Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau gives us the lowdown on sugar
There are so many different types and classifications of sugar that it can be very confusing trying to figure out what it all means and how it affects our health. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate which provides the body with glucose to use for energy. Simple sugars are found naturally in dairy products, fruit and certain vegetables, as well as in processed products such as table sugar, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate. Unrefined sugar is a term used in the wellness world to describe sugar that is naturally present in food, rather than being added as part of food manufacturing, for example; honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. However to the body, sugar is sugar, and whilst it does have a place in the diet, attention should be paid to the quantity and source.
Learn to… Find Balance
This ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to sugar intake involves acknowledging that too much sugar is usually not a good idea for our health, but at the same time it is entirely normal to enjoy sweet food as part of a balanced diet! Sugar affects the ‘feel-good’ reward centre of our brain and this perhaps explains why sugar provides more calories in our diet than is advisable. As is often the case when it comes to nutrition, the answer lies in the balanced middle ground, and being aware of how much sugar you are consuming is a good place to start. In the UK we are advised to limit sugar intake to 90g per day and no more than 30g of that should be in the form of free sugars, this is roughly 7 teaspoons.
Step away from… Liquid Sugar
Nearly a quarter of the free sugar in our diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages; fizzy drinks, sweetened juices, squashes and cordials. Orange juice is an example of a free sugar. Once the sugar it contains is separated from the fruits pulp, the fibre is lost. A 500ml serving contains 0.2g of fibre and 44g of sugar compared to 1.8g of fibre and 12.3g of sugar if you swapped the juice for the whole orange. Swapping fruits juices for whole fruits and sugary drinks for water is a great place to start. If you drink sugar sweetened beverages, consider using sweeteners to help gradually wean yourself off adding sugar to tea and coffee.
Give it a go… Add Protein and Fats
When we eat carbohydrates our body breaks them down into simple sugars, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. As the sugar level rises in our body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where the sugar can be used as a source of energy. Flattening our glucose spikes is beneficial for many reasons; from maintaining a healthy weight and energy levels, to skin and heart health, supporting our mood and much more! Adding a source of protein and healthy fats to our carbohydrates actually reduces how quickly glucose is absorbed by our body and supports balanced blood sugars. So add some nuts to your home baked cookies, enjoy cream on your apple crumble, spread nut butter on your rice cakes or eat some almonds before your croissant!
Charlotte runs Plume Nutrition, where she offers support and advice for weight management, controlling cravings, sleeplessness, stress and increasing energy levels. Find out more at plumenutrition.com
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