We often throw caution to the wind at this time of year and indulge in foods and drinks associated with festive cheer. It is often not until January brings the ‘New Year Cleanse’ or ‘Weight Loss Regime’ that sugar starts to cross our minds.
What is the problem with sugar?
Simple sugars are a source of calories providing little in the way of nutrition and satiety, plus sugar is addictive and therefore it is easy to consume sugary foods in excess.
Since it can be found in many foods, including savoury foods (ketchups, relishes, crisps) you may be unaware of feeding a perpetual cycle; you might be surprised next time you scan the supermarket shelves! Sugar is hidden under many different names; glucose syrup, rice syrup, dextrose, lactose, maltose, anything ending in ‘ose’!
How might it affect us?
When we eat foods with the addition of sugar, they are broken down by the body into glucose. Glucose is carried in the blood stream and after a meal, levels in the blood rise. The body then releases a hormone called insulin to move the glucose from the bloodstream into cells to provide us with energy.
Glucose levels in the blood need to be carefully controlled; after eating simple refined sugars our blood sugar can rise too rapidly. The body can then release too much insulin in response. This causes the blood sugar to swing from very high to low again, resulting in us feeling tired, grumpy and hungry. This is commonly referred to as the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’.
Prolonged intake of high glucose foods causes excess production of insulin which in turn trigger bodily systems to convert the high glucose levels into fat; if this happens too frequently, the body begins to ignore the excess insulin message. This is a condition called insulin resistance, resulting in permanently high levels of sugar in the bloodstream.
Insulin resistance creates weight gain, in particular, fat around the middle (also known as visceral fat). It is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Reducing sugar intake controls blood sugar and is supportive of a healthy weight, stable energy and concentration levels. It prevents food cravings, stabilises mood and encourages better health.
Tips for balancing blood sugar: