Going “Sugar free” can be hard, and it is impossible to a degree, we go out, we eat out, we enjoy other peoples cooking, so we cannot rule out sugar completely but we can cut out the worst types of sugar!

Processed foods are packed full of sugar and they are so handy to have for a “quick meal” BUT you can have the same quickness by preparing your meals in advance, using only ingredients that are fresh/frozen and low in processed sugars!

There are simple changes we can make daily and sometimes we feel it’s more of a chore to spend time cooking and baking but it has to be worth it in the end – to know what goes into our mouths, and our stomachs!

A healthy body starts with the gut, and we do need to keep it happy at all times because without looking after it, the problems start, whether it be IBS, SIBO, Candida etc… we tend to cut out everything that is fruit and vegetable based to stop these problems and yes, whilst that will help it isn’t always the be all and end all – there is another factor….SUGAR in all its forms, predominantly processed foods and then all the extras that are added in to our foods and beverages, it seems acceptable to eat something that has the same effect on our gut as a green leafy vegetable but the vegetables get the blame, it is definitely worth considering that whilst we maybe cutting out the main contenders there are ones that should also be factored in.

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that consumption of both carbonated drinks and alcohol were common factors in symptoms associated with diarrhea predominant IBS. Although drinks like ginger ale are known to soothe the stomach, fizzy sodas and mineral waters can worsen bloating and cause cramps.

Sugar and me: During my first pregnancy, unbeknownst to me I was feeding a beast (not my first born of course!!) and I had, as what I now know is “hyperemesis gravidarum” from 13 weeks, before that I just couldn’t understand why I was feeling so ill, and having horrible phases of feeling dizzy and on the verge of fainting, plus a seasick feeling ALL the time.

Luckily for me and ingnored by the doctor who said I should stop “eating for 2” a lovely midwife took a blood test et voila – I was finally, after months of feeling really poorly, diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and really not the most pleasant of ordeals going for GI tests every week then every three weeks then finally every six weeks
Then, the worst time was when I finally stopped being sick (for a weekend) and then I would be craving everything sweet but then felt like rubbish after, dizzy, sick and tired, and then on top of that would be being sick again! The sickness stayed with me until 28 weeks and even when the vomitting stopped I still wanted to eat something sweet – it was a definite catch 22 situation….

I then had it in my second pregnancy, I was warned it could possibly return later on in life as Type 2… wasn’t something that really resonated with me to be perfectly honest, I was getting on with being a mum and not thinking past my 30’s – but now – it’s later on in life I am approaching another Zero and I am glad that I have changed my way of eating over the last few years because my sugar levels are now stable and I don’t have those terrible cravings for sugar that I used to have… it’s a case of changing the taste buds and actually that bit is quite easy! Although I am no Angel I do love a slice of cake I know that one slice will actually be adequate and I will adjust my eating habits around a treat – now, although it’s been and is still sometimes a battle with myself, I am learning not to feel guilty after a treat but to enjoy the moment, because I won’t eat the whole cake! I did go sugar free for 3 months a couple of years ago and it was hard, as everyone around me was still eating and drinking the foods I enjoyed, however it did do me a favour in the long run as it has definitely helped curb my sweet tooth!

Whilst researching some further SUGARY details – I came read an article that has been published recently.

The new Canadian approach seems to be that if a food or beverage doesn’t have a demonstrated health benefit, it doesn’t belong in your diet. Their 2019 guidelines suggest that,

“ people’s taste buds will adapt to less-sweet tastes when they reduce their consumption of sweetened foods and beverages — and using high-intensity sweeteners delays that process.” Canada’s new food and dietary guidelines, released this year, say zero-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes are neither necessary nor helpful. “Sugar substitutes do not need to be consumed to reduce the intake of free sugars,” the guidelines say, adding that, because “there are no well-established health benefits associated with the intake of sweeteners, nutritious foods and beverages that are unsweetened should be promoted instead.”

What are sugar substitutes?

Sugar substitutes include many categories, such as high-intensity sweeteners that are at least 100 times as sweet as sugar. They can be “artificial,” such as aspartame and saccharin, or “natural,” such as stevia and monk fruit. They can contain a negligible number of calories or be classified as low-calorie sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols.
In much of the research and in most policy documents, sugar substitutes are often discussed as a single category rather than a heterogenous group of compounds. This makes it challenging to know whether certain types are preferable.”

Canada’s new dietary advice is to avoid sugar substitutes. Will the U.S. and the rest of the world follow suit?

Since changing my eating habits I took on one that I find quite interesting because it is always good to read labels, yes, I know, life is short – shopping takes that bit longer but once you know a certain brand has double the amount of sugar than another, you can start shopping a little more quickly, or once you realise that the white loaf of bread you are enjoying regularly is actually higher in sugar than the fresh granary loaf from the bakery, you will choose the better option and everything inside starts thanking you for those choices! Always choose fresh or frozen over processed foods, tins and jars! Knowing our food labels is actually important and it does help to know if your “healthy food” is really healthy! There are always surprises though;

Fat free doesn’t mean sugar free, especially when it comes to yoghurt. It’s often laden with sugar to keep flavour and texture when fat is removed. A 150g (5oz) serving of some 0% fat yogurts can contain as much as 20g (0.7oz) of sugar – the equivalent of five teaspoons. That’s getting on for half of a woman’s daily recommended intake of added sugar.

The problem is we want low-fat food but also it needs to look and taste like full-fat food. To achieve this something else, such as a sugar, is put in when the fat is removed.

Bottom line we need to accept that lower fat foods are going to taste differently!

A tomato-based pasta sauce boasts certain health benefits, but a shop-bought one can also be packed with sugar. It’s often added to make the sauce taste less acidic. A third of an average-sized jar, roughly 150g, can contain over 13g of sugar. That’s roughly three teaspoons of sugar.

And while coleslaw is mostly shredded vegetables, it also comes with an added serving of sugar. The mayonnaise is largely to blame. One tablespoon of shop-bought coleslaw, roughly 50g, can contain up to 4g of sugar. A couple of spoonfuls on your plate is equivalent to a couple of teaspoons of sugar.

Water is good, right?
This largely depends on the type. “Enhanced water” has vitamins added to it but sugar as well. A 500ml glass of some brands contains 15g of sugar; the equivalent of nearly four teaspoons of sugar.

Finally, there is the staple of many people’s day – bread. The sugar content in the average slice of processed bread varies but can be as high 3g. Some sugar is formed naturally in the baking process but it is often added too.Often savoury does not mean low sugar.

Finally, there is the staple of many people’s day – bread. The sugar content in the average slice of processed bread varies but can be as high 3g. Some sugar is formed naturally in the baking process but it is often added too.Often savoury does not mean low sugar.

What are current guidelines?

Sugar is sugar – right? Not quite. Health professionals take a dim view of sugars added to processed food but say that naturally occurring sweetness in milk and fruit is largely fine, with the exception of juice.

Current advice says no more than 11% of a person’s daily food calories should come from added sugars, or 10% once alcohol is taken into account.That works out at about 50g of sugars for a woman and 70g for a man, depending on how active they are.

But look at the back of a food packet and you’ll see a guideline amount for total sugars – including those naturally occurring in fruit and other ingredients.While there is no UK government health guideline for total sugars, the figure of 90g per day is used as a rule of thumb on labelling in Britain and across the EU.That 90g equates to more than 22 small (4g) teaspoons of sugar.

Some sugar content is easy to work out: a 330ml can of regular Coca-Cola or Pepsi contains 35g – or almost nine teaspoons of sugar, all of it added.But a ready meal of sweet and sour chicken can also contain more than 22g or five-and-a-half teaspoons, some of which is naturally occurring in the pineapple.

“It’s nigh on impossible for people to work out how much added sugars they are consuming,”

nutritionist Katharine Jenner, of Action on Sugar.

Children & Sugar

Consumption rates of added sugars (which comprise free sugars) in children show that intakes across Denmark, France, Ireland, The Netherlands and the UK far exceed the recommended daily intakes, ranging from around double in Demark to over three times in The Netherlands.

Excess sugar intake is related to increased risk of dental caries, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes and perhaps most worryingly is associated with a significantly higher risk of obesity – a global epidemic.

If no changes are made, over 80 million children under the age of five, risk suffering from obesity by 2025 worldwide, with Europe being most at risk. An alarming one in three children between 6-9 years are either overweight or obese in 46 European countries and Europe has a higher prevalence of children that are overweight than any other region in the world.

To tackle the problem of over-consumption, ESPGHAN are calling for clarity around the globally-used definition of sugar on labelling and in public education campaigns, as well as a greater effort by Governments to inform parents about the risk of excessive sugar intake and how to avoid it.

“It is important to realize that sugar-containing beverages do not promote satiety compared to the equivalent amount of sugars in solid form. In addition to sugar sweetened beverages, fruit juices, smoothies and sweet milk drinks contribute to excess energy intake in children. We need to see impactful public education campaigns, improved product labelling, improved standards on sugar content in manufactured foods and restrictions on marketing of sugary products.
Reducing sugar intake is essential to tackling the obesity epidemic across the globe and if needs be, Government should also consider fiscal incentives for healthy foods and disincentives for sugary foods to help change consumer behaviour”.

Magnus Domellöf, ESPGHAN

I do think we could try to re-address the balance when it comes to sugar, we don’t need a sugar hit to give us an “energy hit” we were told that by adverterising moguls – the old Mars bar advert comes to mind at this moment!

Controversially, there was also an Egg advert many moons ago, that suggested we should go to work on an egg, but that got taken off the air due to possible salmonella scares – but it is ok to keep pushing the Mars advert that “helps us; work, rest and play!!”

Maybe we need to look to the future now, we are more educated and we know more about diseases than ever before and by making small and necessary changes it could make the world of difference to the next generation and ourselves, however old we are, we are never too old to change habits and in fact it is possible to go “sugar free” in one day!

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