Ice cream, pasta, oranges, bread, milk. Seems like a pretty standard shopping list right? But what do these items have in common? They all contain sugar. But don’t panic, it can be enjoyed as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Understanding that there are two types of sugar gives you the tools you need to be more mindful of your intake.
Refined Sugar vs Natural Sugar
Refined sugar is found in processed foods that often come in packets, such as chocolate, crackers and cereal bars. Refined sugar comes from plant sources such as cane or beets. According to guidelines from The World Health Organisation (WHO) refined sugar should make up no more than 10% of a person’s average calories.
Natural Sugar is what it says on the tin, sugar that comes from natural sources; such as fruit and lactose food groups. According to The Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research “Foods containing natural sugars offer nutrients that keep your body healthy, provide fast yet stable energy, and keep your metabolism stable. Fruits, for instance, offer essential nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C and folate.”
We are all told as children that sugar gives us too much energy and makes us too uncontrollable, at least from the perspective of our tired parents. But it turns out that the ‘sugar rush‘ is a very short-lived experience. Unless you continue to consume it, you will experience a ‘sugar crash‘ where your body metabolizes what you have consumed.
You may have feelings of tiredness during a ‘sugar crash’. By reducing the amount of glucose you consume as part of your daily diet, you can regulate your blood levels, meaning that you can enjoy a more balanced level of energy throughout the day, rather than just experiencing highs and lows.
Cholesterol has a bad rap sheet, but cholesterol does have necessary functions essential for health. According to Medical News Today, cholesterol is a fatty molecule that provides structural support to cell membranes. Cholesterol can also be used by the body to synthesize molecules such as vitamin D.
However we cannot ignore the negative effects of cholesterol, including an increased chance of developing serious medical conditions. Such as coronary artery disease, aortic aneurysms, and stroke. Reducing refined sugar within your diet can help you maintain a healthy level of cholesterol.
Reduced Risk Of Tooth Decay
Did you know that sugary food is one of the main causes of tooth decay? This is because when you consume large amounts, these molecules then mix with your saliva and this can create bacteria within the mouth. This then turns into plaque which, once it dissolves, can develop into painful cavities.
It’s important that, if you know you consume a diet that contains high levels of sugar, you brush your teeth regularly, floss and use mouthwash as well as visit your dentist regularly.
Improve Skin Health And Reduce Acne
Reducing your intake brings a whole host of benefits, including to your skin health. Sugar can aggravate skin complaints such as acne and eczema and actually make them worse in the long run. This is because when your blood sugar levels rise, so too do your insulin levels. This then causes the oil glands to react, therefore increasing the likelihood of developing or irritating acne and skin problems.
Glycation, which can cause wrinkles in the skin, is caused when there is too much glucose in the blood, such as when your diet is high in sugar. This then promotes premature ageing in the skin. By reducing the amount of glucose in your diet, you can see benefits such as brighter skin, reduced signs of ageing and reduced chances of developing complaints such as rosacea.
How To Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Reducing your sugar intake can be made easier by understanding just how much is going into the food you eat. This is made easier by the traffic light system on most shop-bought items. This gives food a red, amber or green health rating based on: energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt. Foods with a red rating are the unhealthiest and should be consumed less frequently, those in amber can be eaten most of the time; and those in green are good to form part of your daily diet.
Eating full fat food may seem like a misstep, however, foods high in fat saturate your appetite for longer, leading to less snacking.
Another good opportunity to reduce your sugar intake is reducing the amount of sugary drinks you consume. A single can of Coca Cola can contain around 35g of sugar, which is over the NHS recommended guideline on sugar intake which sits at 30g.
For example, if you are going out this weekend, why not order some ready to drink cocktails to cut down on how much you are consuming, or switch out full sugar biscuits for lower alternatives.
To summarise, taking more time to evaluate what you consume as part of your daily diet can benefit your health in a number of different ways. We all know deep down that excessive consumption has negative implications for health. The good news is that it can be very easy to cut down your daily dose of sugar by observing the food traffic light system on most food and drink.