Sugar, sweet, tastes good, gives pleasure, but should we be eating it?.
I am going to have a problem this week trying to write a balanced argument. My short answer would be no or at least keep it to a minimum.
Eating sweet sugary foods and highly refined processed foods like cakes biscuits and sweets will inevitably make the level of sugar in our blood rise rapidly, as the sugar is absorbed. A high level of sugar in the blood is not desirable, so unless you are diabetic, a natural course of events is for us to produce insulin from our pancreas.
The role of insulin is to carry the sugar out of the blood and into the cells. If this sugar in the cells is not used for energy it is stored as fat. Not the best scenario in the world and not ideal if you have a hormone driven cancer. Let me explain…….
In our liver we have a protein called ‘The Sex Hormone Binding Globulin’, quite a mouthful I know, anyway it is the job of this protein to detoxify excess hormones that are circulating around the body and to send them to the bowel for elimination. All very neat, but with high sugar and the subsequent high levels of insulin flooding the body problems can arise. Insulin has the ability to interfere with the function of the protein in the liver and so the hormones are not detoxified properly. This leaves them in circulation.
So you can see that there are clear reasons in this instance to keep blood sugar levels and insulin levels steady. This will allow the protein in the liver to do its job properly.
However if you do really fancy something sweet, and who doesn’t at some time, it is best to eat it after a meal as the food already in your stomach will help to buffer the rapid absorption of the sugar into the blood stream. In fact research tells us that chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa has some health benefits (more in another blog).
Many books and articles tell us that sugar feeds cancer. (In fact I have a pile in front of me to read as part of my ongoing research). My answer to this is, that if it does or does not feed cancer, sugar is not an ideal food at the best of times as it offers us no nutritional value whatsoever so contributes nothing positive to a healthy eating plan.
In fact sugar has many negative effects on the body
Let’s look at a few.
I have already mentioned that it has no nutritional value and its negative effects on the sex hormone binding globulin (protein) in the liver, also that excess sugar is converted into fat. It can also interfere with the natural balance of bacteria in our gut which in turn can have a negative effect on out immune system because 80% of our immune cells are in our gut. A strong immune system is important in the fight against any disease. Contrary to the belief that sugar gives you energy it does in fact deplete you of energy and cause bouts of lethargy. It is also called a demineraliser because in order for sugar to be digested and metabolised it uses valuable nutrients from the body which will need replacing.
Not such good reading is it? but when high days and holidays come along, or the mood takes you sometimes nothing else will do the trick.
I am yet to come up with a substitute for chocolate!. I think if I did I would make a fortune. So my answer to the sugar question is to keep it to a minimum and pick your moments i.e. after other food.
Anyway it is not all doom and gloom there are several foods on the market that make excellent sugar alternatives that do not have the same negative impact on blood sugar and insulin as sugar does. You can buy agave syrup, made from a cactus plant, Xylitol which is a grain substitute and I also use acacia honey which has a low impact on blood sugar. Unlike other honey that can have a similar effect as sugar.
I use acacia honey or agave to make flapjack. I have put the recipe below for you to try.
This is ideal for the 4 o'clock dip or in lunch boxes or as a treat after a meal. The oats are a slow releasing carbohydrate and the seeds add texture, essential fatty acids (more on these next week) and the minerals calcium and magnesium which are needed for bone health
1 lb /500g of oats
8oz/250g mixed seeds
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
5 tbsp rapeseed oil
250mls agave syrup or 1 jar acacia honey (384g)
1. Preheat oven gas 5/180’C. Lightly grease and line a shallow tin (approx 7 x 9”) with baking parchment .
2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. It will appear a little dry. The more you mix the stickier it will become. Needs to be well mixed.
3. Put into the prepared tin and press down firmly into the tin.
4. Bake 20-25 mins till golden, leave to cool in the tin. Lift out with paper and slice.
5. Will keep in a tin for 2 weeks or freeze.
What about the sugar in fruit?
Some of you may be wondering about the sugar in fruit Fructose, particularly if you make smoothies when 3 or 4 pieces of fruit may be used for one drink. To overcome this I would simply add 1 tablespoon of ground almonds to the smoothie. Almonds contain protein and protein foods help to stabilise blood sugar. You could even add a scoop of protein powder if you have any. I talked about this as a useful food in blog 5 on the 1st May.
Writing about sugar not giving energy but causing fatigue is a natural opening for my next blog addressing the problem of fatigue next week, a very common complaint which I am frequently asked about. In the mean time I hope that you try the recipe and enjoy the results.
Blog written by Caroline May 2012