If the average Australian family of four had to buy the amount of sugar they are consuming they would be going to the supermarket, taking 6 one kilogram bags of sugar off the shelf – 6; putting it in the trolley, taking it home, eating it all that week, then going back the next week and doing it all again.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity among Australians has been steadily increasing for the past 30 years. Almost 2 in 3 Australian adults (63%) are overweight or obese. 10% more adults are overweight or obese than in 1995. 1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese. At current rates, over two-thirds of Australians will be overweight by 2025, and a third will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime.
According to the Queensland Government Department of Health’s ‘Healthier. Happier.‘ site, Queensland is a great state, but unfortunately, it has the highest rate of obesity in Australia. Their research shows that 65% of Queenslanders are overweight or obese, and 33% don’t even realise it. And even worse, the prediction is that 23% of people who aren’t already overweight are at risk of being overweight in the future.
Do We Need Sugar?
We need glucose, for sure. But not fructose. As paediatric endocrinologist, Dr Robert Lustig says, ‘There is not one biochemical reaction in your body, not one, that requires dietary fructose, not one that requires sugar. Dietary sugar is completely irrelevant to life. People say, “Oh, you need sugar to live.” You don’t.’ In addition: 58 per cent of protein and 10 per cent of fat changes into glucose once in the body, which can be used as needed. In fact, even if you only ate meats, eggs and good fats, you’d easily fulfil all of your body’s glucose needs. I know it goes against what most of us have been taught, but carbohydrates are NOT our preferred energy source, fat is! Good, healthy (delicious) fat.
How Much Sugar Should You Eat?
As little as possible is the short answer. The longer answer is well, longer…and there are many different opinions on how much you should consume and what sugar actually is, and, of course, what is added sugar. Around the world, recommendations are increasingly being revised down and down, which suggests something, right? The World Health Organisation recently halved its recommendation for daily intake from 10 teaspoons (about 40g) to 5 teaspoons, following reviews of the scientific evidence of the link with obesity. These days, most adults are consuming over 50g of sugar a day, with teenagers consuming about 70g!
Some experts suggest that anything under 5g of suger per 100g is OK while you are transitioning. Eventually, you will probably want to cut these foods out as well.
Some foods are obviously not good for us; and while most of us are aware of the health risks associated with consuming soft drink, junk food and lollies, why would people even question the so called ‘healthy’ foods? What do I mean by healthy foods? Foods that appear to be healthy, but are actually silent killers. Foods such as: low-fat yoghurt, fruit juice, low-fat dairy, canned soups, fruit snacks, low-fat mayonnaise, cereal, sauces and pasta sauces, sultanas, apple juice, muesli bars and kids lunch box snacks. What about them?
These foods are full of hidden ingredients, and I consider hidden sugars (and bad fats) worse than the obvious ones promoted by sexy, bikini-clad soft drinking bodies attempting to convince us that we will be as sexy as they are if we twist the top off that next bottle of soft drink.
There are so many items in health food shops that appear to be healthy but are loaded with sugar or agave. Agave is actually 90% fructose and is even worse for you than high fructose corn syrup! Have you checked out the sugar content on a Paleo bar? Most are made with dates – and dates are LOADED with fructose! It doesn’t matter if the sugar is organic or not, the body still processes it in the same way.
As someone who works first hand with people to help them lose weight and regain their health, I get very upset and frustrated. Why? Because I continually see people who are trying to do the right thing eating ‘healthy foods’ that are actually loaded with hidden nasties; foods that are continuing to make them sick and/or overweight.
I feel so passionately about this topic, that I became an ambassador for ‘That Sugar Film’. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. That Sugar Film is one man’s journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’. Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves. THAT SUGAR FILM will forever change the way you think about ‘healthy’ food.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate and while it’s often associated with lollies and regular soft drinks, it comes in many forms. Common sugars include:
- Naturally occurring sugars
These are found in milk, fruit, vegetables and legumes. They are eaten in smaller quantities, along with many nutrients.
- Added sugars
These have been refined from plants such as sugar cane. They can be added to food or drink in large amounts or used to make cakes, biscuits and soft drinks. Added sugars may not come with helpful nutrients and can increase the energy of a food or drink. So they are sometimes called ‘energy dense’ and ‘nutrient poor’.
Types of sugar:
Sucrose (table sugar) 50% fructose and 50% glucose
Lactose: fructose-free, a ‘milk sugar’, lactose is found naturally in dairy foods such as milk and yoghurt. Lactose Intolerance – Your body needs the enzyme lactase to break down lactose in your small intestine. Without sufficient lactase, lactose passes through your colon intact, where bacteria metabolise it instead. Bacterial breakdown of lactose results in abdominal bloating and cramps, diarrhoea, gas and nausea.
Fructose – found in fruits and other sources; makes you eat more (increases ghrelin – the hunger hormone, and has no corresponding enzyme in the brain to tell you when you are full); highly addictive; passes directly to the liver for fat storage; must be metabolised by the liver. OK in small quantities (best kept to under 15g per day… but OK if you have 50g a day on special occasions such as birthday’s etc.)
Glucose/Dextrose – The body’s number one energy source (that we don’t need to eat sugar in order to create!) Almost every food we eat is turned into glucose; there is no fructose component; is highly processed and refined; refined cornstarch. Does NOT cause obesity or health issues UNLESS you are insulin resistant. New research is showing signs that anyone who is insulin resistant can actually create fructose from glucose. Most people who follow the ‘western diet’ are insulin resistant due to high sugar intake. Many people have lost weight by substituting dextrose monohydrate for sugar with wonderful results; but if you are insulin resistant, it may not work for you. Also, if you prefer natural, whole foods with nutritional value, avoid this or save it for special occasions.
Maltose – If you have eaten a food that has the term malt or malted in its name, chances are you’ve eaten maltose. Maltose is a sugar not naturally found in high quantities in the food supply, but your body can generate it when you digest starchy food.
Stevia: completely natural and pure; a small green leaf/herb; 1000 times sweeter than sugar, this is my preferred sweetener. I use the Nirvana Organics Brand as I find it doesn’t have a bitter taste. I use it in liquid and powder form. Don’t use too much or it may taste artificial. Avoid stevia-based sweeteners that have been mixed with other sweeteners.
Raw Honey: has 4g of fructose per tsp. – so limit to no more than 1 tsp. per day; is 50% fructose but it contains compounds that reduce the insulin response, so the fructose doesn’t have the same impact; studies have shown that raw honey stabilizes blood sugar levels; is packed full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. CHOOSE RAW HONEY, not just ‘natural’. Commercial honey has been heat-treated and has no nutritional benefit at all.
Sugar Alcohols (erythritol, isomlat, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol lactitol): generally manufactured from sugars and starches; can cause stomach discomfort (bloating, gas and even give you the runs! My poor daughter once ate a block of sugarfree chocolate and ended up in excruciating pain and with the runs all night!) Contains half the calories of sugar;
Maple Syrup: about 40% fructose. Make sure you choose natural and that formaldehyde hasn’t been used in the extraction process; is boiled intensively, therefore many nutrients are lost.
Rice Malt Syrup: made from fermented cooked rice; a blend of maltose and glucose; has very little fructose.
Coconut Sugar: Is basically palm sugar; made by collecting sap from the coconut tree and boiling it until it thickens. Has minimal nutrition (due to the boiling) but more nutritional value than other sugars; low GI at 35; a highly sustainable sweetener; has 45% fructose (70-80% sucrose and 3-9% each of glucose and fructose.. but remember that sucrose is 50% fructose!). Too high in fructose to be used regularly…
Agave Syrup/Nectar: 90% fructose (more than high fructose corn syrup!); made from the same Mexican succulent that tequila comes from; 1.5 times sweeter than sugar; highly processed (natural enzymes are removed to stop it fermenting and becoming tequila), therefore it has no nutritional value at all
Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame, sucralose): can (and most do) cause weight gain, have been shown to cause bloating, migraines, depression, anaemia, kidney dysfunction, infertility and spontaneous abortions. Can cause the same symptoms as MS. Can cause brain cells to die: and can break down into cancer-causing toxic substances.
Corn Syrup/High Fructose Corn Syrup: fructose-glucose liquid sweetener alternative to sucrose (common table sugar) first introduced to the food and beverage industry in the 1970s. It is in almost every modern processed food. It is cheap and creates addiction. It is added to everything such as breads, cereals, muesli bars, hamburger buns, savory sauces and much more.
What should you use? I use Rice Malt Syrup and Stevia on a regular basis and raw honey sometimes too. On special occasions I may use dextrose. (I am not insulin resistant, so this doesn’t pose a problem for me). I try to keep my carbohydrate intake to below 50g per day, preferably down around 30g. But definitely not higher than 100g (which may happen on special occasions). I take this into account when choosing my sweetener (ie: rice malt syrup is very high in carbohydrates, stevia has none.
Please remember the aim is to reduce your intake of sweet foods – even those sweetened with ‘healthy’ sweeteners. I have something sweet 2-3 times per week now.
- Sugar (and Fructose) prevents your body from knowing when it’s full.
- The body can only store 500g of glycogen at any one time. Consume more than that and it will be stored in fatty tissue causing weight gain.
- Our livers can handle glucose, but only very limited amounts of fructose. Aim to consume no more than 15g of fructose per day.
- Sugar speeds up the ageing process. Fructose is 7x more like to form Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGE’s) than glucose. These damage our collagen making us age must faster. Not only is our skin affected, but we are also affected internally. AGE’s are directly related to most modern diseases including heart disease.
- Sugar (FRUCTOSE) promotes disease. By making our body acidic, sugar forces the body to constantly try to restore the correct balance, so it pulls minerals out of our bodies causing issues such as osteoporosis and tooth decay. Remember, tooth decay is ALWAYS a sign of bone loss.
- Sugar suppresses our immune system, feeds cancer, upsets the balance of gut flora, contributes to learning disorders, reduces learning capacity, upsets hormones, interferes with absorption, can cause fatty liver and increased liver size, contributes to constipation, increases blood pressure, causes inflammation and much more.
- Sugar causes heart disease in many ways. Many studies have linked sugar and fructose consumption to metabolic syndrome… a large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar…and all these lead to … ? Heart diseases, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
- That Sugar Book by Damon Gameau