THE TRUTH ABOUT SUGAR
We find sugar everywhere today. It is in cookies, cakes, doughnuts, sweets, carbonated drinks, and other foods we would never think to look such as sauces, salad dressings and even roast chicken! With all these tasty delicacies sitting around, it is hard to stop ourselves from eating it all the time.
Sugar is common problem that plagues the whole wide world. However widespread, added sugars are not a necessary nutrient in your diet, and they can cause serious harm if eaten in large amounts on a regular basis. More and more evidence is coming to light (through research and studies) showing that sugar is the primary factor in causing not just obesity, but many other chronic health issues.
Think about it: How often are you waking up in the morning, guzzling a big cup of coffee, and maybe eating a croissant or a piece of toast with jam? Then you run to the office, and later on if you do eat lunch, it’s a sandwich or bagel or slice of pizza.
Sometimes we work so hard we skip meals and then we gorge on whatever is quick and easy for dinner before heading to bed (and then we wonder why we don’t sleep well).
You might not think this cycle is affecting you, but over time, it is a health disaster.
The habit of skipping meals and eating foods lacking in nutrients but high in refined carbs and sugar can create systemic damage all the way from weight gain to hormone imbalance to full-blown diabetes.
How much sugar do we eat?
We are buying fewer bags of sugar these days, but our sugar consumption in the UK has risen by 31 per cent over last 20 years to 0.5kgs per person per week. This is on average 26kgs per person per year. During the late nineteenth century, the average consumption of sugar was 2.2kgs per person per year.
What effect does sugar have on your health?
Of the different food types we eat, sugar is the simplest for the body to create energy from. So it’s logical to think that a sugary snack is the quick fix solution when you’re feeling tired.
But the impact of refined sugar on your health is enormous because it creates a domino effect on many organs, glands and systems in your body. Some of the symptoms associated with the effects of sugar are:
· Weight gain
· Type 2 diabetes
· Mood swings – irritability, crying spells, aggressive outbursts
· Anxiety and tension
· Inability to concentrate
· Lack of sex drive
· High cholesterol
· Thyroid problems
· Feeling more stressed
Just what is the problem with refined sugar?
When you eat unrefined carbohydrates, such as oats and brown rice, your body gets a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream and a certain amount of insulin is released from the pancreas to deal with this gradual rise in blood sugar. But foods and drinks that contain refined sugar cause a rapid and high rise in blood sugar. Your body has to respond to this by producing more insulin from the pancreas to deal with the high level of blood sugar.
The higher your blood sugar goes up, the lower it crashes down afterwards. At the drop your body will do two things: firstly it will send you off for a quick sugar fix (like a bar of chocolate) because it needs to lift the blood sugar up again; and, at the same time, it releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol from your adrenal glands to release your own sugar stores to try correct the low level.
This means you can end up on a perpetual blood sugar roller-coaster of highs and lows.
These constant high and lows may lead to the following:
· Tiredness - Sugar moves from the digestive system to the blood very quickly, which creates a flood of glucose. The body reacts by releasing insulin equally fast to metabolise the sugar. The effect on you is an immediate energy high, followed quickly by an energy crash. A natural reaction is then to eat more sugar – and so the cycle continues.
· Weight gain - A regular urge to eat more sugar to combat tiredness can quickly cause weight gain. If it is not converted into energy, the body first stores sugar as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Once those cells are saturated, additional glucose is converted into fat – and stored around the body.
· Diabetes - The process of turning glucose to energy requires the hormone insulin – so every time we eat sugar, insulin is released by the pancreas. If your blood sugar spikes regularly, the burden of producing all the additional insulin can cause cells to become resistant – meaning blood stays constantly high in glucose, leading to chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes.
· Aging - High blood sugar leads to a process called glycation – where glucose attaches to protein in the blood. Glycation creates by-products that damage cell membranes and cause inflammation – effectively aging the cells in your body.
So, it is clear that food is information. It can tell our cells to work their energetic magic or it can tell them to give up and age faster. Hence, it is vital to keep our blood sugar balanced for good health.
When your diet consists of fast-burning carbs that immediately turn to sugar (think white bread, white pasta, white rice, potatoes, cakes and biscuits) your cells get desensitized to insulin; they need more and more to do the same job of keeping your blood sugar in check. These foods trigger a special region in the brain called the nucleus accumbens, our pleasure centre. This means that foods that spike blood sugar are biologically addictive.
What steps can you take to help protect your blood sugar health in the long term?
1. Adapt your diet
· Avoid high sugar foods like chocolate, biscuits and sweets as well as refined starches like white bread, pasta and rice.
· Avoid processed foods and sauces, they usually have a high sugar content too – so check the labels before you buy
· Try to cook from scratch whenever possible.
· While fruit provides welcome nutrients like vitamins, water and fibre, it generally has a high sugar content too. So help reduce the effect of this on your blood sugar by combining your fruit snack with some protein-rich food like nuts.
The winning combination for EVERY MEAL is plant foods + healthy fats + clean protein. If you use this combination, you will create blood sugar balancing meals that will keep you nourished and satiated. 2. Avoid stress
When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to give you the energy to cope with a stressful situation, so it taps into your protein and fat stores and creates glucose. This is great if you need to run for a bus, but if you don’t convert the sugar into energy, it stays in your blood stream – with the same consequences as eating a sweet snack.
3. Be active
Being active – whether through exercise or just being busy on your feet – is the best way to use up the glucose in your blood, so look for ways to build movement into your everyday life. There is lots of different ways to stay active, so choose something you enjoy doing.
I believe that balancing blood sugar and ending our addiction to processed carbohydrates and sugar is one of the most important steps to take when it comes to losing weight, rebalancing hormones and reclaiming our health.
However, cutting sugar out (or even cutting down) can feel hard – especially if you have spent years using sugary treats to give you enough energy to get through the day or as a reward for something you achieved.
Here’s the good news: we all have the tools to break free of this addictive cycle and feel vibrant and energized and to help you I have created
7day Sugar Free Challenge
This challenge is exactly what you need to break free from sugar, lose a few pounds and start to feel the most amazing version of yourself.
Want to take part? Of course you do!
Here is what you’ll get:
· A 10-page guide to breaking free from sugar
· Understand where sugar is sneaking into your diet
· Discover easy swaps for breakfast and snacks (usually the worst offenders)
· Get daily prompts to help you put the ideas into practice
· Accountability and support through a private Facebook group because knowing what to do is only part of the solution.
The challenge starts on 1st of March and takes place in my Facebook group Applause for Menopause.
It would be great to see as many of you as possible. You can invite friends to join the group – or give them the link and have them sign up.
To join us click https://www.facebook.com/groups/104984267868037