Is Giving Up Good For You?
The pluses and minuses of going sugar, gluten, dairy or meat-free
Most of us have a sweet tooth, and associate sugary foods with comfort and a pick-me-up boost of energy. But too much sugar can be damaging, putting us at risk of type-2 diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.
US research has found that adults over 70 who consume high levels of sugar are at risk of cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, and foggy thought. A sugary diet has also been shown to increase chances of cardiovascular disease; many experts in heart health believe that sugar puts us more at risk of heart problems than saturated fat.
A sugary diet creates a blood sugar rollercoaster: when blood sugar dips making us lethargic, low, and edgy, we gorge on sugary snacks (such as cake) – this raises our blood sugar level, stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and we are calm and happy once more… until the blood sugar dips again. The more sugar we eat, the less effective it is, so we have to eat more. No wonder it’s addictive! We can balance blood sugar, and in turn our mood and energy, by eating slow-release energy foods (such as brown rice and vegetables), and proteins (such as eggs).
Sugar makes up 12% of the average UK adult diet. Health experts advise reducing that percentage, but also replacing refined sugar with healthier sweet alternatives (such as maple syrup and pieces of fruit). “My favourite alternative sweeteners are raw honey and molasses, both of which are highly nutritious,” says Brightonbased nutritionist Kirsten Chick ( CONNECTWITHNUTRITION.CO.UK). “But I advise caution with fructose-rich agave syrup and fruit juice.” Earlier this year fructose was shown to increase risk of weight gain and liver damage, and is also thought to increase risk of heart disease and diabetes, in excess.