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For hundreds of years, sugar was very expensive and considered a “fine spice”, however from the 1500s, technological improvements began to turn sugar into a much cheaper, bulk commodity although still very much out of reach for the majority.
We have come a long way since then with the modernisation of sugar cane production. Our market is now flooded with modern day versions of the sweet stuff including the less well-known ‘High-fructose Corn Syrup’ (HFCS) made from cornstarch. This product is highly processed and is found in many of our breakfast cereals, soft drinks, biscuits and confectionaries.
When you eat foods high in sugar and hidden sugar foods, it triggers the release of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centres in the brain, and is the same chemical released in response to sex and drug use.
The effect on dopamine and the reward centres in your brain works like certain types of drugs, such as cocaine, and giving it up can produce symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal. This sugar is highly inflammatory, affects energy and mood regulation, and puts you at risk of Type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease.
High Fructose Sugars
HFCS and sugar have been shown to drive inflammation, which is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. So what can we do to reduce our consumption?
How to Reduce Sugar Cravings
Become aware of Hidden Sugars
It’s really important to educate ourselves to identify foods that contain Hidden Sugars. It is found in many Breakfast cereals, Pasta sauces, Salad dressings, Yogurts and Alcohol. Always read the Ingredients labels so you can be informed as to what type and amount of sugar is in the product.
Watch your intake – Daily Sugar intake
As a guide adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes). Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (6 sugar cubes). Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (5 sugar cubes). To get some perspective, a 30g Bowl of Coco Pops has 11g sugar and a tablespoon (15g) of Nutella also has 11g of sugar. It is very easy therefore to exceed daily sugar intake when a child may have already had over half their daily intake just at breakfast time.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that’s extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub. Several studies show that stevioside, which is one of the sweet compounds in stevia, can lower high blood pressure by 6–14%. It has also been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, which may help fight diabetes.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with sweetness similar to sugar. It’s extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables. Several studies show that it can improve dental health by reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Xylitol may increase your body’s absorption of calcium. Xylitol is generally well tolerated, but eating too much of it can cause digestive side effects like gas, bloating and diarrhoea.
Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honeybees. It contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundance of beneficial antioxidants. Eating honey may help raise the levels of antioxidants in your blood. High levels of antioxidants in the blood are linked to a lower risk of disease. It is still a sugar and so will still raise blood sugar levels.
If you are going to have sugar, ensure you limit it to a single ‘treat’. Maximum once or twice per week and definitely not every day. If you want something sweet have natures sweets, Whole Fruit. This will give you natural, slower releasing sugars and plenty of vitamins and antioxidants.