If you watched TVNZ’s Sunday programme last night you might be wondering if you should cut sugar out of your diet. The introduction said that sugar was as addictive as nicotine, and showcased David Gilespe, author of “Sweet Poision” saying that sugar is toxic. With lots of people out there quitting sugar, the question keeps rising, should I give up sugar? I’ve been keeping up with the research on sugar, and here’s my opinion, as a nutritionist.
Is it toxic?
In a nutshell, no. Fruit contains sugar and provides a valuable source of nutrients and it’s definitely not toxic. When we look at sugar, we need to compare apples with apples. Since we’re speaking of apples, let’s use them as an example. The sugar in an apple is digested alongside pectin and dietary fibre. This means it’s digested and released into the blood stream slowly, giving a gradual rise in blood sugar. Compare this to a handful of jelly babies. The sugar is rapidly digested, sending blood sugars up very quickly. This means we need a quick dump of insulin to bring blood sugars back to a normal level. These spikes in blood sugars is what we want to avoid to keep in good health. Ant it’s not just sugar that does this. It’s also processed carbohydrates like white bread and some breakfast cereals.
What we want for good health is to keep our blood glucose (sugar) levels stable as it’s high levels of insulin over time will make you hungry, gain weight and increase your risk of diabetes. This means reducing not only sugar in your diet but refined, processed carbohydrates.
What is wrong with too much sugar/refined carbohydrates?
As well as what is mentioned above, sugar and refined carbohydrates increase triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are fats that circulate in your blood, either to go into storage, or to be used by the body. High triglyceride levels contribute to the hardening or thickening of the arteries, which increases risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke
Is it addictive?
Firstly, sugar is not as addictive as nicotine as it was said on TV tonight. There is no evidence for that. But the jury is still out on whether sugar is addictive or not. Humans have an innate liking for sweetness, it’s written into our DNA that sugar tastes good. But while once it wasn’t readily available, today it’s added everywhere, because it’s cheap and it tastes good. Food manufacturers know this, and it’s in places you wouldn’t expect.
I do believe the more sugar we have, we begin to crave it. More research needs to be done on this, but from my own experience as a nutritionist I do see people with terrible sugar cravings that subside when sugar is reduced in the diet.
So, I don’t believe sugar is toxic, but I certainly don’t advocate eating as much as you like. I think many of us have got used to excess sugar in our diet, and it needs to be removed. Base your diet around whole, unrefined foods. Read food labels to see how much sugar is in the products you buy and sweet drinks should not be a part of your diet. A small amount of sugar is ok, but have a good look at your diet to see how much you are really having.
What are your thoughts about sugar? Do you find it “addictive”? Have you quit sugar or know anyone that’s given sugar up?