Are you eating too much sugar?

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Diabetes Awareness – Cutting back the sweet stuff

Diabetes is a serious life-long health condition that occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body can’t use it properly. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 382 million people worldwide including 4.05 million people in the UK have diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. Excessive sugar intake, together with lack of physical activity has been highlighted as the main cause.
Only yesterday we saw in the news that the UK is now the most overweight nation in Western Europe. An alarming fact and something that clearly needs addressing.

The majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat – leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases many people are struggling with.

Reducing your sugar intake and getting active won’t just help to prevent diseases such as diabetes. Excess sugar can be incredibly harmful to your health and various studies have linked it to a number of other conditions such as: obesity, fatty liver, heart disease, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s, not to mention tooth decay and accelerating the ageing process!

It has been suggested that Sugar is as addictive as any drug. Fructose can stimulate the brain’s “hedonic pathway,” creating habituation and dependence, in the same way that alcohol does.

Its not easy to avoid sugar, particularly when sweet snacks and treats are all around us and so readily available. There are also lots of hidden sugars in packages, even those that may at first glance appear to be ‘healthy’ or a ‘good source of energy’.

So it makes sense to reduce your intake wherever you can. Here are a few simple tips to help you cut back on the sweet stuff:

1 – Choose natural sources
Avoid any foods or drinks with added sugar. The majority of your sugar intake should come from natural sources that also have essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that can help with digestion. Added sugars include things like honey, agave and high fructose corn syrup.

2 – Eat fresh and whole fruits and veg
Dried fruit and juices can have more sugar and less fibre to aid digestion and support gut health, so it’s usually best to go for fresh where you can. Aim for lower sugar options such as leafy greens, beans, broccoli or fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, citrus fruits or kiwi.
Frozen can be a good source for convenience and to avoid waste, and if you use tinned fruits, opt for juice rather than syrup but drain the juice.

3 – Check the labels
Look out for foods that claim to be low sugar or diet foods as they may contain artificial sweeteners. The low fat options can also have added sugars, so look out for that one and compare brands. It may take a little longer when you shop but you will be able to make the best choices next time. Also if sugar is one of the first things in the list of ingredients then you are pretty much consuming a sugar-based product.

4 – Reduce your sugar gradually
Sugar is addictive. If you are going to reduce something from your diet, always do it gradually so that your body can adjust. Try opting for smaller portions or adding some natural sweetness to breakfasts or snacks where you may have used sugar.

5 – Eat more protein
Protein helps to keep us fuller for longer as it takes longer to digest, so you should reduce those hunger pangs that often lead to us grabbing something unhealthy when we are on the go.

6 – Eat healthy fats
Fats are an essential part of your diet. The good fats that you get from foods like oily fish, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds all help with controlling your blood sugar and help to satisfy hunger.

7 – Keep a food diary
This is a great way to keep a check on what you are eating and when. We can often pick up something quick on the run between meals without thinking about calories or any nutritional value. If this is a regular thing, then you could be adding hundreds of calories or grams of sugar to your body every day without even realising. Tracking is even easier with apps available that have a log of the nutritional values of all the foods you eat.

8 – Limit your consumption of packaged foods
Making from fresh is often best and doesn’t have to take as much time as you might think with meal planning and freezing options. It can also be cheaper than many of the packaged foods too. Many processes food contain added sugars, plus you are reliant on the manufacturer being absolutely spot on with foods that are mass-produced.

9 – Keep hydrated
Soda and sugary juice drinks raise your blood sugar quickly. Substituting these drinks with water, sugar-free tonic water and sparkling water can quickly reduce your sugar intake. Watch out for flavoured waters and fruit juices that can also be high in sugars. Water also helps to digest food, flush out toxins and it may help to curb the need to snack as we often mistake thirst for hunger.

10 – Limit your intake
If you have a sweet tooth, try to limit what you have and when. Depending how much sugar you eat, you may reduce the days that you eat a pudding after a meal during the week or have smaller portions. A small amount of dark chocolate may be all you need for that sugary fix and can also be good for you. The easiest way to cut back is to buy less of the sweet stuff when you shop – if it’s not in the cupboard, you can’t be tempted!

Its not easy cutting back on the things you enjoy. The key is to be aware of what you are consuming so that you can make informed choices. Some foods that are loaded with sugars don’t always taste that sweet and the low fat options can sometimes mean there are added sugars. You can still enjoy the sweet things, just in moderation and balance with some regular exercise!

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