When trying to lose weight, limiting your intake of refined sugar is going to make a big difference. Refined sugars are empty calories that provide you little to no nutritional value or feeling of fullness. Nadia’s philosophy on sugar is that a little bit is fine, but preferably from more naturally occurring sources like fruit and dairy (which have fructose and lactose respectively). If you are trying to lose weight, you’ve likely stopped eating all the obvious sources of sugar like soft drinks, sweets and biscuits. However, there are many other places that sugar likes to hide, so it’s important to know where to look to avoid these hidden sugars.
Sugar is low in nutrients, and is a simple, high glycaemic-index carbohydrate that breaks down easily in our body into glucose. When glucose enters our bloodstream, our blood sugar quickly rises. Sustained high levels of blood sugar is damaging to our body, so to bring blood sugar levels back down to normal, our pancreas quickly releases the hormone insulin. Insulin works to divert glucose out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. From here, the glucose is stored as glycogen for later use. Unfortunately, our cells can only store so much glycogen, and any excess is converted to fat.
Take a look at food packaging, and you’ll realise how much sugar there is in our food system. Sugar is listed under many different names such as high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose (or anything ending with ‘-ose’ for that matter), molasses, agave, honey, and many kinds of ‘syrup’ (e.g. maple syrup or brown rice syrup). This can make it tricky to know what is ok and what is not so good when choosing what to eat.
Places where sugar likes to hide include packaged sauces and salad dressing (don’t worry, all Fresh Start sauces are refined-sugar free), desserts, breakfast cereals and granola, tinned food such as baked beans or soup, flavoured yoghurt, packaged pasta sauce and some commercially made bread. In fact, most processed food will contain some sugar to balance out added flavourings and to increase shelf life. However, these foods can all be made from scratch to significantly reduce their sugar content. If you must buy a packaged version, try to find one that has less than 10g of sugar per 100g. Be wary of sugar-free options that contain artificial sweeteners too. As well as having no useful nutrients, (and all the yucky additives) the ‘fake’ substitutes confuse your body’s cravings for sweet. You will never kick your craving for sweetness when your body is so used to such a high level of sweetness, leaving you to crave more and more!
What about natural sugars you ask? Yes, they are processed the same way as refined sugars in the body, however the sugar in fruit is buffered by the fibre, which reduces the impacts of a blood sugar spike. Both fruit and dairy also contain a range of vitamins and minerals making them a healthy choice in moderation, and are our favourite way to include some sweetness in the diet. We recommend up to two portions per day of fruit and dairy when following Fresh Start. Honey and maple syrup are also in their natural state, however because they are such concentrated sources of sweetness, we recommend only using small amounts of them.
Don’t forget that a little bit of refined sugar in your diet is fine — especially on special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas. What matters when it comes to losing weight is what you eat most of the time, not just on the odd occasion. There’s no point beating yourself up and feeling guilty over a slice of cake, treats keep us sane after all.
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