Most of us don’t really consciously think about Diabetes. However the way that the Western diet has developed following the rise of agriculture really has many of us moving steadily in that direction.

 

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic health condition in Australia. Almost 5% of all Australians already have Diabetes, and that number is steadily increasing (www.diabetesaustralia.com.au).

 

What is most concerning, is that 85% of Diabetes cases are Type 2 Diabetes, which means it is based on DIET & LIFESTYLE. This means, unfortunately, that we are fully responsible. But the good news is that we have control, and that, with the correct education, we can influence and avoid this condition.

 

It begins with our intake of sugar. And that’s not just the white stuff we stir into our tea and coffee. We need to broaden our definition of ‘sugar’ to really include sugar alternatives, sweeteners and simple carbohydrates as well. And the real trick is to be aware of HIDDEN sugars, which are virtually in everything.

 

Obvious sources of sugar include

  • Sweet, lollies and chocolate

  • Baked treats such as biscuits, cakes, pies, pancakes and donuts

  • Soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, iced coffee, fruit punch

  • Frozen deserts such as frozen yoghurt, ice cream, icey poles, apple pies etc

 

Less obvious sources of sugar and refined carbohydrates

  • White bread and brown bread

  • Pasta and anything else made from wheat flour

  • Fruit juice

  • Dried fruit

  • Breakfast cereals including ‘healthy’ mueslis and granolas

  • ‘Healthy’ convenience breakfasts and snacks, including porridge sachets, yoghurt squeeze pouches, up and go, breakfast biscuits, granola bars, protein bars

  • Iced fruit teas, iced coffee, vitamin waters

  • Ready sauces, condiments, marinades, ketchup

  • Baked beans and other canned meals and soups

  • Savoury crackers and processed foods

  • Meal replacement shakes

  • Fruit yoghurt and ready breakfast squeeze pouches

  • Nut milks (unless unsweetened)

  • Peanut butter (unless unsweetened)

 

As you can see, many foods are marketed as ‘healthy’ however are still loaded full of sugar. That’s because sugar is very cheap, very delicious, and highly addictive! The best strategy is to really get into the habit of reading ingredients.

 

There are many ways that food manufacturers try to disguise the sugars they add.

 

Alternative names for added sugars

  • Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup

  • Dextrose or crystal dextrose

  • Fructose

  • Maltose

  • Lactose

  • Sucrose

  • Glucose

  • Evaporated cane juice or fruit juice

  • Fruit juice concentrate

  • Caramel

  • Carob syrup

  • Dextrin and maltodextrin

  • Rice syrup

  • Molasses

  • Evaporated corn sweetener

  • Confectioner’s powdered sugar

  • Agave nectar

  • Other fruit nectars (for example, pear nectar)

 

Fructose in particular is a real problem. It is found naturally in most plant foods, however then it is combined with fibre, water and lots of other vitamins and minerals. Through the refining process, humans are now consuming much higher amounts of concentrated fructose, and it is linked with many health and metabolic conditions.

 

SUGAR ALTERNATIVES

In a guise to reduce sugar, the food industry is constantly coming up with ‘healthier alternatives’. One that is (thankfully) starting to go out of fashion are chemical sugar alternatives, which offer the sweet taste without the caloric impact. However these chemicals have awful effects on our health, nervous system, mood etc so should be avoided at all cost. They are potentially even worse than ‘real’ sugar.

 

Products that contain artificial sweeteners include

  • ‘Diet’, ‘light’ and ‘sugar free’ products eg sweetened yoghurts or ready meals

  • Commercial protein powders and nutritional supplement drinks

 

Artificial sweeteners – these should be avoided at all costs

  • Aspartame 951

  • Cyclamate 952

  • Saccharin 954

  • Sucralose 955

  • Neotame 961

  • Acesulphame Potassium 950

 

Nutritive sweeteners (or sugar alcohols)

xylitol (additive number 967), sorbitol (420), mannitol (421) and erythritol (968)

 

NATURAL SUGAR ALTERNATIVES

With an increasing realization that sugar is ‘bad’, other alternatives are being brought to market. Many health foods are now sweetened with natural syrups or fruits, which is great as they are less refined, more whole food based, and contain other nutrients as well.

 

Some examples include:

Natural sweeteners – stevia and monk fruit

Less refined sugars – coconut sugar, rapadura sugar

Sugar alternative syrups – agave syrup, rice bran syrup (low fructose), maple syrup, honey, blackstrap molasses, barley malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup

Wholefood sugar alternatives – dates, raisins, cranberries, dried apricots


But is there a catch?

 

Yes unfortunately there is. Whilst these natural alternatives are far better than refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, they are still a source of sugar and still have the physiological effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels. Sugar is still sugar. And should be had in moderation.

 

So we need to ask ourselves, why have we got this addiction to sweetness in the first place, and how can we overall reduce our craving for sweets and treats? Is it emotional? Or is it an addiction?

 

Some strategies to consciously reduce your sugar intake include:

Slowly reduce your sugar intake and work toward phasing it out. You will be surprised at how well your tastebuds adjust! For example, if you have sweet breakfast cereal, switch to unsweetened and add some honey, then gradually reduce the amount you use. Same thing with your hot drinks, little by little reduce the amount of sweetness you are adding until you don’t need any anymore. If you prefer sweet yoghurt, mix half sweetened with half natural. If you like chocolates, then make your own bliss balls using dates, or purchase a clean protein powder you can mix with water.

And remember to HYDRATE…. Often when we are craving sweets or snacks, it just a misinterpretation of the fact that we are actually thirsty…

If you would like more tips and tricks on how to reduce your sugar intake, and how to move toward a more wholefood based diet that is much better for you, come meet our Nutritionist Viv.