We hear it time and time again: those looking to lose weight immediately turn to cutting out all sugar from their diet. BUT…. is cutting all traces of sugar in order to lose a few kg’s the answer? Let’s take a quick look at the facts.
How weight loss works
In its most simplistic form, weight loss occurs when we consume less energy (Kilojoules) then our body requires each day. This energy deficit allows our body to access our own body fat stores to keep enough fuel in our tanks to function (survival) resulting in a gradual decrease in our own stored body fat.
How does this relate to cutting sugar you may ask? Well as with any body weight management programs, it’s important to first look at best ways to create this energy ‘deficit’ and habitually reduce things that are not essential BUT sustainable. Sugar (the added variety) contains Kilojoules but not much else AND, more often than not, foods laden with added sugars, often, are also laden with fat (cue too much energy), making them extremely easy to over consume and weight loss becomes difficult.
Let’s stop for a minute to talk quickly about added Vs natural sugars. Added sugars are those placed in addition to a food or food product (by manufacture or oneself) and are heavily refined or processed. These added sugars can include sugars that have been derived from a ‘natural’ source. Due to processing, these added sugars are stripped of all vitamins, minerals and fibre. In contrast, when we speak about Natural sugars, we mean those that are found naturally occurring in unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy. These naturally occurring sugars are processed differently in our body (due to fibre and cell membranes) and are much harder to over-consume. The foods they occur in provide us with essential nutrients and fibre which our body needs to survive.
Is sugar bad? Here’s what the science says
Science reveals that sugary foods release chemicals known as opioids into the bloodstream. These opioids bind to receptors in our brain signalling pleasure. The euphoric feeling that follows is hard to resist. The problem is that over time the brain becomes tolerant to high sugar intake and to get that same ‘sugar high’, more and more is needed, cue cravings and overconsumption of sugar (and energy) laden foods.
On average Adult Australians consume approximately 14 teaspoons (60gm) of added sugar each day. This is over double the WHO dietary guidelines suggested limit of ‘6 teaspoons of added sugars per day’.
For perspectives sake, one 600ml bottle of soft drink contains approximately 16 teaspoons of added sugar.
If we look at these statistics we can see just how much this ‘pleasure’ effect has on our food choices and overconsumption of added sugars.
This excessive sugar consumption, studies show, can indirectly lead to certain illnesses and diseases by way of excessive weight gain. It can also affect our health in non-weight related ways, most notably non-alcoholic liver disease, poor brain performance (foggy brain) and tooth decay.
Before we move on to tips on reducing excess sugars it must be noted that your body actually does require sugar, every day, to power cells for growth, repair, movement and reproduction. If you restrict sugar too much, your body will become stressed and your metabolism, digestion, hormonal health, immunity, sleep and reproductive functions could suffer as a result.
So how do we go about reducing added sugars in our day?
One of the challenges with reducing added sugar is that it is often hidden in many foods that we wouldn’t consider as ‘sweet’ i.e. bread, crackers, dressings and sauces OR in foods we thought would improve our nutrition i.e. smoothies and fruit yoghurt. It is important to get savvy with how to read labels to choose wisely. For more information on label reading check out:
Being organised and preparing your meals and snacks in advance is also important while trying to create new permanent habits (and reduce sugars), consider:
- Planning your weeks meals and snacks and removing temptation in the home and workplace.
- Ensure you are having your 8 glasses of plain water each day whilst also swapping soft drinks and juices to fruit water infusions (still or sparkling).
- Make sure you don’t get too hungry by eating those planned meals and snacks regularly.
- Include snacks that have a little protein or healthy fats to help with energy and hunger.
- Be mindful when you are eating, avoid distractions and try to really ‘taste’ your foods.
- Include fruit* and vegetables as snacks (remember that vegetables make great ‘sweet crave’ smashing snacks too).
*A note on fruit. Do not fret. Fruit is a fabulous source of nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fibre). A sweet treat that is actually extremely good for you. Two to three serves of whole fruit per day is the recommendation.
Well there you have it, there is no need to cut out sugar altogether, but reducing your intake to a moderate level will reap huge benefits for your health and weight and remember….There’s never any substitute for a balanced diet full of a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Balance and consistency truly is the key.