So we know that too much sugar is bad for us. How can we forget, with every magazine and newspaper under the sun urging us to quit it. Forever.
It would be ideal to give it up for good, yes, but realistic, not so much. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I tell myself something is forbidden, I want it. Sound familiar? Its almost impossible not to think of ice cream when you have sworn yourself of it. So how do we go about it. Well.
Its is time to try….. a more balanced approach. Allow yourself everything, just moderate it. Listen to your body and find a balance. Have a sugar sometimes, if really want it, but know what kind of sugar you are eating. I’m talking delicious homemade birthday cakes, fine patisseries and the odd almond croissant from the BEST baker in Borough market. Thats the sugar I enjoy, but in moderation. Too much and it is a slippery slope to ice cream for breakfast.
Anyway back to the sugar basics. Thats what this post is about, deconstructing the sugars. I’m going to break it down for you into to bitesize pieces. Get ready for the facts….
Glucose is what carbohydrates get converted into in the body. How much glucose is released into the blood is dependant on the fructose/sucrose levels of the food eaten. It is the bodies favourite form of energy, the sugar in our blood, unlocked by insulin and used to fuel our brain and muscles.
Regulating glucose is important. If the blood sugar is too high, our pancreas struggles to produce enough insulin to regulate it and can lead to diabetes. If it is too low (often led about by an overly restricted low carb diet) then we can develop hypoglycaemia. Don’t let yourself get to this point because it is in this survival mode your body will be yelling for the high carb foods – bread, pasta, white rice, potato and sugar!!
Fruit Sugar, simple monosaccharide, found in many fruits and vegetables.
Its sweet, so you need less, but very hard to digest. In small quantities it helps the body break down sucrose but in large quantities it has been discovered to have damaging effects on body. When the glucose from food enters the bloodstream, the body releases insulin to regulate sugar levels. When too much fructose enters the liver it overwhelms it. The liver can’t process it fast enough, so it turns the fructose into fat and sends them into the bloodstream. In the long term this leads to issues with heart disease and diabetes. High fructose syrups and sugars are also know to trigger symptoms of IBS and irritate the gut lining.*
Now I’m not fully condemning fructose, because when consumed with sucrose in moderate amounts, the body is able to digest it. It’s when it is eaten alone, and in large amounts that it becomes a problem. A little agave or honey in salad dressing is ok. Its important not get too pedantic. We just need to be aware.
High Fructose ingredients include: concentrated apple juices, agave syrup, carob syrups, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar, even honey.
This is table sugar. It is made from a combination of glucose and fructose units, usually taken from sugar cane or sugar beet. In its unrefined form, it helps the body metabolise fructose. But it has a very high Glycemic Index – meaning it releases glucose into the blood very quickly, prompting the pancreas to produce insulin at a rapid rate. Overtime this is knackering for pancreas, so it often gives up (or at least takes a break) and you can find you have developed type-2 diabetes, or at the least become pre-diabetic. Being pre diabetic means you are already damaging your arteries and blood vessels from excess sugar in the blood, even if you are not technically classified as diabetic.
It is something to think about before taking a third slice of cake. Just sayin…
If you are going to consume sugar, opt for the ones with a equal or slightly higher sucrose/fructose ratio to have. They are easier to metabolise and have a less harmful effect on the body.
Higher sucrose/fructose Ingredients : maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, unrefined cane sugar
Medium sucrose/fructose ingredients : molasses, black treacle
So put down that sweetie jar, and grab yourself an orange. Yes, that means me too. Its time to cut back, not quit. We need not throw out the baby with the bathwater and condemn sugar completely, just be mindful about the types we are choosing. Eat wholesome food everyday and enjoy the odd treat… It really is possible to have your cake and eat it too!
*For more information on IBS management check out the details of the Low Fodmap Diet