There are scales to which natural sugar becomes less helpful. Fruit and vegetables contain sugar (especially carrots, tomatoes, beetroot, sweet potato and soft fruits) but because this sugar is encased in fibre and these plants are abundant in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, I recommend you eat them in abundance! Never before in my clinic have I seen a patient who is unhealthy or obese because they ate too much fruit or veg!
The government’s RDA for total sugar per day is 90g, so your 5+ a day will happily fit into this. The problem comes when you add in a layer of more refined but still natural sugars from dried fruit, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses and dates. I would also add in pasta and rice too after it’s been cooked – see them as bowls of sugar! There isn’t the fibre or the abundance of other micro minerals, just the sugar….which isn’t much different from the refined white stuff (sorry!).
The quick releasing sugars cause highs of blood sugar which give a short term hit of energy to the brain followed by a dip that can cause irritability, lapses in concentration, sudden sugar cravings and HANGER! If you suffer with anxiety or if your stress load is high, these lows of blood sugar are going to make your ability to deal with stress even worse. Blood sugar lows also trigger your body to refuel – and usually this in where the cravings start for more sugar…. These are called blood sugar rollercoasters. And it happens whatever refined sugar you’re consuming – natural or not natural unfortunately!
Here is a quick test to see if you suffer with these roller coasters. Do you:
- Have a tendency to eat white bread, rice, pasta rather than wholegrains
- Crave sweets, starchy foods, cereals, toast and jam, chocolate, cakes etc
- Have sugary foods and drinks through the day
- Crave caffeinated drinks including fizzy drinks, diet coke, mochas, hot chocolates
- Skip breakfast regularly
- Suffer with energy slumps
- Get moody for no apparent reason
- Are a different person after eating
- Get irritable without regular snacking
- Get that feeling of ‘I need to eat now’
- Get shaky, faint or clammy before eating
The problem with sugar in any refined form, is the effect iT has on our blood glucose. Let’s asses an apple vs apple juice. An apple has around 12g of sugar in it (around 3 sugar lumps) but because it’s encased within a pectin rich skin it slows the spike of blood sugar thus lessening roller coasters (plus the skin is a wonderful source of fibre for our good bugs in our gut too). Fruit juice is different – there’s no fibre and the juice is where all the sugar is. You’re able to easily drink way more sugar in a juice than you would get from eating the equivalent sugar from whole apples - eating whole fruit is self limiting due to the time it takes to eat one apple vs quaff a glass of juice!!
So how do we stay one step ahead of sugar cravings?
- Have a protein/fat rich breakfast to help reduce blood sugar rollercoasters for the rest of the day.
- Drink plenty of water (although away from meal times).
- Have nuts, seeds, trail mix, fruit to deal with sugar cravings.
- Clear out sugary foods and drinks from your kitchen!
- Menu plan and batch cook to stay one step ahead of cravings.
- Aside from sugar, keep caffeine to a minimum or have with food to minimise it’s metabolic effect on these highs and lows of blood sugar.
- Avoid processed foods which often have hidden sugar in them.
- Avoid aspartame and other chemical sweeteners which are full of rubbish.
- Eat 3 meals per day at the same time to help keep blood sugar in check.
- Avoid refined carbs such as pasta and bread. See pasta rice and bread as sugar! Instead opt for complex carbs such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, pulses and brightly coloured veg.
The answer to the question “Am I sweet enough?” is probably YES!