heavy machinery that’s needed to extract the juice. Sugar cane juice is subtly sweet and contains things like B vitamins, magnesium, and other nutrients.

The problem is that today, the white (processed) sugar available to us everywhere that started out as cane juice has been refined so many times, and had all the nutrients stripped out. Back in our ancestor’s day, if they fancied something sweet they really had to forage for it, and when they found it they got a nice subtle hit of sweetness, along with some nutrients. Today though we certainly don’t have to forage for sweetness; it’s available everywhere in a wide variety of forms, and we are hit with an intense sweetness each time that just leaves us wanting and needing more of it.

Did you know?…

That our taste buds renew themselves every 10 to 14 days, so we can definitely train our taste buds away from sweet foods quite quickly, if we want to! This is what I did and it was the best thing I ever did! I started by switching my milk chocolate to dark chocolate (70-80% dark), at first it was bitter and I found it tough to make the switch, but after 2 weeks I had officially re-trained my taste buds, having almost spat out ½ a square of milk chocolate for it being far too sweet, and that’s still the case for me today 10 years later.

Gradually decreasing the amount of sweetness you take in is the best way. For example gradually reducing the amount of fruit you use in your smoothies or green juices whilst increasing things like spinach leaves and other green leaves, to start getting your taste buds used to more bitter flavours and less sweet. You will soon fine pure fruit smoothies far too sweet. Make one small change today and work with that for 2 weeks, then another change, and so on. Once you start to feel more energized and vibrant, you wont want to stop! The key is to increase your fat intake and include real, whole foods, keeping your body topped up with good nutrition throughout the day, to stave off cravings and hunger.

The word ‘addiction’ is usually associated with drugs like heroin or cocaine, but there is some evidence to suggest that sugar can be as addictive as drugs. But there is still some controversy about whether this is actually proven to be the case in humans, as most of the studies have been carried out on rats. In my opinion, if there is an ‘addiction’ to sugar it’s usually a result of something else that’s causing the body to crave sugar, and if that something else is addressed the ‘addiction’ is no longer.

I hear a lot of people say that they don’t have a ‘sweet tooth’ and so they don’t need to have sugary treats and snacks. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not addicted to sugar, as they may just be addicted to refined carbs, which are still sugar! Have you come across someone who doesn’t eat chocolate or sweets but couldn’t go a day without white bread, cereals, sandwiches, wraps, pasta, etc.?

Does any of the below apply to you?

  • You crave sugar e.g. chocolate, cakes, etc. often
  • You can’t say no to sugary snacks or treats when on offer
  • You’re not hungry but you still want sugary foods
  • Once you give into your cravings you find it hard to stop, and so might binge e.g. you can’t just have 1 or 2 cookies and you eat the entire packet in one sitting
  • The sugar you eat gives you a short-term boost of energy followed by a crash (think droopy eyes after a lunch of pasta or a big jacket potato)
  • If you try to cut sugar out you feel awful with low energy and more intense cravings
  • You might start the day well without sugar and then by the afternoon you start to crave it and usually give in

If any of these apply to you, there could be a few reasons for why this might be:

You may not be eating enough

Your body’s way of talking to you is via symptoms and cravings. If we don’t feed our body with nutrient dense foods it will eventually ask us to because it is lacking in certain important nutrients. The body’s request manifests itself as a sugar craving and leaves you reaching for processed sugar like a biscuit or a chocolate bar, and as these foods are so empty of nutrients your body never actually gets what it’s asking for so it carries on asking you which leads to another craving shortly after!

Are you stressed?

Adrenalin is the hormone that’s released when we’re stressed, to help us cope with the stress at hand, but it uses a lot of our glucose stores, which can leave us depleted and looking for more to fill the reserves back up again. This is a natural and very clever response by then body! The trouble is we tend to go for fructose rather than glucose (see above) so the body continues to crave, and we continue to eat more sugar. So the key here is to manage stress and thus reduce the amount of adrenalin we release! See below for tips.

You don’t get enough sleep

When we’re tired sugar is a quick source of energy so when your energy levels crash on a tired day we reach for sugar. Also when we are low on sleep we have higher levels of a hormone called grehlin which signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. The hormone leptin, however, cues your brain to put the fork down and when we don’t have enough sleep we have lower levels of leptin. Then there’s the cortisol spike that comes from too little sleep. This stress hormone tells your body to conserve energy (hold onto fat) to fuel your long waking hours, and causes sugar cravings. Being tired revs up the brains reward centres and leaves us looking for something that feels good – sugar! Sleep really is like nutrition for the brain, and ideally we want between 7-9 hours a night to keep these hormones under control.

You drink too much caffeine

Caffeine kicks the adrenal glands into action to release adrenalin, much the same as stress does, so again, you’re left craving sugar to replenish the stores of glucose.

Do you have an emotional connection with sugar?

Cravings can be triggered by an emotion such as anger, anxiety, or boredom etc. You may also associate eating sugar with easing emotional pain, or it could be linked to happy memories from your childhood where sweet foods triggering positive or comforting memories from the past.

Here are some tips to help you move away from a reliance on sugar as you move further into 2016:

  1. Always include some good fats with your meals from sources like avocado, nuts and seeds mixed into with your salads, extra virgin olive oil drizzled over meals, coconut oil and ground flaxseed in smoothies or porridge. This will help to keep you satiated keeping hunger and cravings under control, as well as providing your brain and body with key fatty acids it so needs.
  2. Switch coffee to herbal tea which is much more restorative for your health, especially if you’re someone that ‘can’t possibly live without your morning coffee.’
  3. Deep breathing can really make a difference here, breathing deeply sends a signal to your brain that you are calm and all is well, which reduces the amount of adrenalin that’s released. So, practice yoga and or meditation regularly or if you cant manage this then simply add a few round of deep breathing into your day, a few times a day, when you notice things are getting on top of you
  4. Use a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily to help you get the minimum levels of important nutrients, make sure it includes chromium as chromium can help to balance our blood sugar levels which can be helpful when you first start reducing sugar (whilst getting more levels from your food choices).
  5. Avoid using artificial sweeteners as they encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence just the same. They don’t help to train our taste buds away from sweetness, really what we want to be doing is training ourselves to prefer savoury, only wanting sweet stuff from time to time and in moderation – putting you in control! Artificial sweeteners place a burden on the liver too as they are processed through our detoxification pathways, being recognized as a toxin.

Try to identify where your issues might be and work on those, that way you can eliminate whatever it is that leaves your body craving sugar, rather than relying on ‘willpower’ and simply forcing yourself to cut sugar out without identifying WHY you want it in the first place. Let’s all develop a healthy relationship with sugar rather than a dependent one :-)

 

Is sugar your nemesis? Here’s why and how you can quit

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I never used to last a day without a bar of chocolate, or two, it was just something I didn’t even think about. Then there was all the ‘hidden’ or not so obvious sugar I was eating such as bowls of pasta, sauces, dressings, white wraps, big jacket potatoes, breakfast cereals, crackers etc. Back then my health wasn’t great, for a young girl in her 20’s, I should have felt and looked much better. I had skin break outs, weak nails, patches of psoriasis and dry skin, IBS which was quite severe at times with numerous hospital visits, terrible PMS, and constant headaches.

Our ancestors had sugar so what’s wrong with it?

We are born with a natural sweet tooth. To our early ancestors, foods that were sweet meant that they’d be a good source of energy, whilst bitter tasting foods were thought to be a source of toxins. However, back then, access to sweet foods was limited and so no one went overboard! In fact, nature has made it quite hard for us to access sweet foods (apart from fruit) when you consider how strong a sugar cane is on the outside and the heavy machinery that’s needed to extract the juice. Sugar cane juice is subtly sweet and contains things like B vitamins, magnesium, and other nutrients.

The problem is that today, the white (processed) sugar available to us everywhere that started out as cane juice has been refined so many times, and had all the nutrients stripped out. Back in our ancestor’s day, if they fancied something sweet they really had to forage for it, and when they found it they got a nice subtle hit of sweetness, along with some nutrients. Today though we certainly don’t have to forage for sweetness; it’s available everywhere in a wide variety of forms, and we are hit with an intense sweetness each time that just leaves us wanting and needing more of it.

There are 2 main types of sugar, glucose and fructose.

Glucose is the primary source of energy your body uses and every cell relies on it to function. When we talk about blood sugar we are referring to glucose in the blood. Glucose alone does not taste particularly sweet compared to fructose and sucrose. We can get the glucose we need from things like brown rice, quinoa, potato, carrot, bread and whole meal pasta (in moderation). E.g. we don’t need sugar in its refined and processed form to provide energy. I’ve heard some people suggest that diabetic

Fructose or fruit sugar is a simple sugar naturally occurring in fruit, honey, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is very sweet. Because of the worldwide increase in the consumption of sweeteners, soft drinks and foods containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose intake has quadrupled since the early 1900s.The body handles fructose in a different way to glucose because it is metabolised in the liver. As a result, blood sugar (glucose) levels do not rise as rapidly after fructose consumption compared to other simple sugars. When you eat too much fructose the liver cannot process it fast enough and instead, starts to make fats, which are carried in the blood and stored as triglycerides – the bodies main form of fat.

So, occasionally it’s ok to use non-fructose based natural sweeteners such as stevia (pure liquid stevia only), rice malt syrup, coconut nectar, and brown rice syrup. But only occasionally, because while fructose-free sweeteners don’t have the same effect on the liver as fructose, they still encourage that sweet tooth, and they raise blood sugar levels, leading to fat storage around the middle, and increasing diabetes risk.

Did you know…?

That our taste buds renew themselves every 10 to 14 days, so we can definitely train our taste buds away from sweet foods quite quickly, if we want to! This is what I did and it was the best thing I ever did! I started by switching my milk chocolate to dark chocolate (70-80% dark), at first it was bitter and I found it tough to make the switch, but after 2 weeks I had officially re-trained my taste buds, having almost spat out ½ a square of milk chocolate for it being far too sweet, and that’s still the case for me today 10 years later.

Gradually decreasing the amount of sweetness you take in is the best way. For example gradually reducing the amount of fruit you use in your smoothies or green juices whilst increasing things like spinach leaves and other green leaves, to start getting your taste buds used to more bitter flavours and less sweet. You will soon fine pure fruit smoothies far too sweet. Make one small change today and work with that for 2 weeks, then another change, and so on. Once you start to feel more energized and vibrant, you wont want to stop! The key is to increase your fat intake and include real, whole foods, keeping your body topped up with good nutrition throughout the day, to stave off cravings and hunger.

The word ‘addiction’ is usually associated with drugs like heroin or cocaine, but there is some evidence to suggest that sugar can be as addictive as drugs. But there is still some controversy about whether this is actually proven to be the case in humans, as most of the studies have been carried out on rats. In my opinion, if there is an ‘addiction’ to sugar it’s usually a result of something else that’s causing the body to crave sugar, and if that something else is addressed the ‘addiction’ is no longer.

I hear a lot of people say that they don’t have a ‘sweet tooth’ and so they don’t need to have sugary treats and snacks. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not addicted to sugar, as they may just be addicted to refined carbs, which are still sugar! Have you come across someone who doesn’t eat chocolate or sweets but couldn’t go a day without white bread, cereals, sandwiches, wraps, pasta, etc.?

Take a look at the following scenarios and see if any of them apply to you:

  • You crave sugar e.g. chocolate, cakes, etc. often
  • You can’t say no to sugary snacks or treats when on offer
  • You’re not hungry but you still want sugary foods
  • Once you give into your cravings you find it hard to stop, and so might binge e.g. you can’t just have 1 or 2 cookies and you eat the entire packet in one sitting
  • The sugar you eat gives you a short-term boost of energy followed by a crash (think droopy eyes after a lunch of pasta or a big jacket potato)
  • If you try to cut sugar out you feel awful with low energy and more intense cravings
  • You might start the day well without sugar and then by the afternoon you start to crave it and usually give in

If any of these apply to you, there could be a few reasons for why this might be:

You’re not eating enough

Your body’s way of talking to you is via symptoms and cravings. If we don’t feed our body with nutrient dense foods it will eventually ask us to because it is lacking in certain important nutrients. The body’s request manifests itself as a sugar craving and leaves you reaching for processed sugar like a biscuit or a chocolate bar, and as these foods are so empty of nutrients your body never actually gets what it’s asking for so it carries on asking you which leads to another craving shortly after!

You’re stressed

Adrenalin is the hormone that’s released when we’re stressed, to help us cope with the stress at hand, but it uses a lot of our glucose stores, which can leave us depleted and looking for more to fill the reserves back up again. This is a natural and very clever response by then body! The trouble is we tend to go for fructose rather than glucose (see above) so the body continues to crave, and we continue to eat more sugar. So the key here is to manage stress and thus reduce the amount of adrenalin we release! See below for tips.

You haven’t slept well or for long enough

When we’re tired sugar is a quick source of energy so when your energy levels crash on a tired day we reach for sugar. Also when we are low on sleep we have higher levels of a hormone called grehlin which signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. The hormone leptin, however, cues your brain to put the fork down and when we don’t have enough sleep we have lower levels of leptin. Then there’s the cortisol spike that comes from too little sleep. This stress hormone tells your body to conserve energy (hold onto fat) to fuel your long waking hours, and causes sugar cravings. Being tired revs up the brains reward centres and leaves us looking for something that feels good – sugar!

Sleep really is like nutrition for the brain, and ideally we want between 7-9 hours a night to keep these hormones under control.

You drink too much caffeine

Caffeine kicks the adrenal glands into action to release adrenalin, much the same as stress does, so again, you’re left craving sugar to replenish the stores of glucose.

You have an emotional connection with sugar

Cravings can be triggered by an emotion such as anger, anxiety, or boredom etc. You may also associate eating sugar with easing emotional pain, or it could be linked to happy memories from your childhood where sweet foods triggering positive or comforting memories from the past.

Here are some tips to help you move away from a reliance on sugar as you move further into 2016

  • Always include some good fats with your meals from sources like avocado, nuts and seeds mixed into with your salads, extra virgin olive oil drizzled over meals, coconut oil and ground flaxseed in smoothies or porridge. This will help to keep you satiated keeping hunger and cravings under control, as well as providing your brain and body with key fatty acids it so needs.
  • Switch coffee to herbal tea which is much more restorative for your health, especially if you’re someone that ‘can’t possibly live without your morning coffee.’
  • Deep breathing can really make a difference here, breathing deeply sends a signal to your brain that you are calm and all is well, which reduces the amount of adrenalin that’s released. So, practice yoga and or meditation regularly or if you cant manage this then simply add a few round of deep breathing into your day, a few times a day, when you notice things are getting on top of you 
  • Use a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily to help you get the minimum levels of important nutrients, make sure it includes chromium as chromium can help to balance our blood sugar levels which can be helpful when you first start reducing sugar (whilst getting more levels from your food choices).
  • Avoid using artificial sweeteners as they encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence just the same. They don’t help to train our taste buds away from sweetness, really what we want to be doing is training ourselves to prefer savoury, only wanting sweet stuff from time to time and in moderation – putting you in control! Artificial sweeteners place a burden on the liver too as they are processed through our detoxification pathways, being recognized as a toxin.

Try to identify where your issues might be and work on those, that way you can eliminate whatever it is that leaves your body craving sugar, rather than relying on ‘willpower’ and simply forcing yourself to cut sugar out without identifying WHY you want it in the first place. Let’s all develop a healthy relationship with sugar rather than a dependent one.

Coca cola – for a ‘Life’ of sugar addiction

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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.

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