Sunday, 26 August 2012

Avoiding HIDDEN sugar

Sugar is recognised as an addictive substance which creates similar biochemical behaviour in the body to drugs, most recent research suggests it is as addictive as cocaine. This is due to the euphoric effect that consumption of sugar has, a release of dopamine and other chemicals in our brain's pleasure centre may be the reason behind the sweet cravings. We all know the consequences of too much sugar in our diet, and unfortunately they are the main killers in society - obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Despite the dangers of too much sugar in the diet, companies will continue to add it to foods not only due to the addictive quality and to enhance the taste but it is a cheap ingredient that adds volume to the product.

It isn't only present in the foods we recognise as sweet but much of the sugar we consume is hidden such as in condiments (sauces, spreads, etc), dairy products and bread. Sugar isn't just listed as 'sugar' either - companies may use other not so common names to trick consumers. Names for sugar include:

  • maltodextrin
  • dextrose
  • syrup
  • corn syrup
  • corn starch
  • wheat syrup
  • fructose
  • cane juice or evaporated cane juice
  • barley malt
  • caramel
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • invert sugar
  • maltose
  • molasses
  • honey
  • agave nectar
Ok so besides added sugars, there are foods that are relatively high in naturally occurring sugar and starch such as bananas, mango, beetroot, carrot and dates. The key with these is to keep consumption in moderation but be aware these foods are also a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals so should not be shunted completely.

Fructose is a sugar that has received alot of criticism due to the detrimental effects this sugar has on our bodies once it's metabolised - this includes increased fat deposition, liver issues and digestive issues amongst other things. Addition of high fructose corn syrup is a cost-effective way that companies can save money while creating the sweetness they want in their food. However, it is deemed as the major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US and other countries and many want it banned. We are relatively lucky in Australia that we use primarily cane sugar (due to the abundance of plantations in Queensland) which is lower in fructose - but still dangerous in large amounts!

For more information on fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, follow the link below for an interesting read:

Some tips for healthy sugar consumption:

  • Stick to below the recommended intake as much as possible (Due to no nutritional value, sugar is NOT recommended at all.. however by allowing as little as no more than 100 of discretionary calories to be consumed as sugar, this is a more realistic approach eg about 25g in total)
  • READ food labels to avoid hidden sugar and make your choices wisely
  • The more you eat sugar.. the more you crave it so try to limit your intake to stop the vicious cycle
  • Some herbs such as gymnema, fenugreek and cinnamon will help to reduce high blood sugar and help stop sugar cravings
  • If you eat something sugary, allowing it to be within an hour of intense cardio exercise may reduce the impact it has on blood sugar as it fuels the muscles for energy
  • Consciously reduce adding sugar to meals e.g. oats/porridge in the morning - add stewed fruit or some stevia for sweetness, don't add sugar to your morning coffee and you'll soon develop a more sensitive palate for detecting sweetness in foods.