Sunday, 11 November 2012

STEPS 5 - Reduce added sugar

C'mon, you knew it was coming didn't you??!!
And yet for most of us this one is probably already creating anxiety.  How am I going to be able to do this?  How can I possibly live without my chocolate or ice cream fix each night after the kids go to bed, bikkie with a cuppa at the office, two sugars in a latte to kick start the day.....

OK, I want to start this conversation with my personal experience with sugar.  Because before it, I don't think I really understood or believed the power sugar has on us.  I actually do think it is an addictive substance for many of us, and its not until you make the effort to 'get off it' that you realise the hold it had over you.



I am a self confessed sweet tooth!  Always have been.  Even with the importance my parents placed on healthy eating growing up, my preference was always sweet over savoury.  I actually don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with that either - just the way some of us are programmed I guess.  But everything in moderation right?  And I was at the stage where I could easily eat a pack of lollies at a time (loved lollies although when diagnosed with Coeliac disease there were no gluten free 'party mix' options which threw a real spanner in the worx!).  I would have a bowl of ice cream each night, and after eating lunch or dinner I would 'need' to have something sweet straight after.  Now that's NOT moderation!!

So late last year I suddenly, out of the blue, decided I'd had enough of all this sweet eating, and went cold turkey on added sugar!  I was so head strong and ready to do this that the first day was actually quite easy.  The second, third and fourth days were a lot more difficult, and I found it was actually almost a subconscious thought to reach for something sweet - and in those few days I actually caught myself just in time before even realising I was about to eat sugar!
By the end of a week though, it became easy.  And I felt great!  More energy definitely, but more than that, I l felt some control coming back, allowing me to make better food choices.  The sweet urges disappeared, and for the first time in a long time, I didn't crave ice cream, lollies, chocolate, sugar sugar sugar anymore!  Don't underestimate it, that was BIG for me!!

Now this was NOT something I did with the goal of weight loss.  But funnily enough (and embarrassingly enough too!) I lost 2kg in that first week.  For those of you who don't know me personally, I pretty much have stayed at the same weight for many years now, so this sudden weight loss was a real shock to me!  I was actually really embarrassed to admit the loss at the time even to my hubby 'cause I couldn't believe I could have been eating that many extra kilojoules in sugar to cause that sudden and extreme (for me) weight loss.

So anyway, getting to the point, going through that process actually made me realise, first hand, that sugar can be an addictive substance for those of us who consider ourselves a 'sweet tooth'.

So why is this a problem and what is wrong with sugar?

  • Sugar as we know it these days, is a nutrientless, energy full substance.  What does this mean?  Well, the sugar cane is processed so much that the white perfectly formed crystals that we have come to know has no nutrient value left, other than highly processed carbohydrates which are calorie/kj rich yet offer no other benefits.  
  • Sugar is added to so many products these days (even savoury preprepared foods) that most of the time we don't even realise we are eating sugar.  White bread is a perfect example of this!
  • Given that sugar is added to so many preprepared items now, we are eating so many kilograms of it each year, and craving more and more.
  • Sugar, in general, is an extremely high GI (glycaemic index) food.  It therefore increases the GI of all the foods it is an ingredient in.  High GI foods really mess up our blood glucose levels, shooting them way up high then dropping low really quickly, making us feel lethargic, and creating a cycle where we then feel the need for a 'pick me up', and reach for something sugary to start the vicious cycle again.  It is not good for anyones body, and particularly diabetics, to be constantly sending our blood glucose levels up and down. 
To be successful in this task, the aim is to look (honestly!) at what we eat on a regular basis, and start to reduce the amount of sugar that we consume.
The obvious places to start are avoiding foods such as ice cream, chocolate, confectionary, soft drinks, cordials, flavoured milks, sweet biscuits (yes even those arrowroot and marie have high sugar contents!), sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, cakes, muffins, slices, most flavoured yogurts (Jalna has the lowest sugar content from what I have found so far in Australia).
The not so obvious places to also start being mindful of are foods such as tinned vegetables (particularly corn and beetroot), taco seasoning, tomato sauce and other preprepared sauces, fruit breads and buns, tinned fruit (fruit contains natural sugar, fructose, but some tinned fruits contain added sugar), seasonings, yogurt drinks, muesli bars, flavoured porridge, dried fruits (ie - pineapple, paw paw).

On food labels, sugar goes under the guise of many different names, so become savvy and avoid these highly processed empty calories!  Here are 50 (yes, 50!) different names for what is effectively sugar.....
 1. Brown rice syrup 2. Cane juice 3. Caramel 4. Carob syrup 5. Chocolate syrup 6. Cinnamon sugar 7. Coarse sugar 8. Coconut sugar 9. Corn syrup 10. Corn syrup solids 11. Date syrup 12. Demerara 13. Dextran 14. Dextrose 15. Diastatic malt 16. Diatase 17. Disaccharide 18. Erythritol 19. Ethyl maltol 20. Fructose 21. Fruit juice concentrate 22. Fruit syrup 23. Galactose 24. Glucose 25. Glucose solids 26. Glycerol 27. Golden brown sugar 28. Golden caster sugar 29. Golden icing sugar 30. Golden sugar 31. Golden syrup 32. Granulated sugar 33. Grape sugar 34. Grape sweetener 35. High-fructose corn syrup 36. High-maltose corn syrup 37. Honey 38. Invert sugar 39. Lactose 40. Levulose 41. Malt 42. Malt extract 43. Maltose 44. Mannitol 45. Molasses 46. Monosaccharide 47. Refiner’s syrup 48. Rice extract 49. Sorbitol 50. Sucrose.  (I sourced this list from this site)

Now obviously that is going to be a hard list to remember when you are out shopping, but basically anything ending in 'ose' (glucose, sucrose, galactose) are sugars, anything with 'malt', syrups, and fruit juice concentrates.

The other issue with having so much added sugar in our diets, is that it takes the place of other, more nutritious options.  Greatly reducing, or eliminating added sugar from your diet will more easily allow you to add back in more nutrients. Ie - replacing a flavoured yogurt with natural yogurt stirred through berries or cut up fresh fruit. Additionally, generally with sugar comes fat, so removing the added sugar will result in a fat consumption reduction as well - bonus!

So how you approach this task is up to you.  Go cold turkey like I did, or, over the next two weeks (and beyond) make a conscious effort each day to say NO to one more sugary item.  I'm not advocating wasting food - instead of throwing out that packet of Tim Tams and block of chocolate, just make sure they are NOT replaced!  If you are anything like me, those things just can't be in the house, otherwise they will be eaten!  Don't make it hard for yourself in the first week by surrounding yourself with temptations.

If you find yourself struggling with a sugar craving, try having a piece of fruit, a few dried dates or apricots, a mug of herbal tea, a glass of milk, a carrot, a half cup of frozen berries...  or distract yourself with a walk, call up a friend, clean the toilet.... anything!!!!  Believe me, in my experience these cravings will truly pass - you just have to do the hard yards for a few days.

Regular Mellymaks readers would know my strong views on kids and sugar.  Have a good look at the ingredient lists of lunchbox fillers and then think about other options to eliminate that sugar hit.

Regular Mellymaks readers will also note that I have quite a few ice cream, cake, bikkie etc recipes in my blog.  I don't suggest you never eat sugar again (that is unrealistic for most of us) but I have found that when I eat these foods occasionally, I really enjoy them and savour them.  I definitely still have a sweet tooth, but the difference is, I am in control now!

OK, as always, I am here every step of the way to support you.  So stay tuned to Facebook for regular hints and tips, and I always love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and sugar free alternatives.  We can all help each other get through the hardest first few days.

What you will achieve is a more stabilised energy level (especially those of you with a higher sugar intake), perhaps better sleep patterns over time, perhaps a more stabilised mood, and the benefit of greater nutrient intakes with the absence of sugar.

Good luck.  Start the journey now!

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