Check out my interview with Kimberly Gillan for Coach Nine.com.au to find out what you need to know before quitting sugar.
You would have to have been living under a rock for the past three years if you missed the memo that sugar isn’t exactly winning the health popularity stakes.
The World Health Organisation have called on us to cut our consumption of sugars to 25 grams per day – or six teaspoons – to keep us slim and reduce our risk of tooth decay. They’re not talking about sugar in fruit or milk – it’s more about added sugars in confectionary and processed foods, such as the teaspoon of sugar in every tablespoon of ketchup and the 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of soft drink. Others have gone further in their tarnish of sweet stuff, with author Gary Taubes’ new book The Case Against Sugar arguing sugar “triggers the progression to obesity, diabetes and the diseases that associate with them”.
So should we be banning the sweet stuff altogether? Ultimately, it wouldn’t hurt our health, says dietitian Rebecca Gawthorne. “Foods that are high in added sugar are often calorie-dense and nutrient-poor – they provide a large number of calories for minimal nutritional benefit,” she told Coach. “They also won’t provide a feeling of fullness, meaning you eat more to fill up, leading to high intake of calories, which contributes to weight gain and obesity.” On top of that, Gawthorne says that sugar has an inflammatory effect on the body and can increase triglycerides, which are fats in the blood, and lower levels of good cholesterol. “That puts you at risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” she says. “Also, too much added sugar can have a negative impact on dental and skin health.”
For some people, going cold turkey on added sugars is the easiest way to keep them protected from the health risks, plus nip cravings in the bud. But Gawthorne says that you don’t have to quit it completely to guarantee good health. “Placing a blanket ban on added sugars for some can be a useful rule to stick by, but is not essential,” she says. “You can still consume a small amount of added sugar and live healthy. I recommend eliminating foods and drinks that contain excessive amounts of added sugars, like soft-drink, and enjoying small amounts of your favourite foods that contains added sugar, such as chocolate, occasionally.” If you’re a big sweet tooth and quit completely, Gawthorne says you may notice cravings, headaches and fatigue as you adjust to life without a high sugar intake. She suggests having fresh fruit or a slice of her sugar-free banana cake or health nice-cream to keep you satisfied.
“After a week of cutting out added sugar in your diet, you will notice improvements with energy levels, better control over appetite and mental performance, as well as improvements in your mood,” she points out. “If you have replaced high-sugar foods with higher fibre healthier options, such as fruit, you will also notice improvements with digestion and bowel function. On top of that, you’ll probably have started to lose a little bit of weight.”
The benefits continue as the weeks go by, with improvements to blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels, as well as a potential drop in blood pressure. “Your tastebuds will even start to change – foods that contains natural sugars that previous didn’t taste sweet, will start to taste really sweet and cravings for sugar can disappear,” Gawthorne explains. “You will also probably start to notice improvements in anxiety and stress levels as the brain starts to get used to the stable flow of sugars.”
The most important thing with quitting sugar is not to quit fruit – the natural sugar that it contains doesn’t have the same negative health effects, and it’ll help you satisfy sweet cravings. “Research proves that fruit consumption aids weight loss, reduces your risk of chronic diseases and improves overall health and wellbeing,” Gawthorne says. “The natural sugars that are in fruit fuel our brain and muscles with energy and fruit contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and phytochemicals that nourish us and will keep us healthy.”
Click here for the full article on Coach nine.com.au