We all crave sugar every now and then; when we need a pick-me-up, when we deserve a treat, when we need a quick boost of energy, but is sugar really the right choice? The fact is sugar is everywhere – in processed food, confections and even fruit – and it’s sweet taste makes it very addictive. Rachel Linstead of Firecracker, who specialises in creating positive environments through nutrition and wellbeing, reveals the truth about sugar.


Sugar, copyright yellowbelle

So you’ve probably seen in the media since the beginning of 2014 that sugar is now the enemy to our health, so I thought I’d give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and explain the reasons and what fors behind the headline.

The World Health Organisation has said that we need to half our intake of sugar to maintain a healthy diet & life but what does this actually mean?

The Guideline Daily Amount of sugar recommended for women is 90g (Men = 120g & Children (5-10yrs) 85g). This equates to 22.5 teaspoons

Before we talk about our intake and why we actually could do with reducing our sugar intake, it’s time for some science!

Our bodies, as complex as they might seem, are quite basic on some levels! The body uses one source of energy and that’s glucose, so some of the things we eat are converted into glucose for our bodies to use as energy. Sugar (Sucrose) is made up of one molecule of glucose and one of fructose, so our body can break this down easily. Carbohydrates also contain glucose in different forms as do fruit and vegetables which the body also breaks down during the digestive process to release the glucose for the body to use for energy.

So, if your diet is full of complex carbs and lots of fruit and vegetables, then you’re giving your body plenty of glucose. These foods also contain other vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, and so benefit your body in other ways.

There is a bit of a warning here; just because it’s fruit sugar doesn’t really make it any better than the white stuff! For example, a glass of orange juice actually has the same amount of sugar as a can of coke!

Sugar, that white stuff you might put in your tea or coffee, is just glucose and fructose; it has no nutritional value apart from giving you calories (one gram of sugar = four calories) so just 1one teaspoon of sugar is giving you 16 calories to your daily intake! Sugar is sometimes classed as being empty calories as it’s just giving you calories and nothing else.

The more sugar you eat, the more the body craves it. This puts a strain on your pancreas, which is responsible for producing insulin which helps the body to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood… The more sugar you eat, the more the body has to produce insulin to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. This in turn leads to having energy slumps and highs, and ultimately can lead to type 2 diabetes and all its associated health issues (Blindness, amputation…).

The food industry (and I know this first hand having worked for many years for an international food company) has used sugar without restraint to help processed foods taste good; you look at most processed food ingredients lists and you are likely to see sugar on the list in some form or another (I’ll give you a list to look out for in a bit). So even without knowing, most people eat more sugar than they realise due to this fact.

But the good news is our bodies are very adaptable and you can easily train yourself to lose your sweet tooth, or if that sounds too daunting, look at sugar alternatives which are digested differently to glucose, so has little or no impact on your blood sugar!

So lets start giving you a list of what sugar might be called on food labelling!

  • barley malt
  • beet sugar
  • brown sugar
  • buttered syrup
  • cane-juice crystals
  • cane sugar
  • caramel
  • carob syrup
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • date sugar
  • dextran
  • dextrose
  • diatase
  • diastatic malt
  • ethyl maltol
  • fructose
  • fruit juice
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • glucose
  • glucose solids
  • golden sugar
  • golden syrup
  • grape sugar
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltodextrin
  • maltose
  • mannitol
  • molasses
  • raw sugar
  • refiner’s syrup
  • sorbitol – artifical
  • sorghum syrup
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • turbinado sugar
  • yellow sugar

Here are some sugar alternatives:

Xylitol is an all-natural alternative to sugar. The substance derives from the fibres of plants and can be extracted from a variety of vegetation including berries, mushrooms, birch bark and corn husks. It has 33% less calories than standard sugar.

Made from leaves of stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), a natural sweetener that is 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, has no calories and little or no impact on blood sugar levels in the body.

Don’t get me started on artificial sweeteners – this is a whole different thing!

My advice to you is to try to train your body to want less sugar! Or if you can’t do this, combine sweet foods with protein based foods as this will slow the release of the glucose in the body so you will get less of a sugar hit!

Rachel is on Twitter at @Rachel_Linstead, and you can view the Firecracker website at www.firecracker-uk.co.uk.