If you’ve read the newspapers or listened to the news this year you’ll be aware that the health focus for the start of 2014 is sugar.
The change for life website (www.nhs.uk/change4life) states that the average adult consumes 700g of sugar per week but more worrying is the fact that it’s not just the obvious sweet things that we love that are full of sugar. Refined sugars are added to all of the convenience foods we use on a daily basis: bread, ready made meals and sauces and even the healthy sounding smoothies.
Sugar doesn’t just make us fat or rot our teeth; its a contributor to diabetes, zaps our energy levels and is also now thought to interfere with the way our body’s hormones and metabolism works.
It’s not just what kind of sugar you’re eating, it’s how you’re eating it which is important.
Lets use the example of an apple and a milk chocolate bar. The apple contains sugar (fructose) and it gives your body energy but because you’re eating something that’s natural and complete with its fibre the absorption of the sugar into your body is slowed down. The chocolate bar however is full of refined sugars to stop the milk going rancid; all the fibre has been taken away and the sugar bleached so this goes straight into your body resulting in your blood sugar level rising rapidly. This causes those energy peaks and troughs which make you feel high and then awful and unless this energy is burnt off immediately it will be stored in your body as fat.
So is it possible to give up sugar when it seems to be in everything we eat? It seems like an unrealistic task but the key is to start reducing the amount of sugar we consume by making some basic food swaps and maybe working on eliminating those foods that are your big downfall.
Today it is recommended that we all eat food in as close to its natural form as possible and without any processing so plenty of fresh fruit, combined with nuts, fresh veg and good quality proteins.
The experts say that it takes anything from 21 days to 8 weeks to change a habit so over the next few weeks I plan to reduce the amount of sugar I consume in small stages and update you with how this goes and the key issues I find as well as hopefully the benefits I feel.
My plan is:
Week 1: No more Sugary Drinks.
This I believe is one of the most obvious ways to reduce sugar consumption. I don’t drink hot drinks so do have a lot of fruit juice, squash and fizzy drinks all of which contain high levels of sugar. Even sugar free fizzy drinks should be avoided as they contain sweeteners instead which are believed to be as bad or sometimes worse for you!
Week 2: No more Sugary Snacks or Breakfast Cereals.
Whilst this means cutting out the cake or biscuits I may eat at the moment it doesn’t mean starving yourself as I shall be looking at alternative snacks which I hope will be just as tasty and filling but not filled with sugar… and I don’t mean carrots and celery sticks!
Breakfast cereals are another source of sugar – I have been eating those ‘cereals for a healthy heart’ for years believing them to be good for me but have now read the packet and see that it’s 25% sugar.
Week 3: Reduce Sugar in your Baking.
I think many of us were horrified to realise that much of the convenience food we buy today is heavily laden with sugar – from bread to ready meals and sauces. Making your own means you know what goes into each meal and it needn’t be an expensive or time consuming process.
By the end of the 3 weeks I hope to have reduced my sugar intake and ideally eliminated some of my bad habits from my diet and so feel healthier without feeling deprived.
I’ll let you know next week how the first phase goes and please try it yourself and feed back on how you coped.