The Facts About Sugar

Usually around this time of year we are starting to think about our summer bodies, putting exercise regimes into place and taking control of our daily diets. Previously we’ve seen the media flag how saturated fats seeped into our diets and raised cholesterol levels, as well as salt creating a spike in our blood pressure. Now we see the focus shift to sugar, and how much of it we are consuming – and scarily, how much of it is consumed unknowingly.

As a nation, our sugar consumption has reached its highest level in history and added sugar has increased by a mammoth 46% per person per day in the last 30 years. The World Health Organisation recommends 6 – 12tsp per day, which would equate to around 10% of our total calorie intake. However, with sugar so readily available, and our bodies geared to naturally prefer sweet things, along with a direct link to type 2 diabetes, is it time we took more notice?

Can sugar become an addiction?

A recent BBC programme ‘Truth about Sugar’ with Fiona Phillips explained that the brain mentally remembers when and how often you have sugar. During that mid afternoon snack break when you feel a little drowsy – you may reach for that tea and biscuit. The brain records this pattern, and if you do this a couple of times, the brain will remember and trigger it into a routine. It will link you feeling lethargic to needing sugar as an aide to pull you back up. Also, a recent study in America showed that a group of test laboratory rats converted from cocaine to sugar, for the sheer need to repeatedly consume it – it can become that addictive!

Check the labels

We are familiar with packaging for various foods: the traffic lights system, calories per 100g/per packet/per bar, and the endless list of ingredients on the back. Sugar may be somewhat difficult to spot. You need to be looking for “carbohydrates (of which sugars)” on the nutrition label. If it scales to 22.5g per 100g the sugar content is high, so in an ideal world you need to be looking for something closer to 5g per 100g. The traffic light system (if it appears) is an easy way to quickly see the sugar content with it ranging form red, amber and green. However you need to check the ingredients as sugars may be hiding as something else, and can be one or more of the following; sucrose, glucose, maltose, lactose, fructose, molasses, hydrolysed starch, agave nectar, corn syrup, rice malt syrup, honey and golden syrup.

Can we swap sugar with honey?

It is widely believed that honey is the healthy alternative to sugar - sadly this isn’t true. Like table sugar, honey consists of two sugars bonded together – glucose and fructose. Honey is classed as a ‘free sugar’ (sugar that’s not naturally found in foods and is added to your meals) much like maple syrup, agave nectar and rice malt syrup, and the body still registers it as a sugar. So even though it’s served in its natural form, it will still add calories and should still be controlled.

Sugar can pile on the pounds

When you feel like reaching for a pick-me-up-snack you might be pilling on the pounds quicker than you expect. The body’s digestive system absorbs added sugar and stores it as fat. Without undergoing regular exercise the additional fat will sit there and influence your weight gain, especially when it’s not in conjunction with a balanced diet.

Sugar can treat wounds

Usually when we’ve injured ourselves we’ll reach for the plasters and antiseptic, but next time you should try applying sugar to your wound. Bacteria needs water to grow, and by applying sugar to the wound, a UK doctor discovered, actually draws the water away and starves the bacteria, and in the process cleans and clears the injury – and this could be anything from a graze to amputation. 

So how can we avoid added sugars? There are a few steps to be aware of and will hopefully have you on the right track to not exceeding on your guided daily amount. First of all is to take notice of the packaging, added sugars can creep into pretty much everything - including tomato ketchup! It’s important that like everything it’s taken in moderation, so knowing where they might have snuck into will start you on the right track.

Try and gain your sugars from their natural form. Fruit is a great example, as some of us try and get our pick-me-up from drinking juice. Not only have sugars more than likely been added, you would have also lost out on vital fibres from the fruit, which sadly disappear as soon as it’s pressed.

The main way at home to control added sugars though is to make your food fresh. The amount you can cut out can be dramatic, and as shown in the BBC programme Truth about Sugar, you can cut down from 39tsps. to a staggering ¼ of a teaspoon. However, this is no easy challenge and receiving that initial guidance is what could make or break you. There are several spas that offer great programmes which will help to cut out sugar from form your diets, from Absolute Sanctuary, Thailand to Parkhotel Igls in Austria. Speak to one of our experts today and start taking control of your sugar levels. 

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