The word that plagues our headlines, burns our ears, forces the creases between our eyebrows to deepen and yet at the same time, brings with it, an undeniable intrigue – is it really the be all and end all, can we just cut it out, do we even need to cut it out, is that even possible!? Would there be any improvement on our quality of life, our potential longevity or even on our mental wellbeing if we were to cut down our intake? Diana Bell-Irving, one half of the Sugar Free Siblings, gives us the low-down.
Many believe sugar is needed for our survival, to literally keep us alive, this is true in so far as the building blocks of carbohydrates (being sugars) are needed as part of a balanced diet, yet the substance we are referring to here is ‘free sugars’, comprised of 50% glucose & 50% fructose (in general), which are absolutely not essential to life. Examples of these include HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and Sucrose (table sugar).
Over the past 50 years the number of Obese individuals has gone from 1 in 8 to 1 in 3 and the prevalence of Diabetes has increased by 900% from the 1960s to today – these are some big, scary numbers, and if there are lifestyle changes, which don’t ostracise one form society and that may have a positive impact on our health in preventing chronic conditions that our society is currently overcome by, then why not give them a go. Scientists, doctors and researchers have conducted thousands of studies on the addictive, fattening and overall negative impact too many free sugars can have on our health.
When consumed the body will use the sugar as energy; any surplus fructose not needed by the body is stored in the liver as fatty acids (packaged as triglycerides), which becomes problematic when the storage levels are so high that conditions such as NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), as well as other excess consumption related conditions such as type II Diabetes and an increasing BMI, develop.
Avoidance at all costs is not the advice here, a little here and there will do no harm, to be frank local honey when used to combat seasonal allergies can work wonders! Moderation is the key.
Free sugars have been vilified for many years now, and the debate swings in roundabouts between calories, fat intake, sugar consumption, how much protein one should eat, intermittent fasting, this diet and that – but why so many? For the very good reason that no one size fits all, no one diet will ensure every human reaches their perfect end goal, whatever said end goal may be, and further, because they are difficult, extraordinary so, to stick to. Yet, there is good news, reducing one’s sugar consumption is manageable, stocking up your cupboards at home, your fridge at work, doing some batch cooking, rustling up a storm with your friends, family and flatmates as well as doing a little research into which food delivery companies drop off in your area is key. Making these small changes in your life mean that there is none of that last minute rushing to pick up the convenient, salt ridden, sugar preserved, artificially flavoured & rancid vegetable oil filled ready meal or snack, excuse the lack of restraint but let’s be realistic, anything that has a shelf life of multiple months has to be full of garbage to last that long.
So, the solution? Just cut down on it where you can, eat more real food, food that you recognise, food that doesn’t come in a cellophane wrapper with many multiple ingredients listed on the back, most of which you have never heard of or can’t pronounce, buy some new pots and pans / wipe the dust off the ones you already have, get a good cookery book, read some food blogs, be imaginative, meet your local butcher – ask where they source the meat from, which pieces are good for slow cooking and which are not. Stock up those cupboards with herbs, spices, nut butters, coconut milks, seeds, quinoa, wild black rice, jumbo porridge oats, chia seeds and hemp kernels. Fill your freezer with organic berries and chopped bananas, pots of leftover curries, stews & soups, and most importantly, ALWAYS keep the leftovers – they are truly the most wonderful base for the next meal, all you need to do is add some fresh salad leaves, or a pile of pea pasta, some hot roasted tomatoes, a slathering of olive oil, some paprika & a dash of cumin, maybe even a slice or two of avocado or an egg – and hey presto you’ve got yourself another yummy dish which you’ve created.