This Blog was written for one of the most sugar-filled times of year – Easter (2018)! That particular Easter marked the anniversary of me quitting sugar
and I want to share with you the science behind our relationship with sugar, especially as a continuation of my earlier video on the gut-microbiome (check out the Gut-Brain Connection
Yes, you guessed it, the bacteria in your gut could have a lot to do with your relationship with sugar!
Around Easter 2017 I did a webinar on the Wild Diet (a type of paleo diet) and watched That Sugar Film and realized that I needed to make a change and significantly reduce my sugar intake (which was a lot lower than many people to start with!) If you want to read all about that process then please check out That Sugar Blog.
World Health Organisation guideline on sugar
More than 3 years ago now the World Health Organisation put out a new guideline recommending that people reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake, with less than 5% (roughly 25 grams) being even more highly recommended as beneficial to health.
So what are ‘free’ sugars? This term refers to any sugars that have been removed from their naturally occurring source, and are not consumed as a part of a whole food. Free sugars therefore include any sugars added to foods or drinks, BUT also what we usually think of as ‘natural’ sugars such as honey, syrups and fruit juices. Sugars that are consumed within a whole food including fruits and dairy products, as well as those less well known that occur in vegetables and grains are not ‘free sugars’ and do not need to be restricted according to these guidelines.
A lot of the sugars that we consume are hidden sugars, which are added to processed foods by manufacturers in order to make them taste more appealing! This is very clever because sugar is addictive. Dr Mark Hyman says that sugar is probably more addictive than cocaine! Yes, cocaine! The human body is actually designed to have sugar infrequently, and if it gets sugar often it becomes addicted. Eating sugar tells your body to store energy, because early mankind only had access to sugar in summer and needed to eat up when it was plentiful, in preparation for the long winter when not much food of any kind was around.
The only way to avoid this is to begin to read labels – sugar should not be in the top 3-4 ingredients and preferably not in most products at all – especially when it is something that you think of as savory, such as bread or tomato sauce or crackers. Reading labels is a really tedious process at first but you get used to it and begin to learn what are the better quality products. Unfortunately as a general rule you will find that those products that have less additives are more expensive so if you’re in a rush at the supermarket just grab the most expensive option! This is actually a good thing because it also means you’re likely to consume less of these types of snack foods!
One of the benefits of making more of your food at home, from scratch, is that you know exactly what is in it. You will find that you can reduce the amount of sweetening suggested in many recipes, just start with no more than half the suggested amount, and taste as you go!
Incredibly, starvation is one of the biggest killers even in the modern western world. Many, many people are malnourished even though they are overweight, because they don’t feed their body the nutrients that it needs to survive, and thrive. If you really want to improve your wellbeing you need to ensure that you are providing your body with the good energy that it needs, and equally importantly, that you are not poisoning your body with things that it does not need, and cannot break down and use.
Gut health and sugar cravings
And now onto one of my favourite topics, the gut-microbiome. This could play a huge role in your desire to eat sugary foods that are not good for you. Did you know that the human body is actually made up of more bacteria than human cells?!! Our gastrointestinal tract hosts large communities of bacteria, which are very important to our health, virtually controlling our levels of immunity. When the gut microbiome gets out of balance all sorts of things can go wrong.
The bacteria colonies in your gut actually fight for territory, wanting to thrive and grow. If you have a bacterial colony that thrives on sugar it will send messages – in the form of mood altering bacterial toxins – to your brain via the enteric nervous system, telling it that you want to eat sugar. The fantastic thing that comes from this knowledge is that you no longer need to berate yourself about your lack of willpower when it comes to sugary treats – it is actually your gut bacteria controlling your mind!! The good news here is that you can easily change your gut bacteria and bring about balance again through what you eat! Please refer to my Blog on the Gut-Brain connection for more information on this.
Make mindful choices about what you eat. Sit down and eat with people you love, express gratitude for the abundance you have, and consider all the other sweet, sweet things in life apart from chocolate! Namaste!
If you want to make change of any kind in your life, Reiki is a wonderful support tool for you to access. Because of its significant benefits in combating stress and anxiety Reiki can provide enormous support to anyone who is trying to change habits, including improving their diet or changing weight. Feel free to contact me for more information or book an appointment now.
Update on That Sugar Blog
I also wanted to include this update to That Sugar Blog, because a year ago I was recommending Rice Malt Syrup as an alternative sweetener but more recent information on this means that this would no longer be my recommendation:
If you have to use a sweetener in a food that you are making – c’mon who doesn’t enjoy some home baking now and again?! – then your best choices are honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or rapadura sugar. Now yes, I hear you, that rapadura stuff is super expensive but it is actually great value BECAUSE it is the least processed sugar on the market. It is made from pressed cane that has not been cooked at high temperatures and spun to be crystallised. THEREFORE it is actually high in nutrients and is metabolised more slowly than processed sugar. Please avoid rice malt syrup – it is highly processed and high GI – and many rice crops are GM (over centuries of production rather than using science that is). Enjoy!