In this series ‘healthy substitutes’, we shall cover foods and beverages which taste good and look good, but aren’t really that good for you after all, and how with a bit of effort we can substitute something genuinely tasty and healthy instead!
We all like sugar, or at least most of us do. However, sugar is getting a bad rap lately, and no wonder. Just take a look at the list of health conditions which come about as a consequence of increased sugar intake:
- Fungal infections
- It raises insulin levels resulting in obesity
- It increases calorie intake resulting in obesity
- It can damage the liver
- It can raise uric acid levels, which can lead onto kidney and heart disease
- High sugar levels put a stress on metabolism, which results in a difficulty in maintaining homoeostasis. In simple terms it makes it harder for the body to run efficiently
- High sugar levels have an impact upon our energy levels, thus making it more difficult to face up to life’s challenges.
So why are there so many side effects as a result of sugar?
Basically everything in moderation. Looking at statistics from the US Department of commerce and the USDA, we find the back in 1822 that the average American was consuming 6lbs of sugar a year, compared with the average American, in the year 2000, who was consuming 107.7lbs of sugar a year, that’s a 17 fold increase!1
Now you might say that 1822 was a long time ago and that it’s not realistic to compare with today, then see what the same research tells us about the intake of sugar in 1980. In 1980 the Sugar intake per year was just over 80lbs.1 So in a mere 20 years the intake of sugar increased by 25%!
So sugar by itself is not a bad guy, however, when taken in excess just like anything else it becomes bad for her health. Sugar in excess, puts a tremendous workload upon our bodies make an result in a deterioration health, over a period of time.
Another challenging aspect of high sugar levels is that sugar is everywhere these days. So we can note the obvious things like candy bars and cookies and sugary drinks, but what we don’t realise is that sugars found in just about everything, for example cereal and bread, which is hard to believe but true. Also due to commercial pressures, there has been a shift towards corn syrup in many products such as soft drinks and bakery items, because it is a cheap sugar. However while cheap, it is not good for health. Sugars, come in many different shapes and varieties, for example honey is a sugar, but it’s a good sugar made largely from fructose. Fruits are also all have high in fructose, and fructose is fairly healthy, when taken in moderation.
Also, when we think about carbohydrates (a dense filling aspect of food) they are basically sugar. So with most people, these days, been on a high calorie diet, and approximately 60% of our diet consisting of carbohydrates, it becomes quite apparent that we are consuming a lot of sugars simply by eating a large quantity of food.
However, it’s not just about eating a large amount of calories, as also some carbs are better than other. For example, oats are made up of 60 to 70% carbohydrates. However these are what’s called complex carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates are released slowly into the bloodstream, which is good for health.
Whereas white bread, white pasta, white pastries etc, all made up largely from simple carbohydrates, which are quickly releasing. Now while quick releasing carbohydrates can be useful for energy, first thing in the morning or as a post workout, such as glycogen based energy drinks, other than that they are a waste. They are a waste because they release into the blood stream, far too quickly, thus raising blood sugar levels and forcing the body to release more insulin.
So we don’t just have to worry about increasing percentage of junky sugary sweets and cakes in our diet, but also we have to worry about the quality of carbohydrates been used, which often consist of low quality, fast releasing simple carbohydrates. But what we also have to concern ourselves hidden sugars, such as sugar in bread for example, and of course processed food in general.
So you don’t just need to be eating a junk food diet in order to be overloading sugars.
So what we have to do is to find healthy sugar alternatives!
Healthy sugar alternatives
One aspect of health sugar alternatives is simply been aware of the hidden sugars.
Sources of Hidden Sugar
Sugary junk foods: Such as soft drinks, candy bars, sweets etc.
Apparently Regular Food: Such as bread, cereal and most processed foods.
Sugary Foods High in Very Unhealthy Sugar: Soft drinks, many bakery items, some breads, some cereals, dairy items, ice creams and salad dressings, for example!
So first of all we can see that there is a lot if sugar, hiding in plain sight. It is so plentiful, that the only way to get around it, is to educate yourself by doing some research into the common foods, which you are eating on a daily basis, in order to see which ones are the worst offenders.
Secondly, we can attempt to tune into our bodies and feel how different foods affect us. This sounds a little difficult at first, but over time, it is possible to get some feedback, from your body, as to how well a particular found was either like or disliked by our bodies.
We spend a considerable period of our formative years learning to like certain tastes, and later in life we tend to go by what tastes good. However, what tastes good is not necessarily good for our body. As our taste buds will give us one response and our body will give us another response.
Do you think I’m crazy?
Well think again. Do you remember ever eating something delicious only to have it disagree with you?
Of course you have, we all have. But this is an example of a severe reaction from your body. But what you probably don’t know is the small negative effects which are bad for you, over time. Next time you eat something, ask your body mentally “does this food agree with me?” While you probably won’t get an instant answer, over time you will get little intuitive insights or possibly gut feelings (maybe even literarily), which let you know whether or not this food is good for you.
While this may not inform you as to whether or not a food is high in sugar, it will let you know which foods agree with your constitution and which ones don’t.
The third option which you can follow is to substitute sugar with healthy sugar alternatives.
Continue to part two, to learn about good sugar alternatives, which are tasty, healthy and easy to either buy or prepare.