Time to ditch diet drinks for good.
Last Monday, a study published in Circulation came through about how many deaths are caused by sugary drinks from researchers in the United States. A whopping 184,000 deaths in the world have been caused from problems that are associated with specific consumption of sugary drinks.
Is this really a ground breaking statistic, though? The consumption of sugar-loaded drinks is huge, not just in the United States but all around the world. Soft drinks are popular with most meals and are consumed daily by millions of people, and for the amount of people in the world, this doesn’t seem much. However, full of multiple teaspoons of sugar, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that consistent consumption of soft drinks are causing health problems.
The study showed that 133,000 people had died from diabetes due to the consumption of “sugar sweetened beverages,” while 45,000 died from cardiovascular disease and a further 6,450 people from cancers that are related directly to soft drinks. Globally, these numbers may seem small, but this doesn’t include the people living a decreased quality of life due to their associated diseases and it also doesn’t include those with problems relating to sugar in general. This is specific to the consumption of sugary drinks, which pretty much translates to: soft drinks cause death from lifestyle diseases.
What does that mean for us? It means the same as what has been drilled into us for years – that drinking soft drinks and sugary juices isn’t good for you. The over consumption of sugar has serious health effects and is related to lifestyle disease that are preventable like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Surprisingly, in the study, the United States came second to Mexico with the highest rates of death per million adults directly related to the consumption of sugary drinks, with 76 per cent of the deaths occurring in low to middle income countries. This is why education and health advice on this issue is so important.
Maybe next time you have a soft drink with your meal you should think about how much sugar you’re consuming and what this means for your health. After all, you don’t want to be one of those statistics, do you?
Image via prosprhealth.com
Cutting down on sugar seems nearly impossible if you’re not going cold turkey, but there are actually a few ways to trick your body into making the switch.
Help to curb those cravings and slowly make the process with the following tips, which won’t feel as if you’re completely cutting it out.
Do your research
Sometimes sugar actually operates under a number of different aliases, so it’s important to understand what you’re looking for. Look out for evaporated cane juice, glucose, syrups, nectars, and agave at the supermarket.
Introduce some healthier food alternatives into your daily diet to make the transition easier for your body. This could mean cutting down the amount of fizzy drinks for water, chocolate for fresh fruit, and butter for avocado.
Cut down on sweets
The number one way to cut sugar out of your diet is decrease the amount of sweets you eat on a weekly basis. Instead, use fruit as a sweetener, and concentrate on creating healthy, wholesome snacks.
Rather than buying white or wholemeal bread, look out for sourdough which has less sugar, and is actually very cheap to make at home!
While we all enjoy the occasional glass of wine, sometimes it’s best to limit the drink to just one. Just think about all the added sugar in that glass of red wine?
Get the kids involved
If your kids are having a hard time cutting down on sweets, the best way to make this change is to involve them in the cooking process. This way, they can see what goes into each meal, and actually enjoy making their own healthy snacks.
Who knew that herbal tea could be so good? Not only does green tea aid digestion, but it’s a good way to keep your stomach full between each meal.
If you experience sugar cravings during the early afternoon, take a short walk or hit the gym. This is one of the best ways to clear your mind, and avoid binge-eating before dinner.
What are some of your methods to cut-down on sugar?
Image via About
Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar was one of the year’s Australian publishing sensations, spawning a mini-industry telling people how to kick the white stuff. The former Cosmopolitan magazine editor and erstwhile sugar “addict” says she once consumed the equivalent of 25 teaspoons a day, much “hidden” in foods and drinks.
A health and life crisis made her re-evaluate her lifestyle and ultimately recognise a link between her OTT intake of the sweet siren and years of mood disorders, fluctuating weight, sleep problems and thyroid disease.
By radically moderating her sugar consumption “I lost weight and my skin changed, it cleared,” she says, “but I also started to heal. I found wellness and the kind of energy and sparkle I had as a kid.” Her personal experience resulted in the book, interactive website and cult following.
As with any apparent diet “miracle”, I Quit Sugar has already generated a counter-movement with nutritionist Cassie Platt soon to publish her own book, I Didn’t Quit Sugar.
It’s created a stir in the sugar bowl with Wilson blogging in her book’s defence that “I don’t suggest quitting all sugars. I certainly don’t advocate quitting glucose. I’m very clear: fructose is the issue, mostly in the form of sucrose. I agree, quitting all sugar, and carbs, could create health issues, such as hair loss.
“Yes, yes, yes, the title of my book is I Quit Sugar. But when we say “sugar”, most of us are referring to sucrose or table sugar (the stuff they put in doughnuts), right? And within about three words of opening the book I highlight I’m referring to fructose specifically.”
Okay, so that’s two women’s experiences. But what are we talking about, really? How much sugar do those of us not committed to a radical lifestyle change (but who’d still like to lose weight, feel and look brighter etc) need to give up? What are “good” and “bad” sugars”? After all, fruit has sugar and fruit is good for you, or so we’ve been told for generations.
Is sugar really the devil – or “Satan’s crystals” as some colourful detractors have dubbed it? There was a time when it was just blamed for rotting your teeth and making you overweight.
Now, over the past decade, sugar has been deemed a culprit behind everything from obesity to feeding cancer cells to ageing the body (particularly the skin) at an accelerated rate (glycation), heart disease, dementia, macular (eye) degeneration, chronic kidney disease and failure, and high blood pressure.
There’s always impressive-sounding studies and statistics to support such claims. If you’re not a scientific expert, though, it’s hard to digest what’s best for you.
The biggest problem with sugar is that, these days, it’s everywhere, whether you know it or not, and it comes in far more processed forms than nature intended. It’s to be found in such sources as Macca’s French fries, breading on most packaged and restaurant foods, hamburgers sold in restaurants to reduce meat shrinkage during cooking, canned salmon (before canning, it is often glazed with a sugar solution), cured/sliced meats such as ham, turkey and chicken, bacon and canned meats, stock cubes (which usually contain MSG as well), many peanut butter brands, dry cereals and carb-dense foods, particularly highly processed ones such as commercial bread and rice.
A telling comparison:
- In 1822 Americans consumed 45gm of sugar every five days, or the amount of sugar in a can of Coca Cola.
- In 2012 Americans consumed 756gm of sugar every five days, or 58kg of sugar a year. That’s the size of some adults!
When you eat sugar – and, especially, too much of it – your body can deal with it one of two ways:
- Burn it for energy. Great if your body is firing on all cylinders and you have a fast metabolism.
- Convert it to fat and store it in your fat cells. With today’s stressed lifestyles and diets, there’s more scope for fat storage. Excess sugar is used to provide the energy our body needs rather than drawing on our fat stores.
When your pancreas detects a rush of sugar, it releases the hormone insulin to deal with the blood sugar spike. Insulin helps to regulate the level of sugar in the blood; the more sugar in the bloodstream, the more insulin is released. Insulin helps store glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen and in fat cells.
If too much insulin is released, blood sugar drops below normal levels causing hypoglycemia – essentially a sugar “crash”. Our bodies respond by craving sugar and this is where the “addiction” cycle can come into play. We consume more sugar and the process starts again. The more severe the blood sugar spike, the more insulin required. This means it becomes easier to skip using sugar as energy and go straight to extra insulin and fat storage.
We’re not genetically designed to consume the amount of sugar we’re currently eating. For that reason, our brains get the “happy feeling” (eg. spike of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin) from sugar that we could otherwise get from exercise.
So is eating less sugar the answer? Actually, it’s only part of the battle.
You’ve probably heard of the Glycaemic Index. It’s the calculation of how quickly a particular type of food increases your blood sugar level, on a scale from 1-100 (100 being pure glucose).
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, from the University of Sydney’s School of Molecular Bioscience and Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, also author of the best-selling Low GI Diet franchise, talked to She ‘Said’:
How bad really is sugar for you?
No worse than any other source of carbohydrate (starch, glucose etc).
What are the side effects (apart from weight gain) of eating too much sugar?
Some studies suggest that it increases the level of triglycerides (fats) in your blood and liver, but this type of study usually involves a supra-normal dose. When more realistic doses are used, there’s no difference.
What are the side effects of having no sugar at all?
Studies suggest that people who avoid sugar end up eating more saturated fat. It’s called the sugar-fat seesaw and it’s well documented in all population groups.
When people become overly zealous about deleting all sugar (indeed, any type of food) from their diet, can it can cause feelings of deprivation that eventually make you obsess over and crave the “forbidden fruit”?
Absolutely agree. And the liking for sweetness is programmed into human brains. Many primates are “frugivores” – they get the majority of their calories from fruits.
What are the benefits of reducing sugar in your diet?
If you get currently more than 25 per cent of your calories from refined sugars (the average is actually 10-12 per cent), then cutting down may improve the nutritional value of your diet. But it’s no guarantee. A completely sugar-free diet if often high in refined oils, refined starches and alcohol, which are also empty calories.
How much sugar should an average person consume each day and from what sources?
Most authorities say 10 per cent of your calories can safely come from refined sugars – that’s 200 calories in a 2000 calorie diet, and that’s 50g of sugar, or 10 teaspoons. My recommendation would be to use this sugar to increase the palatability of bland but wholesome foods such as muesli, porridge, yoghurt or jam/honey on wholegrain bread.
Is there such as thing as “good” and “bad” sugars?
No. Nature provides a mix of sugars, including sucrose, glucose and fructose. Some ignorant people think glucose is better than fructose but that’s wishful thinking. If anything, glucose alone would increase your risk of diabetes.
What is your advice about finding balance in your diet overall, and keeping your sugar intake at acceptable levels?
Eat a higher-protein, lower GI, Mediterranean diet because this will help to control appetite. Go to bed early, get a good night’s sleep and get 30 minutes of exercise a day. THEN allow your appetite to guide food intake. Eat for both pleasure and wellbeing.
If someone is keen to give such a low-sugar diet a go, how would you recommend they go about it?
They should seek advice only from people with university qualifications, preferably with APD after their name (Accredited Practising Dietitian).
Is sugar the enemy, or do you indulge your sweet teeth? How do you feel about sugar? Tell us in the comments!
Jenni Gilbert is a longtime journalist with a passion for sourcing and sharing information about how to look and feel better, inside and out. Jenni’s resume includes Editor-in-Chief of New Idea, launch editor of Good Medicine magazine, London correspondent for Fairfax’s The Sun newspaper – she even covered the wedding of Charles and Diana! – Deputy Editor of Who, senior writer for Woman’s Day, News & Features Editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly and much more. Family, friends, her cat, travelling, Pilates, yoga, holistic health and anti-ageing treatments are what makes Jenni’s life go round.
Are you eating your way to bad hair?
Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about how food impacts upon our bodies – but have you ever stopped to consider what your diet might be doing to your hair? It’s all right to treat yourself from time to time, but a consistently poor diet is a serious no-no for healthy hair!
Read on to discover the four food groups that might be damaging your hair…
1. Sugary foods
Jessica Wu, dermatologist to the stars and author of Feed Your Face explains, “just like sugar is bad for the skin…foods that are sugary are bad for your hair and nails.”
Over-indulging in your favourite sweet treats encourages your body to produce more insulin and increases the levels of the male hormone androgen in your system. Androgen then causes the hair follicles to shrink, which leads to hair thinning and hair loss.
To back this up, Nancy Appleton, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, says that excess sugar consumption can actually interfere with the body’s production of Vitamin E, a vitamin which plays a huge part in growing and maintaining healthy hair.
If you’re suffering from thinning hair, try cutting down your sugar intake.
2. Salty foods
Unfortunately for us salt addicts, research by the Mayo Clinic suggests that even the delicious bag of crisps hidden away in the cupboard could have a negative impact on your quest for healthy, manageable hair.
An occasional treat won’t hurt, but you should aim to keep your sodium intake below 2,300 mg a day (1,500 mg for those 50 and over) to achieve strong hair and maintain a healthy body. If you regularly consume more than 2,300mg of sodium per day, you may find that your hair is prone to weakness, breakage and shedding.
Be aware that sodium isn’t just found in junk food, but also in breakfast spreads such as Vegemite, condiments (like soy sauce) and even in cheese.
3. High-glycaemic foods
Foods with a high glycaemic index are quickly broken down into glucose by the body. As with sugary foods, this process causes the body to increase levels of the hormone androgen. In turn, this hormone causes hair loss by narrowing your hair follicles and making it more difficult for them to absorb nutrients.
High-glycaemic foods are generally foods that are high in starch and refined sugars, such as cakes, breads, white rice, potatoes and fruit juices.
Fortunately, research suggests that a low-glycaemic diet can have the reverse effect and combat hair loss. Low-glycaemic foods includes oats, beans, legumes, vegetables and whole grains.
4. Low-protein diets
As our hair is literally made of protein, diets that restrict protein intake may cause hair to become dull, weak and prone to breakage. Protein deficiencies can also be responsible for puffiness around the eyes and brittle nails.
Jessica Wu explains that vegetarians or those with eating disorders are most at risk. Although meat is a good source of protein, there are many protein alternatives available, such as tofu, spinach and lentils.
If you’re suffering from dull hair or experiencing hair loss, the cause might just be your diet. Try not to over indulge in these four food groups that can damage your hair and you may see an improvement in your hair health. You might lose a sneaky inch off of your waist too!
What are your best tips for strong, healthy hair?
Bethany Tyndall writes makeup blog Beauty Junkie.
You don’t need to be a professional bartender to make this cocktail just grab your blender and some eggs. Voila!
All-time Classic Egg Nog
1 cup sugar
12 egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces Bundaberg gold rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
teaspoon ground nutmeg
What to do:
Beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.
Bring the milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly beat the hot milk into the egg yolks. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly until the temperature reaches 150F or the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Immediately remove from heat. Strain into a large bowl and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl beat the cream until it is slightly thickened, then fold it into the cooled egg mixture. Add the brandy, rum, vanilla, and nutmeg. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Serve ice cold in large glasses.