Other than not being good for your waistline, what’s the harm with sugar anyway? Well, along with being a catalyst for weight gain, sugar also fuels insulin resistance, which can cause Type 2 diabetes and creates a breeding ground for cancer cells. It can increase cravings, food binges and encourage a host of heart diseases. That does sound like a pretty scary list, but it’s important to know that not all sugar is awful for us. Natural sugars found in fruits, along with honey and maple syrup, is better, but you can still over do it!
So how do we happily decrease the amount of sugar we’re eating and drinking? Here are some handy tips…
Carbs – Choose complex over simple
Simple carbohydrates – we’re talking bread, pasta, rice – contain A LOT of sugar. Causing insulin levels to spike, the result is blood sugar levels going haywire, energy slumps and potentially storing calories as fat. Complex carbs – vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, lentils and beans – contain significantly less sugar, take longer to digest and therefore do not create those unwelcome spikes. Simply opt for these over those simple carbs.
Avoid processed foods and look out for those sneaky hidden sugars
Processed foods (anything in a packet usually) tend to contain the above mentioned simple carbohydrates, and refined sugars (i.e. not naturally occurring sugars that you find in fruits etc.) To avoid these, try to food shop using only the outer aisles as this is where natural, whole foods tend to be. Be sure to look out for those sneaky, hidden sugars too – “low fat” yogurts and sauces usually contain added sugars, so do check those labels. And it’s not just the word “sugar” you’re looking for – anything ending in ‘-ose’ is a sugar (fructose, sucrose, etc). Those hidden sugars lurk in unexpected places. For example, you might think you’re pretty safe picking up an “Original” porridge pot you just add water to. Hmm, the ingredients list may surprise you!
Add natural flavours for that sweet hit
Used to having sugar or sweetener in your tea, morning porridge etc.? Why not try adding some cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract for flavour? Porridge can be lovely with some vanilla powder, cocoa or cacao powder stirred in, or perhaps some fresh fruit, like blueberries or raspberries. (Berries tend to be lower in naturally occurring sugars than, say bananas or pears.)
Fruits – Choose whole where possible
As said earlier, choosing fruit is always a better option than refined sugars. But you can overdo it, even when you go au natural. Where possible, choose the natural, whole fruit. So, choose the actual orange over the orange juice, and the fresh fruit over the dried variety (the drying process removes a lot of the fibre and pretty much results in a total-sugar hit). You don’t need to totally remove non-whole fruits from your diet, it’s just best to limit them where you can.
Cut down on sweet drinks
It’s quite easy to forget that drinks count when it comes to our diets. It may sound dull, but if you can opt to drink good old plain water for the majority of the time, you’re onto a winner. Not only is it cutting your sugar intake, but it is keeping you well-hydrated and can provide a whole host of other benefits such as improved digestion, clearer skin, etc. You could just allow yourself a glass of squash at dinner time, perhaps (look for those with “no added sugar”), or add a lemon or lime to water to sweeten it up a little. Avoid shop bought flavoured waters and smoothies – they often harbour those sneaky refined sugars!
Go natural with desserts
Many of us are on the same page with desserts – life without them seems bleak. But thankfully, you can still enjoy desserts when cutting down on sugar. Try some simple refined sugar-free dessert recipes yourself. Using fruits in desserts is always successful (banana pancakes are so yummy!) There’s also cocoa powder, or raw cacao, which can come in the form of powder, nibs or butter. And don’t forget nuts too. Pecans and almonds, for example. There are so many great ideas out there. Deliciously Ella has some wonderful desserts! Sweet potato brownies anyone? Don’t be dubious; try them!
Stock up on fibre and protein
Protein keeps cravings at bay by keeping you feeling satisfied. If you don’t feel hungry, you’re less likely to hanker after those sweet treats. So get your fill of lean meats, oily fish, eggs and natural yoghurt. Like protein, a lack of fibre can result in cravings. This is because you lack energy and aren’t getting the nutrition you need to keep your body, and mind, happy. Government guidelines recommend adults consume 30g of fibre a day. So get those vegetables, fruits and wholegrains on your plate and give those refined sugars the boot.
We’re not saying you should ban refined sugars from your diet completely. Though, if that’s the way you want to go, go for it. It can only be a good thing for your body. But what we are suggesting, is that you be far more mindful about the sugar you’re eating and look at ways to reduce it. For many of us, if we knew the actual quantity of sugar we’re having on a daily basis, including all those hidden ones, we’d probably want to rethink things, especially when you look at the potential health hazards sugar can cause. Perhaps take a closer look at your diet and use our above tips to crack down on your sugar consumption. Good luck!
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