How to cut down on Sugar intake
Top tips to reduce sugar intake
Have you heard the news? Sugar is bad for your health... Hardly seems that ground breaking, most of us know that we shouldn't gorge daily on sweets and chocolate. But there is certainly something in the headlines. However, it is news that many of our healthy foods are no longer to be recommended, and it is news to me that sugar is actually more addictive than crack cocaine.
But is it all sugars?? Well no, it's predominately fructose that's the problem. You see, it's the one food molecule that our brain doesn't have an (off switch) for. Before food was so abundant as it is now, humans had to take energy when and where they could get it.
So, if they came across a tree full of fruit, it helped to be able to gorge and then store the energy as fat for a later use. Fructose isn't metabolised in the same way as other food molecules. It doesn't provide instant energy, instead it heads straight to the liver, it's converted to fat which then sits around the tummy area. No, no, no I hear you cry.
Fructose is the main culprit in blood sugar spikes and it's associated problems are: energy slumps, snacking and pre-diabetic symptoms are just a few. So it follows that it's fructose that needs to be cut out or limited.
So, what does this mean for your family, do you cut out all treats? Perhaps the old adage 'everything in moderation' should be invoked here. Sugar should be a treat, not a daily supplement, limitation on a daily basis with the odd sweet treat seems to be the sensible course of action.
So what contains fructose and how can you limit it in your family's diet?
Listed below are some of the main culprits, cut them out or cut them down gradually, do what works for you and your family.
Of course, fruit does contain fructose but surprisingly it's not necessary to avoid it completely. Fruit combines the natural sugars with plenty of dietary fibre, slowing down the absorption into the body. The best low-fructose fruits are berries, peaches, water melon, grapefruit and kiwi. Bananas, apples and pears are pretty high in fructose. That doesn't mean cut them out, but perhaps cut them down.
This really should be eliminated from your regular diet, there is as much sugar in a glass of seemingly healthy OJ (Orange Juice) as there is in a fizzy drink. You wouldn't have a can of coke for breakfast...
Often touted as a healthy snack for children, dried fruit is essentially a ball of sugar and should be approached with caution. Why not swap that mini pack of raisins for a handful of blueberries?
50% fructose, the bags of sugar you can buy from supermarkets up and down the country should be consumed in moderation and certainly not spooned liberally over breakfast. I tend to think that if something is a treat, it shouldn't be had everyday.
Agave, Maple Syrup and Honey
These three rather delicious syrups are essentially liquid fructose so don't be fooled by their "healthy alternative" status. They are still sugary and still laden with fructose.
But does that mean you are destined for a life devoid of sweetness?
Of course it doesn't. You will find that your tastes change after a while and the sugar carvings will subside somewhat, that doesn't mean that you have to have a life without without some sweet treats every now and then. Here are some of my favourite fixes:
Yes, I know, it's on the warning list too. As said above, fruit is a great source of nutrients and dietary fibre so no need to avoid completely. Berries are your best bet, not too much fructose and they are seriously delicious!
Rice Malt Syrup
Whilst agave has high fructose levels, Rice Malt Syrup's sweetness is from glucose, a sugar molecule that our bodies can actually process. The fact that it's delicious is an added bonus. You will find it in the health food shops.
Cinnamon and Liquorice Root
Both of these flavourings should be store cupboard staples for anyone that wants to cut out the white stuff. They have a wonderful natural sweetness without the associated calories. A little goes a long way mind you so be careful not to overload your dish!
All things Coconut
Desiccated and flaked coconut add a wonderfully crunchy texture and a sweetness to cereals and baked goods. Coconut cream can act as a delicious base for sugar free cake frosting, coconut milk is also a delicious sweet treat and fantastic mixed with melted dark chocolate for a fairly guilt free treat. I also tend to cook with coconut oil, it's stable at high temperatures and delicious in savoury and sweet dishes. In fact, there are too many virtues of the coconut for me to extol here so if you'd like to know more, I recommend this article.
There is a certain amount of fructose to be found in a sweet potato or a carrot but it is invariably less than their fruit counterparts. Alongside other sweet veg such as parsnip and pumpkin they are also more nutritionally dense. Try popping some chunks of roasted squash in your flapjacks and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Just remember, everything in moderation.