Health organisations are encouraging us to reduce our sugar intakes as sugar leads to weight gain, and weight gain leads to obesity, and with it an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
I can’t get on board with the idea that sugar is toxic and should be entirely eradicated from our diets, be it added or naturally occurring. I say I can’t, it’s more that I don’t want to – until very recently I liked sugar in my tea and coffee. Now I have tea as is, and natural sweeteners in my coffee.
However, I hate the idea that certain foods, even very rare treats, are demonised or deemed ‘unclean’. No food should have guilt attached to it. That is more unhealthy for us, albeit mentally, than the treat food in question, surely?
That said, we tend not to add too much sugar to things unless absolutely necessary or as a treat, like a birthday cake. But even then, I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of sugar we eat.
As I’ve alluded to before, a low Glyceamic Index (GI) diet is something I am curious to know more about but isn’t something we strictly follow. Many medics, scientists, researchers and food bloggers believe that following a low GI diet is much more effective for diabetes and heart disease. However, I am unable to find anyone who will confirm if it is because of a direct effect, or because reducing the amount of sugars (including starchy carbs which are metabolised as sugars) aids maintaining a healthy weight, and so indirectly reduces the risk of these conditions.
We have switched to sugar-free versions of things, such as Coke Zero, which admittedly rely on artificial sweeteners, but we don’t have them regularly.
Sugar appears in ingredients in a number of guises:
According to the NHS, food that is HIGH in sugar has 22.5g or more of total sugar per 100g. Food that is low in sugar is 5g of total sugar per 100g.
Look out for hidden sugars in foods. Ready-made foods often have sugar added, and low-fat options often rely on sugar for flavour.
Ways to reduce sugar:
Replace sugar in foods with naturally sweet alternatives such as grated apple, dates, or syrups such as agave or carob. The syrups don’t really have much more in the way of nutrients but are sweeter than sugar and so you can use less.
Swap fizzy drinks and soft drinks for sugar-free varieties, or if you’re feeling saintly, just have water with fresh fruit added for taste.
When fruits are juiced or blended, free sugars are released and so the NHS advises we have no more than 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice and smoothies combined each day.
Dried fruits are pretty sugary, so it’s better to include them as part of a meal, rather than eat them as snacks, as the sugars cling to your gnashers and could accelerate tooth decay. I add raisins and sultanas to our oaty biscuits, or sling them on top of porridge in the winter.
However, I implore you, if you have a cake, or a biscuit one day, don’t beat yourself up. I try to prepare solid, saintly, healthy food most of the time, but I will eat the odd doughnut, and to hell with what anyone thinks. As long as they’re occasional treats, I think you have nothing to worry about.