What is so bad about sugar?
Â Sugar is a natural sweetener thatâs been enjoyed by people for many centuries. Why has itÂ suddenly become a âforbiddenâ food? What is so bad about sugar? Cane sugar has been receiving a lot of bad press lately with the natural sweetener being blamedÂ for everything from obesity to an increased risk for lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heartÂ disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Some have gone as far as calling sugar the ânew tobaccoâ, claiming that itâs toxic and addictive. Registered consulting dietician Judith Johnson helps unpack the sugar issue: How much sugar is too much sugar? This depends on your health. If you suffer from insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, fatigue orÂ just have belly fat, then any sugar is too much sugar. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the hormoneÂ insulin.Â Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions â a high blood sugar level, excess belly fat,Â high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels â that occur together and increase your risk of heartÂ disease, diabetes and stroke. If youâre healthy, normal weight, exercising and feel energised overall then you can handle smallÂ amounts of sugar, e.g. only 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar in your tea or a few chocolate squares. What does sugar do to my body? When simple sugars are ingested, the body secretes insulin to get these sugars into our cells. If thisÂ process continues repeatedly, it can cause insulin resistance, leading to belly fat and metabolicÂ complications. So only few, slow-releasing carbohydrates should be eaten. Examples are quinoa, brown basmatiÂ rice, millet, buckwheat, starchy vegetables and fruits with their skin on. Healthy fat and proteinÂ should replace simple sugars in the diet if you want to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Is sugar really physically addictive as some studies suggest? Sugar is not âaddictiveâ in the sense that drugs are, but sugar cravings are very real and withdrawingÂ from sugar can leave you feeling cranky and tired if not handled correctly. This is because too much sugar causes an imbalance in our brain biochemistry, blood glucose andÂ gut health, reducing our âfeel goodâ brain chemicals. This in turn makes us crave more sugar to feelÂ better. What do you think of the new âlite sugarsâ that contain polydextrose? What is this and is it OK toÂ eat? Polydextrose, commonly known as xylitol, is a âlite sugarâ thatâs less sweet than cane sugar and hasÂ fewer calories. It doesnât produce big changes in blood sugar and most studies have found it safe. Plus, it wonât cause tooth decay! How can people easily/gently wean themselves off sugar? It is tricky to wean yourself off sugar gently. The best approach is to stay away completely but replace it with good fats and protein foods. AsÂ soon as you let your blood glucose levels drop youâll start craving sugar. Most people crave sugar mid-morning, late afternoon or late evening and this is usually becauseÂ their previous meal didnât contain enough fat and protein to keep them full and satisfied. What is your take on sugar and ADHD? We know that the brain needs hormones like GABA, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine/norepinephrine to enable us to focus and feel relaxed and happy. These hormones are derived from essential fatty acids and proteins which we get mainly from fish,Â eggs, grass fed animals and other sources of beneficial fats. By eating sugar and refined carbohydrates, we are eating empty calories, which then replace theÂ calories available from these fats and proteins in the diet. Sugar-containing foods are often found together with colourants and flavourants which are wellÂ known to worsen the symptoms of ADHD, so itâs worth removing sugar and refined carbohydratesÂ and see if your child responds well.