SUGAR: ‘Pure, White & Deadly’
We are hard-wired to like sugar; we can eat lots of it, we want to eat lots of it because it puts on fat in preparation for when food is less plentiful. But now we don’t have those times; we have lots of food all the time and more importantly we scoff on sugary things far more than just the delicious treat we rewarded ourselves with in the old days. There is the treat drawer full of mini bars of this and that, there are biscuits ‘in case someone comes round’, there is an obsessive desire to bake cakes all the time, offices are full of people having birthdays, leaving, baking at the weekends and generally kyboshing everyone’s good intentions!
Even fruit juices are now regarded as the new ‘killer’! Full of fructose, the sugar in fruit, and without any of the fibre, they rocket sugar into the blood stream which put simply, goes off to the fat cells around the middle. And there is a theory that fructose suppresses leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full. And in the old days this was great because it meant that in the summer when fruit was plentiful we stuffed ourselves and packed on the fat, and then a bit like polar bears, we had a nice supply of fat to last us through the winter.
But the problem is that this fat, when left to grow and grow has a life of its own. Unlike other body fat which can cause problems for the heart and joints if there’s a bit much, abdominal fat is pretty dangerous. It releases hormones; men can make oestrogen in fat cells and this can disrupt testosterone levels, women also can have hormonal problems. It fires off all sorts of inflammatory chemicals into the blood stream, and inflammation is really the root cause of disease, and ageing. It causes havoc with your insulin levels and raises your risk of diabetes and fatty liver; geese are force fed high sugar sweetcorn to make them have fatty livers for the production of foie gras, ugh, horrible thought!
And horrors, eating sugar causes wrinkles (if I eat too much it makes me have spots too). It mixes with the protein part on a cell membrane and forms something a bit like a sheet of hard plastic netting. This is called cross-linking and the end result is the formation of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products) – good name. So the lovely, plumptious peachy cell becomes hard and shrivelled.
And the more sugar you eat, the more you want. The idea that sugar can affect brain chemistry is controversial but I believe it does have an opiate and/or endorphin-like effect, which makes it pretty addictive. And really the only way to ‘normalise’ your relationship with sugar is to stop eating it for a while – three weeks is a good time. Replace your sugary snacks with more savoury, fibrous or protein-rich ones. Then you should be able to have the odd sugary treat, which you can savour and enjoy every mouthful of without having those awful feelings of guilt and regret, and worse, stuffing yourself as you think you have already been ‘bad’ so you may as well carry on and start again on Monday. That is no way to live your life; you should be able to enjoy delicious things. The way I see it sugar has way too much power and needs a bit of taming!
The best way to avoid it is to eat as much ‘normal’ unadulterated food as you can; sugar is a hidden ingredient, any word with an –ose on the end of it is a sugar. And more often than not ‘low fat’ ‘healthy’ or ‘diet’ options are even worse. The fat has been taken out and to make up for the lack of taste in goes a ton of sugar. And artificial sweeteners are just crap too. Research shows that people who eat artificial sweeteners put on more weight than people who don’t. When you eat them your brain is picking up sweetness and anticipating a nice hit of glucose, brain food, and when it doesn’t happen that sets up strong sugar cravings. And if you need to buy them for home, get options that you don’t particularly like. So, if I kept biscuits it would be fig rolls which I just love, and if I didn’t want to eat biscuits I would buy Garibaldis (what we used to call ‘squashed flies’, horrible!) and sweets would be a treat for the weekend.
Also, make sure you eat decently at meal times. If you skip breakfast you will make more unhealthy choices in the morning. If you have a good protein-rich lunch you will be less likely to head for the biscuit tin. But this is a vulnerable time for most people so nuts are a good option and I still love my Rude Health Multi Grain Thins with WholeEarth peanut butter; two with a cup of tea, delicious! After your evening meal, another weak moment for sugar addicts, have a couple of clementines, and try some liquorice tea which is slightly sweet.
The most important thing to remember is that you will get used to it and when it becomes a habit, you will control your sugar intake, not the other way round.
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