Let’s talk about sugar

Sugar has certainly been in the headlines lately! With more understanding now of how our bodies process sugar and the detrimental effects that it can have on us, it is time to rethink how we include it in our diets.


Fructose, the sugar found in fruits has been labelled as the one to really avoid where possible. This doesn’t mean we should stop eating fruit however. Fruits eaten as a whole contains lots of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants to keep us healthy. When we eat a whole piece of fruit we are getting the benefit of fiber too which allows our bodies to handle the sugar much better. It is a different story if we are just drinking fruit juice or eating foods that contain added sugar in the form of fructose.


What does sugar do to our bodies? Sugar has been linked to many diseases and health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, dental caries and even cancer. A diet high in sugar can make us look and feel older than we actually are! Fructose is not needed by the body and so our poor liver is left to deal with it. The liver does this by converting the fructose to fat and storing it. This is why it is actually sugar that is increasing our levels of obesity and not our intake of fat.


Our bodies need glucose (a type of sugar) for energy but did you know that our clever bodies can make this from the protein that we eat too? Good quality complex carbohydrates such as whole grains will also provide glucose in our diet as well as a host of other important vitamins and minerals. There is no reason why we have to eat sugar as such!


But don’t despair! There are some sugar alternatives that can be used to satisfy our sweet tooth and keep our naturopaths happy.


Stevia is a natural sweetener made from the leaf of the stevia plant. It doesn’t contain any fructose but a little goes a long way as the compounds it contains are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is also easy to cook with and usually comes in powdered forms for easy use. You will probably find that you need much less stevia than you would sugar in your recipe.


Brown rice malt syrup is another natural sweetener made from fermented cooked brown rice. It comes in a syrup form and contains maltose and glucose as well as complex carbohydrates. It has anywhere between 38-48% fructose.


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and is another sugar alternative that can be used occasionally. It also comes in a powdered form and can be used sparingly as it tastes pretty much like sugar. Best one to buy is the kind that is made from the birch tree. Otherwise, it will be from corn and GMO corn is a whole other post!


Maple syrup and honey are other natural alternatives.


Bear in mind that these sugar alternatives should also be eaten in moderation. It is better to train our taste buds to prefer food that is less sweet. If we eat fresh, unprocessed whole foods we are naturally limiting our intake of sugars anyway. Processed foods (and this means foods you buy in a packet with a long list of ingredients you haven’t heard of) can contain lots of sugar to help keep the food from going off and to make it taste better. Keep in mind it won’t always just say sugar. There are many other sneaky words that they use such as cane juice (all types), Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel,  Brown sugar, Diatase, Diatastic malt, Fruit juice (and concentrate), Golden syrup,  Sorghum syrup, and Ethyl Maltol.


Experiment with the sugar alternatives mentioned above. Fill your diet up with lots of fresh whole foods rather than processed ones and try keeping track of how much sugar you are consuming on a daily basis, you may be surprised!


Be kind to yourself. Change should be a gentle and safe process. Remember the experienced practitioners here at Mura can help you incorporate lifestyle changes that support you on your journey to better health.


By Fiona Joiner

Natasa Zaric