Cut back on your daily sugary in­take grad­u­ally

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH - VIWE NDONGENI

FOR decades, fat was the ma­jor food group re­garded as be­ing the most harm­ful. Then there was the hype about good fats which were rec­om­mended to keep the body healthy. But sugar has come un­der the spot­light as it has quickly taken a prom­i­nent place in the list of harm­ful foods.

The fo­cus has been spurred on by the high rate of sugar-re­lated dis­or­ders such as diabetes, obe­sity and heart dis­ease. There are many rea­sons why peo­ple love sugar and, with hol­i­days and in­dul­gence over, cut­ting back on sugar will be the New Year’s res­o­lu­tion of many.

Gabriel Ek­steen from the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion SA said peo­ple are bi­o­log­i­cally hard-wired to like sweet foods. So sugar is added to thou­sands of foods.

“We be­come so used to the taste of sugar that foods taste bland when it’s sud­denly re­moved. It is fur­ther not al­ways ob­vi­ous which foods con­tain sugar and how much, which leads to un­know­ing con­sump­tion,” said Ek­steen.

Health and well­ness ex­pert Vanessa As­cen­cao likens sugar to any other stim­u­lant and warns that it can be ad­dic­tive. As with any other stim­u­lant, it also af­fects blood sugar lev­els and trig­gers crav­ings for more.

“Sugar spikes make you feel like you are crash­ing and burn­ing all day. It is also a source of empty calo­ries so you never re­ally feel sat­is­fied,” said As­cen­cao.

There are many health haz­ards for con­sum­ing too much sugar, she added.

“Eat­ing too much sugar can lead to de­pres­sion, mood swings, weight gain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, can­cer, heart dis­ease and pre­ma­ture age­ing. It can also dis­rupt your hor­mones, af­fect your sleep, zap your en­ergy and con­trib­ute to a host of chronic health is­sues,” she said.

Sugar is found in al­most ev­ery­thing we eat.

As­so­ci­a­tion for Di­etet­ics in SA spokesper­son and reg­is­tered di­eti­tian Jes­sica Byrne said: “The prob­lem with sugar comes not when we in­dulge in a sweet treat on oc­ca­sion, but when we over­con­sume, which can be easy to do when sugar is added to many of the pro­cessed foods we buy, such as sug­ar­sweet­ened bev­er­ages, sweet­ened yo­ghurts, frozen desserts, some break­fast ce­re­als, many sauces, ce­real bars and health bis­cuits, canned or pack­aged fruit, as well as con­fec­tionery and baked prod­ucts.”

She said peo­ple do not re­alise how much sugar is in these prod­ucts – for ex­am­ple, 500ml of sweet­ened iced tea con­tains about nine tea­spoons of sugar.

High-sugar foods can also be high in un­healthy fats and salt and are eas­ily avail­able and heav­ily mar­keted, mak­ing it more of a chal­lenge to avoid them.

“It can also be dif­fi­cult to know if a prod­uct con­tains added sug­ars, be­cause sugar comes in many forms be­sides the ta­ble sugar we typ­i­cally add to tea and cof­fee. In­gre­di­ents such as agave, cane sugar, corn syrup, dex­trose or dex­trin, fruc­tose, fruit juice or con­cen­trate, in­vert sugar, mal­todex­trin, mal­tose, malt syrup, maple syrup, mo­lasses, galac­tose, glu­cose, honey and su­crose are all var­i­ous forms of sugar.”

Ek­steen said peo­ple should not be fooled by “nat­u­ral” sugar like co­conut sugar, honey, agave, brown sugar, sugar from dates and the count­less other op­tions.

“Sugar is sugar, and nor­mal ta­ble sugar from cane is as nat­u­ral as any of these. Aim to grad­u­ally re­duce your to­tal daily sugar in­take,” added Ek­steen.

Byrne gives tips on how to beat sugar crav­ings:

You can curb your sugar in­take and re­duce your sugar crav­ing over a small amount of time by grad­u­ally re­duc­ing your in­take.

For ex­am­ple, if you use two tea­spoons of sugar in your tea or cof­fee, cut down to 1½ tea­spoons for the next week or so.

Once you’ve got used to that, cut down fur­ther to one tea­spoon for an­other week.

Con­tinue grad­u­ally re­duc­ing the amount you add, and your taste buds will ad­just quickly.

Peo­ple con­sume more sugar than they think as it is found in so many foods and drinks.

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