Tips for Eating Less Sugar
Posted on January 07, 2018
Eating less sugar can be incredibly beneficial from your body, from balancing your blood sugar, hormones and energy levels to managing diabetes, reducing the risk of heart disease and supporting weight loss. But life with less sugar need not be any less sweet!
Eat protein with each meal and snack
Protein slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and helps stabilize energy levels after eating. Balanced blood sugar helps combat cravings for sugar and sweet treats. Protein is also the most satiating micronutrients, meaning it will help you to feel fuller for longer and less likely to reach for the cookie jar!
It’s all to easy to reach for a chocolate bar or biscuit with your afternoon tea but choosing your snacks more wisely can help you avoid the sugar rollercoaster later on in the day. Add some protein and opt for high fibre alternatives. Try some hummus with carrot sticks, nuts with a piece of fruit or nut butter on apple slices.
Stick to low GL fruit
Whole fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but some fruit also contain relatively high amounts of sugar. Choose your fruit carefully by sticking to varieties that are lower in sugar. Glycemic Load (GL) is a measure of the effect of a particular carbohydrate per portion has on blood sugar levels. In general the lower the G the better. Examples of low GL fruits include berries, apples, pears, kiwi and citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit). Ones to watch out for are grapes, raisins and most tropical fruits (dates, raisins, figs, banana, prunes, mango).
Eat a savoury breakfast
Many breakfast options, including cereals, pastries, instant oats and even shop bought smoothies can be surprisingly high in sugar. One simple way to minimize your sugar consumption and avoid sugar cravings is to being your day with a savory breakfast rich in fats and proteins. Avocado on gluten free toast or rye bread is a simple alternative, or if you have the time, why not whip up a spinach and mushroom omelette?
Not only is cinnamon a high source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and heart healthy, it also has some impressive blood sugar balancing properties. Studies have found that cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity, which is the ability of your cells to respond to the hormone insulin, an important part of maintaining stable blood sugar. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your coffee, smoothie, or oats in the morning for a satisfying sweetness that will ward off Type II Diabetes! Cinnamon and liqourice tea is a satisfying choice when sugar cravings strike!
Avoid hidden sugars
Sugar can be hidden in some unsuspecting places in the supermarkets. Dried fruits, tomato sauces, salad dressings, Asian dishes, marinades, breads, cereal bars and energy bars all typically contain added sugars which can quickly mount up. It’s important to read food labels and as a rule of thumb choose foods that contain 5g (a little over 1 teaspoon) of sugar or less per 100g. This will help to keep you in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 6 teaspoons of sugar per day (see ‘becoming a sugar detective’ information below)
Sugar is not for drinking
A 330ml of soda can contain as much as 10g teaspoons of sugar! That’s almost twice the recommended daily intake of sugar. Whether is a soft drink, tonic water, sports drink or a teaspoon of sugar it’s best to avoid drinking sugar all together as it has either been stripped of beneficial fibre or added in a highly concentrated form e.g. high-fructose corn syrup. Seemingly healthy drinks such as fruit juices can also be very concentrated sources of sugar and should be kept to a minimum.
Alcohol is another form of liquid sugar to be wary of, but if you still fancy a tipple then a glass of red wine or clear spirits, such as gin and vodka, with soda water and a slice of lemon are your best bet.
Becoming a Sugar Detective
To be clear its fructose that’s the thing to watch out for, no sugar per se. Here’s why it’s bad:
Fructose makes us eat more: every molecule of food we put in our mouth has corresponding appetite hormones. When we’ve eaten enough of said molecule, these hormones tell our brains ‘we’re full now, stop eating’, our bodies are great in that way, we designed to eat only as much as we need – every molecule does this – except fructose! Back when we were cave men sugar was both highly valuable (it cave us instant energy), and extremely rare! This means we evolved with no fructose ‘full switch’, which was great when sugar was hard to find – not so much in our modern world now! Having no ‘off switch’ is a massive liability!
Fructose converts directly to fat: most of the metabolic burden for processing fructose is in your liver. This is not the case with glucose of which your liver breaks down only 20%. Nearly every cell in our body utilizes glucose. The way fructose is used in our body means it’s not used straight away as energy, but converted directly to fat. When we drink fructose (in soft drinks and juices), this process is even more direct and faster.
Fructose makes us sick: A number of studies have found that sugar:
- inhibits our immune systems, making it harder to fight off viruses and infections
- upsets the mineral balance in our bodies, causing deficiencies as well as interfering with mineral absorption
- messes with fertility
- speeds up the ageing process
- has been connected with the development of cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder and stomach
- is linked to dementia
- causes an acidic digestive tract, indigestion and malabsorption
- can cause a rapid rise in adrenaline, as well as hyper-activity, anxiety and loss of concentration
Where’s the Fructose?
- Table Sugar: 50% Fructose + 50% Glucose
- One Banana: 15-20% Sugar over half of which is Fructose
- Honey: 40% Fructose
- Agave: 70-90% Fructose
Fat Chance: The Bittersweet Truth about Sugar by Robert Lustig
The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman
I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson