Sugar Awareness! By Claire Kimber
It’s the perfect time of year to bundle up with warm clothes and comfort food, though for many people, comfort food means cakes, sweets and sugary treats. However, sugary foods can be wreaking havoc on your health in ways you wouldn’t want to believe.
Simple sugars are a source of calories that provide little in the way of nutrition or satiety (the feeling of fullness). As a result, it’s quite easy to consume sugary foods in excess, especially as they have an addictive quality – did you know that sugar is as additive as cocaine? Now that’s a scary thought!
Balance is the key – when our blood sugar is too high (known as hyperglycemia), we can experience issues including tiredness and fatigue, excessive thirst and urges to go to the loo, coupled with altered vision, such as blurriness. Our body is designed to only allow a very small amount of sugar in the bloodstream at any one time – about 1 – 2 teaspoonsful as any more is toxic to us. If circulating blood sugar is too high, then our body will release masses of insulin into the bloodstream as a response, which may often result in low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycaemia – the sugar crash. Symptoms associated with hypoglycaemia include tiredness, low mood, headaches, irregular heartbeats, feeling dizzy and craving sweet foods – starting the cycle all over again!
Overconsumption of sugars can lead to weight gain, while being overweight or obese elevates the risk of type 2 diabetes development; Diabetes UK estimates that over 12m in the UK are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. While sugar is not the sole cause of diabetes, it is a large contributing factor, and do you we can do something about it.
If you’re overweight or obese, you may be at higher risk of Type two diabetes, as the pancreas struggles to produce enough insulin for the body’s needs.
Fat tissue stored around the abdomen especially contributes to diabetes risk as it is considered highly hormonally active. This tissue has been shown to produce compounds known as cytokines, which can cause pancreatic issues, including diabetes when in excess or exposed to over long periods of time. Working towards reducing this excess weight through exercise and healthy eating choices can significantly lower your diabetes risk
The World Health Organization has recommended that daily sugar intake should be no more than five per cent of total calorie intake (approximately 25g/day for an adult). When it comes to what we should eat, starchy carbohydrates (wholegrain breads, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc.,) are generally more slowly absorbed than their counterparts, making you feel fuller for longer and steadying blood sugar levels.
Adequate fruit and vegetable intake is vital, but the emphasis should be on vegetables. Vegetables offer a high density of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and typically low intrinsic sugar. Fibre-rich foods, healthy fats (such as oily fish) and lean protein are all healthy additions to a diet.