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I think the world of sugar can be confusing. There’s lots of so-called healthy recipes out there at the moment that use lots of sugar such as maple syrup and coconut sugar. But the bottom line is sugar, is sugar, is sugar! Whether it’s the white stuff or whether it’s the more natural versions such as maple syrup and honey, your body only see’s it as sugar and reacts in the same way. The same goes for carbohydrates.

What happens when you eat sugar?

When you eat sugar in any form the glucose in your blood increases. This sends a message to the body to release the hormone insulin. Insulin works to get the blood glucose levels down to normal and moves it into cells for energy or stores it as fat, around your organs and/or around your waist. This is why insulin is known as the fat storing hormone!

It’s a bit of a roller coaster

If you have a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates when you’re hungry you’ll reach for a sugary snack or perhaps a bowl of pasta for lunch. The body quickly turns this into glucose, your blood sugar increases and the body scrambles, releasing insulin to get your blood sugar levels down to normal. Insulin usually overcompensates so then your blood sugar drops too low and you’re likely to feel tired, your energy will be low and you may feel hungry again. You’ll then reach for something else to eat and you end up on this roller coaster where your blood sugar levels are going up and down like crazy. This isn’t good for your health.

What about carbohydrates?

All carbohydrates are turned into sugar once we’ve eaten them, both the healthy (e.g. wholegrains) and the not so healthy. So unless you’re incredibly active and utilising the energy from what you eat the likelihood is that you’ll be storing fat around your organs and your waist. And you can be slim and still be impacted by fat around your organs. If your diet is high in sugar and/or carbohydrates it’s important to look at how this could be affecting your health. By the way, this isn’t about a low carbohydrate diet, everything must be in balance.

The amazing body

I always say the body is amazing. And if you’re reaching for the sugar as you’re reading this don’t give yourself a hard time. If you’re hungry and your blood sugar is low your body is hard-wired to go for the the food that’s going to get sugar quickly into your body; so carbohydrates or sugar. But it’s up to you to break this cycle.

Addiction

The last piece of the sugar puzzle is addition. Research has shown that in rats, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. When eating sugar it lights up more of the pleasure sensors in the brain than cocaine. This results in sugar cravings, constantly reaching for sugary foods and snacks, and habits that encourage a diet high in sugar.

What can you do?

Give up sugar. Or at least reduce it. I for one never thought I’d be encouraging people to give up sugar completely, I’ve always liked the sweet stuff and I believe in everything in balance. However giving up sugar is one of the best things you can do for your health. Experiment, see if you can give it up for a day, then a week and see how your feel.

Sign up to my newsletter as I’ll be sending out ten top tips on how to give up sugar on Saturday.

I gave it up for 8 weeks, went cold turkey and gave up fruit too. You can read all about my experience here. This changed my tastebuds and freed me from my sugar habits (reaching for a bit of dark chocolate after a stressful day!).

It may not be easy initially but it will be worth it in the long run, for your health and your wellbeing.

And be careful because sugar is hiding everywhere!

Sugar can be difficult to avoid completely but if you’re cooking from scratch and not eating too much out of a packet you’re halfway there. Here’s where sugar hangs out:

Sauces; tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream
Salad dressings
Pasta sauces
Dips
Bread
Low fat dairy products
Breakfast cereals
Alcohol
Biscuits, muffins, any type of pastries or cakes
Fruit juices, flavoured water (don’t be fooled!), fizzy drinks and squash.
Dried fruit (the drying process concentrates the sugar so dried fruit is very high in sugar)
Maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, agave, xylitol, stevia
And carbohydrates; bread, rice pasta, potatoes, oats

What are the risks?

In a nutshell a diet high in sugar can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and it’s thought to be a risk factor for certain cancers too.

When I gave up sugar I had more energy, my skin was glowing and I was free of my sugar cravings. If you want to feel better and have more energy then why not get curious and give it a go.

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