By Nutritionist Nikki Wood
For many people just the thought of Easter can excite the body’s fat cells. Coupled with the cooling weather those hot cross buns and chocolate treats are certainly hard to ignore, so it’s good to know it is possible to indulge without the associated weight gain. Not surprisingly, it’s all in the preparation and planning.
But first, let’s delve a little deeper…
Sugar, despite its reputation, is a natural part of life.
Humans are naturally attracted to sugar – in hunter gatherer times sugar enabled us to distinguish between edible and toxic substances. The enjoyment of sugar enhanced hunger, to encourage more consumption of the ‘safe’ stuff!
Sweet foods also meant a very quick source of energy, vital for the flight or fight response necessary for survival in those times.
Today, our instincts for sweet is more of a hindrance than a help.
Sugar is produced in such processed forms that they contain very little of the original nutrients inherent in them, and the more we eat them the more crave…
Sugar is one of the most addictive chemicals known to mankind. When you consume fructose, it stimulates the same reward centres in your brain as cocaine and heroin. Every time we consume sugar the cravings get stronger; this is because the body releases far more insulin into the blood than necessary, which decreases the release of the brain hormone serotonin (which provides the feeling of satisfaction, signalling us to stop eating). Hence, a person addicted to sugar will consume more and feel hungry much more quickly than a non-addicted person.
Not to mention that slump we feel after we’ve consumed too much!
Serotonin is also our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter so when that decreases, you guessed it, the guilt creeps in and we feel simply awful.
One of the other main reasons sugar is harmful is because of the fructose (simple sugar). Whilst small amounts from fruit is considered alright, large amounts added to the diet (both consciously and unconsciously) can have disastrous effects on our health – including but not limited to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Fructose can only be metabolised by the liver – which in Western society is a big problem.
Too much fructose turns into fat and is stored either in the liver (causing fatty liver and insulin resistance) or is carried out in the blood, raising triglyceride levels deposits in the cells. These deposits cause our cells to become insulin resistant which is purported to be the main reason for the huge increase in Type 2 Diabetes as well as obesity.
In modern society, many of us are operating in a state of Functional Hypoglycaemia, characterised by fluctuating blood glucose levels and causing symptoms such as extreme tiredness, depression, vertigo, joint pain, abdominal pain, blurred vision, insomnia, anxiety, muscle pain, emotional instability, restlessness, irritability, headaches, backache, difficulty concentrating, mental confusion, forgetfulness, cravings, mood swings, allergies, cold hands and feet; to name just a few!
If you resonate with any or all of these symptoms, then you could addicted to sugar. These symptoms are fed and exacerbated by a diet higher in refined sugar, coffee and other stimulants combined with long periods between meals and stress.
Unbeknown to us mere mortals, almost everything in our modern day food chain is laced with sugar, even your favourite bread contains hidden sugar, and that “healthy lunch alternative”, sushi, contain sugar soaked rice to add sweetness and ‘western flavour’.
So, our best weapon is to educate ourselves, start to read labels and plan ahead.
There are basically two types of sugars – those that are in their most natural state and therefore nutritionally beneficial (contain vitamin and minerals) and those that are not. The latter are known as ‘nutrient robbers’ as they require nutrients in order to be utilised in the body (ie. they ‘take’ more than they ‘give’).
The first type, the nutritious ones, include (in order of decreasing nutritional value);
- Black Strap Molasses
- Barley malt extract
- Date sugar
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup
- Brown rice syrup
Nutrient robbers include;
- Coconut palm sugar
- Golden syrup
- White Sugar
- Raw sugar & brown sugar
- Processed honey
- Concentrated apple juice
- Corn syrup
If you’re one to reach for the artificial sweeteners, then think again! Artificial sweeteners are ladened with harmful chemicals and increase your risk of cancer. Sugar alternatives, on the other hand, are plentiful – here are my picks;
- Stevia – naturally derived from a South American shrub and useful as an additive to cold drinks and meals, however once heated the taste profile is changed. Whilst calorie free, use sparingly as its 200-300x sweeter than sugar so you only need to use a tiny amount!
- Sugar alcohols: Maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, lakanto, erythritol, and isomalt are examples of sugar alcohols. They occur naturally in plants but are usually manufactured from sugars and starches. Sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugars because they are not completely absorbed by the body. They can ferment in the intestines and cause gas, bloating, and diarrhoea. Also, more than likely genetically modified. Choose organic and ensure it’s not made from corn.
So if you want to avoid the extra cuddly bits this Easter then you want to be avoiding ‘nutrient robbers’ and opting for the nutrient rich alternatives try my Kumera Brownie.
If you suspect you may be addicted to sugar or suffering Functional Hypoglycaemia then click here to book yourself an appointment with me. As an added incentive for anyone that wants to break their sugar addiction I’ll happily take $20 off your initial consultation! (Valid until the end of May)