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Sugar, friend or foe

Sugar and more particularly added sugar also known as honey, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, golden syrup, agave nectar, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit-juice concentrate, malt, raw sugar, syrup, malt extract, maple syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, maltose, treacle, corn syrup, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, molasses and palm sugar is continuing to be a hot topic for discussion.

As a result there is a huge volume of information being written about sugar.

Despite this people are telling me they are not clear on the key messages they should be aware of in regard to sugar in their food.

Here are answers to the ten most commonly questions I receive about sugar.

1. Why is  sugar a continuing hot topic?

  • The first reason is because we seem to have an ongoing love affair with sugar.
  • Unfortunately the health statistics indicate that this love affair is not good for our health.
  • The 2010 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare ranked Australia in the worst third of OECD countries on levels of overweight and obesity.

2. What are the different categories of sugar?

  • There are two basic categories of sugar to be aware of, extrinsic sugar and intrinsic sugar.
  • Extrinsic sugar also known as added sugar or free sugar is sugar added to food, a drink or a meal.  It can be added during the manufacturing process, by restaurants or others who prepare your meals or by you when you prepare your own food or drink.  Sometimes it is also referred to as hidden sugar because you may not be aware it is in the food you are eating.
  • Intrinsic sugar also referred to as natural sugar is naturally found in whole food.  A good example of this is fruit.

3. Which sugar is okay to include in my diet?

  • Natural sugar found in whole fresh food can be included in a healthy diet however it should be consumed in moderation.
  • For example 2 pieces of fresh fruit can be included in the diet of a healthy adult.
  • A healthy balanced and moderate diet high in fresh whole food should provide you all the natural sugar you need.

 4. How do I know if added sugar is in a product?

  • Unfortunately the labelling or advertising for refined, manufactured and processed foods can be confusing.
  • Even when a food label says no added sugar, it does not mean the product does not contain sugar.
  • Common names for sugar in manufactured products include honey, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, golden syrup, agave nectar, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit-juice concentrate, malt, raw sugar, syrup, malt extract, maple syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, maltose, treacle, corn syrup, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, molasses and palm sugar.
  • Sugar can be found in foods you may not suspect.  Some are more obvious, e.g. fruit and some vegetable juices, canned fruit and biscuits and some are less obvious e.g. salad dressings, processed meat and products such as BBQ sauce.

 5. Aren’t carbohydrates bad for me?

  • Carbohydrates are a macronutrient which means on a relative basis should be included in large amounts in our diet.
  • Carbohydrates contribute most to the body’s daily energy needs so moderate amounts of carbohydrates in your daily diet are important.
  • However of course we need to remember when we consume excessive amounts of any food or drink that we do not need to meet our energy needs, it is stored by the body as fat.

6. Is it not about energy in and energy?

  • No as this ignores the element of quality in a healthy diet.
  • Quality refers to nutrient density, in simple terms what nutrients and other substances are present in food that support or promote health.
  • Do you know a glass of apple juice may contain up to the equivalent of 4-5 apples?  In the time it takes you to eat an apple you can drink much more apple juice and hence consume lots more sugar.
  • By eating the whole apple you can satisfy your desire for sweetness and give your body time to understand it is satisfied.

 7. Can I avoid all sugar?

  • I believe it would be very challenging to live life and avoid all added sugar.
  • Attempting to avoid all sugar may promote restrictive and possibly guilt driven eating and this increases the risk of developing unhealthy attitudes to food.
  • I believe food is to be enjoyed so I recommend whole natural food over processed and refined foods, however the occasional treat as part of a healthy balanced diet is okay.
  • Try not to demonise foods, think of them as healthier or healthiest and seek to include these in your daily food plan.

8. Is not natural sugar – fructose bad for me?

  • It is my understanding that the intent of recent research was to raise awareness of what excessive intake of fructose can do to your health.
  • Much of the debate centered on the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by manufacturers who are using it as a cheap and effective way to sweeten foods.
  • Consuming too much fructose is more likely to be an issue for someone predominantly consuming / over consuming highly refined and processed foods high in added sugar.
  • Remember excess of any nutrient or health promoting substance can lead to imbalance in your health.  A key characteristic of healthy eating and living is moderation and balance.

9. In what health conditions should sugar be limited?

  •  Medically diagnosed conditions including diabetes must monitor their intake of all sugar.
  • If you are carrying excess weight and it is associated with a diagnosed health challenge I recommend you seek help to change / improve your diet and lifestyle.
  • Remember it is essential to see a Medical Practitioner to have a health condition like Type-2-Diabetes diagnosed, do not attempt to self-diagnose.

10. Can I use sugar alternatives?

  • The view of whether there are health benefits or not of sweeteners is mixed.
  • The research findings are conflicting and hotly debated so be cautious in the choices you make.
  • I recommend you reduce total added sugar and this includes the use of sugar alternatives.

I hope my blog has been useful to you.

I know and acknowledge changing your food habits can be challenging and confronting so if you are look for further info or need support I encourage you to make contact.

Remember.

  • Enjoy your food!
  • Embrace the five principles synonymous with healthy eating and mind-ful living; balance, moderation, fresh, variety and being active!

Ciao Jan