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What’s the issue with sugar?

/ Health & Fitness

What’s the issue with sugar?

Over the last number of years, sugar has appeared to have overtaken fat as the media’s Public Health Enemy Number One. MPs and pressure groups are demanding food manufacturers to cut back on it.  While every week more celebrities quit sugar and are urging us to do the same.

Just a few minutes on the internet will reveal that sugar causes everything from obesity to cancer. Some experts say it’s as hazardous for our health as smoking!. But is that really the case?

Sugars are found in many forms, some of which are naturally occurring and some added to foods (free sugars).

If it’s a naturally occurring form, such as fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, it will usually be accompanied by other nutrients. For instance, fruit contains vitamins and soluble fibre, while dairy products contain protein and calcium. The problem is really when we eat large amounts of foods containing added sugar (free sugar). Doughnuts, biscuits, cakes and puddings for example come with few, if any, compensating nutrients to accompany the sugar. Instead they come with a lot of fat, mainly saturated in a lot of cases. This combination of sugar and fat means these foods tend to be loaded with calories.

If we are taking in more calories than we need, it puts us at increased risk of weight gain. Also, those conditions associated with weight gain, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A diet high in refined sugar not only leads to problems with fluctuating energy levels and moods, but it can also lead to increased levels of inflammation, lowered immunity and digestive problems, all of which can be damaging to our mental health.

Why are our brains geared to seek out sweet foods?

When food was scarce during our hunter-gatherer period, sweet foods such as fruits and some vegetables would provide the most immediate energy dense nutrients.

However, whilst this was useful thousands of years ago when famine might have been a common occurrence, nowadays there is an abundance of food. We are not built to be eating sugar all the time and this is showing to be a serious problem. Especially in the western world, with the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Some simple ways to reduce your sugar intake:

  • Reduce your intake of processed foods such as manufactured cakes, biscuits, pastries, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, chocolates, cereal bars and sweets.
  • Replace refined grains such as white bread and white pasta with brown/wholegrain options
  • Eat your fruit instead of drinking it! Fruit juice provides an immediate sugary hit, the process of eating the whole fruit slows this sugar-hit down and often provides nutrients including fibre.

Tip: sweetness and flavour can be added through spices such as cinnamon or vanilla.

For more information on this subject or anything related to health/nutrition contact Marko on marko.humphrey@mvtlc.org or 07767 664186.

MV runs regular nutrition workshops as well as offering nutrition drop-in sessions and longer 1 to 1 sessions.

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