Settlement Guide

Sugar – white poison or allowed passion?

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Sugar has a bittersweet reputation. It occurs naturally in some foods and our body needs it. Yet excess amounts can cause a lot of damage.


Highlights

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for an adult no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is around 6 teaspoons
  • Fruit juice may seem like a healthy choice but it still contains a lot of sugar
  • If you crave sweet eat healthy fats instead; these are found in foods like avocado, natural yoghurt and nuts

Are sweets your favourite comfort food? Looking forward to Easter to eat all those chocolate eggs?

According to experts the excessive use of sugar has a very negative impact on our body, leading to type 2 diabetes, liver disease and cardiovascular disease. 

Gary Wittert is Professor of Medicine at University of Adelaide, and Director of the Masonic Charities Centre for Men’s Health and Wellness at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

He says that if we consume refined carbohydrates – such as sugar, we are eating empty calories. 

Sugar provides energy but it does not provide necessary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds or fiber.

Sugar is energy rich but nutrient poor. 

Professor Wittert says there will still be a stimulus to eat, because we need the essential nutrients. And if we are eating more to get these nutrients, then excess calories will be stored as fat. 

The problem starts when fat gets stored around the organs and in the abdomen; these are places where accumulation of fat is not healthy for us.

This kind of fat contributes to an increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

girl with sweets
How much sugar is too much?
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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for an adult an intake of no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is around 6 teaspoons.

One can of a soft drink has, according to the Australian Department of Health, 9 teaspoons of sugar and fruit juice is not much better.

Soft drinks and fruit drinks are one of the main sources of sugar for Australians.

Experts really discourage from these sweet drinks and fruit juices, which may seem as a healthy option.

Professor Gary Wittert says that fruit (and other food) should be eaten not smashed into juice for drinking.

Liquids empty from the stomach much faster than solids. And that’s also going to give you the big spike up of sugar in the blood stream; that can be harmful.

fruit juice
Fruit juice is full of sugar
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Bottom line is - we shouldn’t be eating refined carbohydrates and we shouldn’t be changing the physical structure of food by smashing it in a blender and drinking it.

We should eat fruit and drink water.

Don’t let the taste fool you: even salty tasting food can be loaded with sugar

Professor Gary Wittert cautions that we may be consuming way more sugars in food that one would not even consider as sweet.

Added sugar is present in many processed foods like baked beans and ketchup.

Nutritionist Perry Venakis agrees that packaged food can contain very high amount of sugar.

Let’s say you buy a packaged cake: they have to put a preservative in there and the preservative is usually sodium. The counteract the taste of sodium there has to be extra sugar in there. 

 

 

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Do you have a sweet tooth?
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What to do with a sweet tooth?

It is that two o’clock snack time and we all crave a bit of a chocolate, biscuit or something to boost our energy…

Nutritionist Perry Venakis says it can be caused by previous dietary mistakes.

If you haven‘t eaten the right amount of food, you haven’ t eaten the right type of food or you had a lot of stress that day and that has caused your blood sugar levels to drop. That’s why we look for something sweet.

Mr Venakis has a surprising advice – he would tell his clients to have something fatty instead, such as an organic boiled egg with a bit of avocado and olive oil.

That way the fats will slowly release the energy to the body and will help diminish the craving.

Shall we cut our carbs completely?

According to the experts, the solution to a healthy diet it is not as simple as avoiding carbohydrates. On the contrary, we need them.

What experts rather recommend is a change of lifestyle. Professor Gary Wittert says what matters is the form of carbohydrates we consume.

The more complex carbohydrate, the more digestion is required and the slower the rate it appears in our bloodstream.

Complex carbohydrates, the ones that are absorbed slowly, are foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.

Eleni Psillakis, Director of BrazenGrowth and an educator and peer support worker for mental health and eating disorders, explains that if we are avoiding processed food, allowing ourselves a treat from time to time is ok.

She calls sweets 'sometimes food'.

 

Senior couple enjoy eating ice cream together
Treats should be a "sometimes food"
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These days many of us are facing a lot of anxiety, stress, and life changes. Not to mention working from home and upcoming Easter…

Is it ok to just let go for a while and enjoy all the sweets that are available and not stress about it?

Ms Psillakis believes that the best approach is a balanced eating, not cutting out any groups of food, but also not going completely crazy on chocolates.

She thinks that especially now is important to stay on track with our diet.

It will benefit not only our physical, but also our mental health.

For the sake of our health and our mental health during this time of high anxiety, it’s much better to keep eating good whole things and limiting the sugary treats to every now and then.