There’s a lot of buzz around the topic of sugar these days and whether we should quit sugar altogether. It’s also one that evokes a lot of fear when we consider parting it with because everyone loves a sugary treat now and then, right?
Sadly, as a nation we consume way too much sugar. The World Health Organisation’s recommendations state that added sugars should be limited to a maximum of 10 per cent of people’s daily energy, and ideally no more than 5 per cent - that’s just 6 teaspoons per day! At present, Australians consume far more than this with one in two Australians above this daily limit.
High blood sugar levels can predispose us to Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and are linked to accelerated ageing.
Sugar can be a confusing topic because the body uses sugar in the form of glucose as energy to power every cell in the body. Whilst we can’t and shouldn’t attempt to eliminate all sugar from our diet - as the body needs it to function properly, we can reduce our intake of excess sugar - it comes down to the type of sugar and making sure we strike a balance.
When we eat foods containing carbohydrates, the body breaks them down to sugar. Foods that break down to sugar too quickly lead to raised blood glucose levels which triggers the body to release insulin to balance them out again. When our blood glucose levels repeatedly rise and fall, we can develop problems with maintaining blood sugar balance which can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to weight gain and diabetes.
Signs that you may have poor blood sugar regulation include:
- Cravings, particularly for sweet food
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Low libido
- Light headedness
- Regular yawning
- Brain fog
- Mood swings and irritability
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor concentration and memory
The more sugar we have in our diets, the more our body craves, as it becomes de-sensitised. In fact, there is new research emerging which indicates that your body reacts to it pretty much as it would in cocaine addiction– scary stuff!
Here are some tips for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels through simple dietary changes:
- Reduce excess sugar: Limit foods that have little nutritional value while also being high in sugar. This includes processed foods such as chocolates, packaged sauces, cakes, biscuits, sugary breakfast cereal, cordial, sports drinks and soft drinks. These lead to sharp spikes in sugar levels.
- Protein: Including high quality protein at meals times will help to stabilise blood sugar levels. The best sources include lean red meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu.
- Chromium: Chromium is an essential mineral that plays a role in how insulin helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. Sources include broccoli, wholegrain cereals, nuts, mushrooms and soy beans.
- Fibre: Fibre helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. It slows the absorption of glucose from food, which reduces the sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Best sources include wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, legumes, fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid food products that are labelled low in fat as these tend to be high in sugar
- Eat little and often: This will keep your blood sugar balanced to avoid the dips that send us reaching for a sugary quick fix. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and also include a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack.
- Reduce stress – practice yoga or meditation to alleviate stress. Stress triggers the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Once you’ve made these changes to reduce excess sugar in your diet and you have balanced your blood sugar levels, you will have more energy, sleep better and you may find that little niggling aches and pains and minor health problems fade away. Aesthetically speaking, reducing sugar can lead to weight loss and a brighter and clearer complexion.
My philosophy is that the best way to approach a healthy diet is to focus on incorporating more fresh, wholefoods so it leaves less room for the unhealthier options, and always... always....choose water over sugary drinks!
Yours in natural health,
Always consult your healthcare professional if you have any health concerns and before commencing a new dietary or exercise regime, before using any supplements and before making any changes to prescribed medications.