The Sugar Debate

As this week is Sugar Awareness Week what better time to delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of the sweet white stuff.

It’s no secret that as a population we consume way too much sugar and with the introduction of the sugar tax in April 2018 it’s clear that there are attempts to try and limit sugar consumption. At The Transformation Chef we strongly believe that knowledge is power and it’s for that reason that we want to outline the ins and outs of sugar to hopefully help you to understand why in very small amounts sugar can be sweet but in excess it can be somewhat sinister.

We’ve answered your most common sugar questions below.

What is sugar?

Sugar is defined as “a class of soluble, sweet tasting carbohydrates found in living tissues”. Sucrose and glucose are the most common types of sugar. Carbohydrates (with the exception of fibre) are broken down into glucose in the body to be used as energy. Excess sugar intake increases the need for insulin (the hormone which regulates blood sugar). Over a prolonged period of time the constant need for more insulin can lead to an increased risk of insulin resistance/ pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Where do we find sugar?

Trying to identify what sugar is in todays products can be challenging as it’s often hidden under a name which you may not be aware of as sugar. Food manufacturers are sneaking sugar into everything they can from yoghurts, to pasta sauces to cereals and even pre-made soups. To help you make light of some of the ingredients in your foods we’ve created a list of a whole host of names of different types of sugar: sugar, glucose, corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup, date syrup, castor sugar, brown sugar, sucrose, molasses, sorbitol, refiner’s syrup, glucose syrup, brown rice syrup, carob syrup, rice syrup, honey, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, malt, mannitol, dextran, ethylmaltol, galactose and raw sugar. As you can see the list is endless and we could go on but you get the idea. If previously you were looking out for sugar in the ingredients list, please be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a few more names now.

What’s the difference between refined sugar and unrefined sugar?

There’s a lot of talk nowadays around unrefined sugar although do we really understand what that means? Refined sugar is sugar which has gone through an intense processing process whereby the sugar is stripped from all nutritional value. As a result we’re left with what we call empty calories. These are calories which contain zero nutritional benefit. In comparison, unrefined sugar has not been through this process and therefore retains more of its nutrients. So, which is better? Essentially both refined and unrefined sugars generate a spike in blood sugar levels and therefore an increase in the need for insulin (a high demand over time can become problematic as discussed above). When consumed in excess both types of sugar can have an effect on weight gain and all the other risks associated with the consumption of excess sugar. Although, unrefined sugars do contain some nutritional value rather than simply providing empty calories. It’s important to note that they are classified as added sugar and therefore do contribute to the upper limits of 30g of sugar per day.

What’s classified as added sugar?

The sugar debate can become incredibly complicated when we start getting into the added sugars vs the intrinsic sugars. Essentially added sugars are sugars which are added into a food item. Natural sugars can be classed as added sugars. Honey, fruit juice, maple syrup (essentially all the sugars above) are also classified as added. There are often lots of questions around fruit juice and whether it’s counted as an added sugar. In short, it is classified as an added sugar when it is not contained within it’s original matrix within the fruit itself.

What are the risks of consuming too much sugar?

This question really requires a whole other blog post. Although to give you some context consuming too much sugar is associated with an increased risk of weight gain, increased appetite, low levels of sustained energy, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic diseases. We aren’t suggesting that you’ll develop these over night from one large sugar hit but over a prolonged period of time it’s definitely something we recommend limiting.

How can we reduce our sugar consumption?

Below are our top tips for helping to reduce your sugar consumption:

  • Avoid adding sugar to your tea or coffee. One teaspoon, twice per day equates to 8g of sugar. That’s nearly a third of your total daily allowance. Start by halving the sugar in your hot drinks before removing it completely.
  • Mix up your desserts – if you’re someone who consumes dessert on a regular basis try swapping your indulgent pud for fruit with natural yoghurt a few nights of the week.
  • Avoid high sugar drinks. Sugar sweetened drinks provide you with no nutritional value and have been shown to increase appetite. Therefore, you’d be better off to squeeze the juice of half an orange into your sparkling water instead or opt for herbal fruit teas instead.
  • Avoid the ‘healthy’ snacks such as low-fat yoghurt, cereal bars and some cereals as these can be loaded with sugar. Try making your own or check out our healthier sweet snacks instead. Our snacks from Protein & Pantry are loaded with healthy fats and protein to help slow the release of the sugar into the blood stream and consequently keep you fuller for longer.
  • Opt for protein rich snacks such as boiled eggs, our Transformation Chef egg muffins, a handful of nuts or hummus and crudites to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the morning or afternoon and to help manage sugar cravings.

There you have the complete low down on sugar. Remember life is for living after all so a small amount of the white stuff now and again really isn’t the end of the world as long as you’re enjoying it!