Last week, I explored claims that sugar is considered to be the new tobacco in terms of addiction and effect on our health. This week I'll look at whether we can live without sugar and how we can cut down.
Can we live without sugar?
In terms of nutrition, we can certainly live without sugar. We can get all our energy from natural sugars contained in fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains or protein found in fresh meat and eggs etc. In terms of emotion, the answer is probably no. Can you imagine a life without chocolate?
Consuming less sugar is challenging as most of us fail to realize how much sugar we are consuming, particularly if we rely on ready made meals. The NHS states that added sugars should not make up more than 10% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. Currently this is about 70g (approximately 14 level teaspoons) for men and 50g ( 10 level teaspoons) for women. Don't forget it should always be less for children. It is even being suggested that added sugar should be confined to 5 teaspoons a day.
So let's do baby steps and start reducing the amount of sugar in your diet.
How do I do that?
If only giving up sugar was as easy as reaching for the eSugar lump (i.e. akin to the proliferation of eCigarettes that are about). However, it is not impossible. Here are some ideas.
- A refined sugar free diet is growing in popularity. This necessitates removing all processed manufactured foods from your diet, including ready made meals, sauces, preserves, commercial breads, packed salads, pre packed sandwiches, commercial fruit juices and fizzy drinks like cola etc. Why not try it out?
- The easiest way is to cook from scratch, using wholesome fresh ingredients. Check out Sian's Plan for ways to do this. Limit eating out or takeaways to a very occasional treat.
- Sprinkle alternative sugar products on your porridge and bake at home using alternatives such as coconut palm sugar or Xylitol.
Coconut palm sugar
Produced from the sap of the coconut palm's flower buds, coconut palm sugar has a glycaemic index rating of 35, much lower than refined sugar. It has also been found to contain amino acids, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and B vitamins.
Cakes made using this sugar have a caramel, butterscotch flavour and colour. This sugar replacement was voted The Winner by my family in a recent Cake Test. It is pricey at £3.45 for 250 grams, but well worth it.
This sounds like an artificial sweetener. It's not. Xylitol ("Xyl" is the Greek for wood) was first made from Finnish birch trees in the early 1900s. It is naturally produced by most living things including trees, fruits and plants. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than sugar, 75% less carbohydrates and a low GI (of 7), and as an extra benefit it also is thought to inhibit the bacteria in the mouth that causes tooth decay.
Cakes I made using xylitol at home also passed the delicious Cake Test by my family. Cost is £2.75 for 250 grams.
Are you a Sugar Watchdog?
Unlike cigarettes we do not need to eliminate sugar from our diets completely as studies claim that it is the over consumption of refined sugar (empty calories) in our diets that has the potential to harm us. Unfortunately most harm is inflicted on children who are subjected to the most damaging advertising from a very young age. Mums and dads need to stay firm, swap processed junk food which contain most of the hidden refined sugar and in its place provide tasty home cooked meals using fresh and wholesome ingredients. Keep sweet treats and fizzy drinks as an occasional treat.
Every home need a Sugar Watchdog. Now that you know the dangers could it be you?