Who doesn’t love sugar?
Sweet, delicious, comforting, rewarding… it’s no wonder we love it so much?
But what damage is it doing to our weight and health – particularly in men.
In this blog I will explain why we eat so much of it, how much is too much and a few tips and tricks to reduce it.
Why do we enjoy eating sugar so much?
When we eat sugar the hormone dopamine is released in large amounts. Dopamine is a ‘happy’ hormone, when released it creates feelings of happiness, pleasure, and reward – which encourages us to eat more sweet stuff. It’s one of the key reasons why eating sugary foods quickly becomes an ingrained habit.
It’s thought that it stems from caveman days, when food was scarce and high calories were needed, it encouraged us to eat more sweet foods to keep us alive.
We don’t have that problem anymore, food is far from scarce! We’re surrounded by high calorie food – with sugary manufactured goods at every turn!
And from such a young age we are taught sugar is a good thing.
We are rewarded with ‘treats’ as a child – ‘if you’re good you can have some sweeties’, Birthdays – our one special day, means cakes, ice cream, chocolates. Every religious holiday revolves around sugar – mince pies, yule log, Christmas cake, hot cross buns and easter eggs!
We buy chocolate as a ‘gift of love’ (don’t get me started on that one!)
And our adult social life revolves around alcohol.
Sugar = fun!
But we now know about the dark side of sugar.
We’ve spent so many years vilifying fat – and really, we should have had our eye on sugar!
We’ve known for decades about the damage it does to our teeth, but what about our waistline and general health?
Excess sugar is now being linked to –
- Weight gain and obesity – as we are unable to burn off the additional calories.
- Type 2 Diabetes – although sugar doesn’t directly cause T2D, being overweight can and sugar consumption is a big contributing factor in weight gain.
- Heart disease – due to links to increases visceral fat, caused in part by too much sugar (read my blog on ‘how to lose the beer belly’)
- Mental health issues and depression – although we get an initial, short lived high from sugar, it is followed by a slump. Too much sugar can also affect our sleep patterns, which in turn can lead to mental health problems.
- High sugar has also been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer and male infertility and erectile dysfunction.
Now all that is difficult to sugar coat!
So how much sugar is too much?
It is recommended we consume no more than 30g of ‘free sugar’ a day.
(👆 this is 30g of sugar – 6 teaspoons)
Free sugars do not include the sugars that are found in fruit, vegetables and milk; this is because these sugars are intrinsic in the cell structure of the food.
The body has to first break them down to release all the nutrients – this means the sugars are released slowly into our bloodstream.
Our body can cope with this unlike free sugars that have already been broken down by the manufacturing process.
We get a blood sugar rush from free sugar because it’s going STRAIGHT into our system. You may as well have a sugar IV line in!
This is what causes all the damage and those big dopamine kicks!
Free sugar includes table sugar, honey, syrup, agave syrup and fruit juice.
And then you have to account for all the free sugar that manufactures use in so many products.
Sugar isn’t just used as a sweetener, it also acts as a
- Flavour enhancer
- Colouring agent
- Texture modifier
- Fermentation tool
- Bulking agent
And you need to be a bit of a detective when on the lookout for sugar! Here are some other words to look out for that actually mean sugar…
Honey, treacle, syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, mellose, molasse, nectars, maple, agave….confusing huh?!
So while you may not be ladling sugar into your tea, you can see why the majority of the UK population is consuming more than the recommended maximum of 30g a day.
Sugar is in almost everything we eat!
Here are some of the biggest culprits –
- Table sugar (added into tea and coffee, onto cereal, in baking)
- Sugary drinks (fizzy soda, squash, flavoured water)
- Confectionary and preserves (chocolate, sweets and jams)
- Sweetened cereal (from coco pops to granola)
- Sweetened products (cakes, biscuits, pastries)
- Fruit juices
- And of course – Alcohol!
And men are consuming more sugar than women…
I think it was perceived that women were more likely to have a sweeter tooth than men – but this clearly isn’t the case.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation study of 2019, on average men are consuming 55.5g of free sugar a day, compared to 44g a day for women.
So what can we do about it? How can you reduce your sugar intake?
A small amount of sugar is ok (30g) but if you need to cut down, there are a few things you can do –
- Be aware of what’s in the food you’re eating. Read the labels.
- Reduce and then cut out sugar in tea/coffee – this really is a habit worth breaking. For example – if you have 4 cups of tea/coffee a day with a teaspoon in each that equates to almost 7lb of fat a year!
- Stop snacking on sweet ‘treats’! Easy said I know but there are numerous question here, including why are you snacking in the first place….have a read of my blog ‘Stop snacking and lose weight’
- Eat more fruit instead of ultra processed snacks.
- Cut out fizzy drinks – switch to fizzy water with a no added sugar cordial.
- Eat your fruit – don’t drink it! In a small 200ml serving of OJ are 4 teaspoons of sugar (pic above)
- If you’re in an office with a ‘cake/biscuit’ culture – ask others if they’re happy about that – maybe the temptations could be less ‘in your face’!
- Change some lifestyle habits – ie pay for petrol at the pump, don’t venture into the ‘sweet cave’ to pay!
- Cut back on alcohol – don’t drink in the week/switch out some beers for the non-alcoholic variety (there is an amazing selection out there now).
Think you’re consuming too much sugar, it is definitely worth your while looking at cutting back. It’s detrimental effects are far reaching!
It’s a sweet assassin!
And I’ll leave you with one final point – if you’re thinking ‘I’ll switch to Canderel’ – artificial sweeteners are just as damaging, they’re not the answer I’m afraid – but that’s for another blog! 😄
If you’re looking to lose weight and would like to talk to someone impartial, who knows what they’re talking about, let’s have a chat! – book in here for a virtual cuppa. I’ll put the kettle on!