Pour Some Sugar Away! In The Name of Health…
Updated: Jul 25, 2018
Monday, November 6, 2017 - Lydia Phua, thatswholesome.com
Since Halloween has just passed, let’s talk about something scary.
The key culprit
You must be wondering, what’s so scary about sugar? It’s the best! Everyone loves sugar, especially children. It’s sweet, it makes us feel good and comforted when we eat our favourite desserts and it even plays the important role of being our main source of energy when we consume carbohydrates, such as rice, bread, potatoes and so forth. Yes, sugar is great and necessary for our body to function properly. Without it, our blood sugar can drop and make us feel faint and weak, and in more serious cases, our body can go into a shock if our blood sugar drops too low. But did you know that sugar has been one of the major culprits in contributing to obesity?
For years, the world has always blamed fat to be the main culprit for obesity. This isn’t entirely wrong as having too much of the wrong fat, such as trans fats and saturated fats in our diet can eventually lead to health problems. But sugar has been ‘quietly’ lurking in our foods and have also contributed to the increase in obesity percentages.
See also: Fat is Where it's At!
Can we escape the sugar trap?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in year 2016, our world had 1.9 billion adults that were overweight, where 650 million adults were obese and 41 million children under the age of 5 were either overweight or obese. We may not always realise it, but sugar has been added to so many of the foods that we, the modern society consume that even our daily calorie intake has increased. The packaged foods we usually consume on a regular basis, that are supposed to be healthy, like our breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, granola, yoghurt and even fruit juice all contain added sugar on top of the natural sugars that are already present, which sometimes in turn, makes them high calorie foods. Foods and beverages that are specifically marketed towards children may sometimes contain more sugar, colouring and other food additives in order to make these foods more attractive or tasty. So why is this bad, since sugar makes our food taste and look more appealing? The problem lies in the overconsumption of sugar, and half the time we don’t even realise we are taking in more sugar than our body needs. If you think you are already consuming more sugar than your body needs, can you imagine how much your child might be consuming just by tracing back to what they’ve had for breakfast or snack time?
The overconsumption of sugar can lead to obesity because the more sugars we put into our bodies, the excess will then be stored as fat. Obesity in children is very real and is happening globally and can have negative impacts on both physical and mental health. The likelihood of developing health complications in adulthood is higher. It is reported that obese or overweight children are more likely to develop cardiovascular issues and digestive issues compared to those that have a normal weight (Dehghan, 2005). Type 2 diabetes will also be on the plate if a dietary intervention is not made, as an obese child will be at a higher risk in having insulin resistance, where the body becomes less sensitive to insulin.
But fear not, there are many little things you can do to prevent such health complications. Below are a few habits you and your family could cultivate to help cut back on some sugar.
Simple tips to reduce sugar in diet:
1. Read food labels
Be more aware of what is in your food. Simply going through the ingredients list or the nutrition panel, which are both typically found either behind or at the sides of the package, could bring you and your family a long way. Ingredients are added in descending order. So a tip when grocery shopping is to make sure sugar isn’t sitting at the top of the ingredients list.
2. Opt for brown carbohydrates
Brown carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grains, oats and rye have a lower glycaemic index (low GI). These type of carbohydrates may keep our body satiated for a longer period of time and allows our blood sugar to have a slower, gradual rise. Foods with a higher GI would do the opposite and cause our glucose levels to spike in a shorter amount of time and may lead to a sugar crash after a while.
3. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks
Foods and drinks such as desserts, soft drinks, fruit juice and candies are the no brainer sugary foods and drinks that obviously contain a lot of sugar. Cutting down on portion sizes and how often you and your family consume these foods can make all the difference.
Lydia is a practising Nutritionist and a member of the Nutrition Society Malaysia. She has helped many individuals from different health backgrounds in the past. She is currently working on a nutrition and health website www.thatswholesome.com and teaches kids biology during the day. In the meantime, log on to thats_wholesomeon Instagram for more nutritional inspiration.