Why you need to ditch the sugar habit

Sugar – sweet, tasty and pleasurable. But also mostly responsible for the obesity crises and the huge increase in the number of people suffering from type-2 diabetes.

You might think you don’t eat much sugar, but it’s everywhere and hard to avoid. While it’s fairly obvious that it’s a major ingredient in sweet treats, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and cakes, you’ll also find sugar in cooking sauces, ready meals, yogurts, “healthy” snack & protein bars, breakfast cereals, soft drinks and even some bread!

Other than honey, sugar does not exist in nature, in a form that we would recognise today. Virtually all the sugar we consume has been extracted and concentrated from plants such as sugar cane and sugar beet. And this is where the problem lies: our bodies are not designed to digest refined, concentrated sugar.

When we eat sugar, it has an immediate affect. Our brains can only use sugar for energy and our bodies are so efficient at ingesting sugar, that you can literally absorb sugar straight into the bloodstream, while it’s still in the mouth! This triggers the rewards centres in the brain, which is why eating sugar is so pleasurable.

Evolution is an incredibly slow process, so our digestive system is still configured to extract sugar from starchy foods, such as grains and fruit. Even potatoes are a relatively new food for the human diet. So when we eat refined sugar, we overwhelm our body’s systems. Our blood sugar levels rise rapidly, which causes the brain to release insulin, so that the sugar can be removed from the blood and safely stored for later use.

The trouble is that you can only store so much, after which the body turns that sugar to fat. In addition, if you are asking your body to remove excess sugar, multiple times a day, every day for years, eventually the removal system becomes less efficient (insulin resistance), leading to type-2 diabetes.

In addition, if that sugar is removed rapidly, your blood sugar levels plummet, your body says you need energy, so you feel hungry and the first thing your brain tells you to eat is…. sugar! So, eating sugar actually makes you feel hungry, because it’s digested so fast it doesn’t fill you up and it leads to wild swings in your blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, in the late 1980s, when obesity first started to become a problem, fat was demonised as the culprit. This lead to the rise of low and zero-fat alternatives. However, fat makes food taste nice, so if you remove the fat you remove the flavour. The answer to this was to replace the fat with sugar, with predictable results – we became addicted to sugar.

These days, most of us don’t think twice about having a biscuit or a cake with our morning coffee, or sprinkling sugar on our cereal. At lunch, a chocolate bar instead of an apple or banana. After dinner, ice cream or a flavoured yogurt. We spend the whole day flooding our systems with sugar.

If you want to lose weight and be healthy, you have to break the sugar habit. This means not putting sugar in your tea of coffee, avoiding fizzy drinks (one can of fizzy drink can have 15 sugar cubes of sugar!), not putting sugar on your cereal. Stop saying you need a sweet treat and “rewarding” yourself with chocolate or biscuits. You need to break this cycle, for your health.

But what about after exercise, or if you’re feeling like you have low energy? Well, of course you need to replenish your energy stores, but you need to do it with slow-release carbs, not sugar. Eat a banana or some wholemeal bread with peanut butter. After-all, how did athletes in ancient Greece survive without Red bull and Mars bars?

Refined sugar is a drug. It gives great highs, but also terrible lows and it wreaks havoc on the body. If you want to be healthy, you have to kick the sugar habit.

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