These days sugar has blamed for everything from inflammation to obesity. To separate the facts from fiction, HEALTH met with Fahmida Jafri, Head of Nutrition at GMC Hospital in Ajman to learn more…
The statistics are startling; the average U.S. adult consumes 21.4 teaspoons of added sugar each and every day. This figure does not take into account additional sugar in fruit juices, fruits or other whole foods. Sugar, indicates Jafri, is the hot topic in the nutrition world at the moment and in fact has been coined by some as “white poison.” The World Health Organizations (WHO) recommends that the intake of sugars be less than 10 percent of total energy intake. “It is no secret that many of us take much more than recommended amount through consumption of processed and ready to eat foods,” says Jafri. “And among children, the numbers are similar, with about 16 percent of daily calories consumed in the form of added sugar, although some surveys suggest teenagers may be eating far more – up to 34 teaspoons a day.” And in fact, recent studies have linked the overconsumption of sugar to an increased risk of kidney damage, heart disease and cancer.
The Hidden Culprit What is most surprising is just how far this substance has invaded the modern diet, tells Jafri. “Salad dressings, smoothies, muesli bars, crackers, bread, low fat products and even your favorite takeaways are often loaded with sugar,” she says and an excess of it is wreaking havoc not only on our waist lines but also on the nutritional quality of life.
Sugar comes in many different forms. According to Jafri, sugars occur naturally in some foods, such as fruit which contains fructose and dairy products which contain lactose, and are also added to a wide variety of foods, usually as sucrose. “Sugars can take many different forms, including white, raw or brown sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, molasses and honey just to name a few,” she explains and many people crave sugar, as it is such a quick source of energy. Tip to Reduce Glycemic Load Fuel yourself for longer, advises Jafri. “Try adding more fat to your meals, particularly at lunch, in the form of avocado, nuts, organic butter, coconut, tahini, and oily fish and observe if your desire for sweet foods mid-afternoon diminishes,” she indicates as good fats slow down the release of glucose into your blood stream meaning you actually stay full for longer.
The Emotional Factor
Although there are physical and biochemical reasons for craving sugar, Jafri tells that often our craving for sugar has more to do with an emotional need that isn’t being met. “Something sweet” is often perceived as a symbol of joy or happiness or pleasure and we become conditioned to need something sweet to feel complete or satisfied. “Instead, identify other non-food related activities that give you a feeling of sweetness and joy,” she says.
Tips to Lessen Your Need for Sweets:
- Berries are one of the lowest fructose fruits and are packed full of antioxidants. They’re wonderful frozen or fresh and can be added to baking, smoothies or just eaten as a snack.
- Frozen blueberries burst with flavor and make a far more nourishing alternative to lollies – they’re especially great for children.
- Shift your focus. Don’t focus on eating less of anything. Focus on eating more… more “real” Food or healthy food, particularly green vegetables. You may like to start with a green smoothie every morning. Use a piece of fruit so it is more palatable but as you get used to the taste you can decrease or eliminate the fruit. Instead of specifically focusing on decreasing your consumption of sugar you are focusing on something positive – increasing your consumption of greens and the enormous health benefits of having more greens in your diet. After making this change you will notice just how sweet sugar is and your cravings will begin to diminish.