Until recently, the dietary guidelines for the prevention of coronary heart disease have encouraged a low-fat, high-carbohydrate approach to eating, suggesting that fats are the culprit. This was convincingly backed by research sponsored by the sugar trade industry, throwing the scent off sugar as a contributor. This was illustrated by a food pyramid with carbs having the largest allocation and fats having the smallest.
Consuming a high-carb diet over time has been increasingly linked to chronic inflammation and diseases including obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and cellular aging. Also linked to a greater carb consumption are weight gain, depression, tooth decay, energy crashes and acne.
Common sources of added sugar are:
- Fizzy drinks and energy drinks
- Sweets, cookies, grain-based and dairy desserts
- Fruit juice, cordials and sweetened alcoholic beverages
- Instant cereals and refined grains
- Sugars, spreads and honey
- Sweetened coffee, tea etc.
When you eat carbs, this causes a rise in blood glucose levels. Glucose is mainly responsible for the pancreas releasing the hormone insulin into your bloodstream, removing glucose from the blood and storing it in muscles and liver cells. Over time, cells can become resistant to the effects of insulin, and blood glucose levels remain high.
Tips to Reduce Blood Glucose Levels
- Swap sweetened drinks for water, and avoid alcoholic beverages that are sweetened.
- Drink your coffee or tea black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.
- Opt for plain yogurt instead of flavored and sweetened yogurt.
- Consume whole fruits instead of fruit juices and smoothies, but limit your servings.
- Replace sweets with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts or dark chocolate with very little sugar.
- Choose marinades, nut butters, salad dressings and condiments with zero added sugars. You can also make homemade alternatives.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh foods – vegetables, whole grains, fruit.
- Read food labels – avoid products with added sugars (e.g. brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, syrup sugar molecules ending in “ose” – dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose). This will be most processed foods.
- Prepare home-cooked meals rather than buying fast food. Plan in advance to avoid impulsive buying.
- Include good fats in your diet – e.g. nuts, olive oil, avocadoes, seeds, fatty fish), with emphasis on Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Limit snacking to keep your insulin levels lower throughout the day. Consult your physician or dietitian about intermittent fasting.
“Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”
Paracelsus (Physician of toxicology)
Supplementary Lifestyle Habits
- Be physically active on a regular basis to maintain a healthy weight and body composition – particularly body fat around your abdomen/belly.
- Eat slowly and keep a food diary, to increase your awareness of sugar in your diet.
- Adopt strategies to manage your stress levels.
- Quit smoking if you currently do, and get sufficient good quality sleep to help regulate insulin levels (I talk about the important role of sleep in my prevrious article, Circadian health).
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You might also like Natalie’s article on:
Gunnars, K. (2020, August 17). Insulin and Insulin Resistance — The Ultimate Guide. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/insulin-and-insulin-resistance
Healthy Eating Pyramid. (2020, August 17). Retrieved from Havard School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-pyramid/
Kubala, J. (2020, August 17). 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar#section1
Nutrition Redefined. (2020, August 17). Retrieved from Barbell Princess: https://barbellprincess.com/blogs/news/is-the-classic-food-pyramid-still-reliable-nowadays
Sugar: The facts. (2020, August 17). Retrieved from NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/
The Sweet Danger of Sugar. (2020, August 17). Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
White, J. R. (2017). Sugar. Clinical Diabetes Journal, 74-76.