Sugar. Is it really that bad?

Various kinds of sugar, brown, white and refined sugar

In short … Yes it is!

We hear a lot about sugar in the news lately.  Some say it is bad for us while others say it is ok … in moderation. I’ll get back to that moderation thing a bit later, but let’s first talk about sugar and what happens when we eat it.

When you eat sugar, your glucose, or blood sugar, levels rise. In response to this the pancreas excretes insulin in order to take the sugar out of the blood and use it for energy or to store it. We then feel hungry and want to eat again. This is a normal and necessary process in our bodies. The problems start to arise when we eat foods high in sugar but with little or no other nutrients.

Our bodies like to have a blood sugar level within a very narrow range.   When we eat an apple, the natural sugars in it are accompanied by fibre and other nutrients resulting in a slow release of the sugars inside. But when we eat cookies, lollies, soft drinks and fruit juices, the sugar is released into our bodies very quickly and we get a spike in our blood sugar and insulin levels. These levels then drop dramatically causing us to crave more sugar. These spikes can lead to diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression, stress, decreased ability to learn, fatigue, and headaches. And when we have more sugar than we need for energy, we store it as fat leading to weight gain.

Eating Sugar

Although exercise can help to burn off some of the calories in sugar, it still doesn’t stop the spikes from happening when we eat sugar. The sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies and also on our mental state and immune function.   And because sugar is digested so quickly, we feel hungry again very quickly so we are more likely to eat more calories.

There has been a trend to replace processed sugar with artificial sweeteners. These are actually worse for us. People who drink diet drinks are at a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease than people who drink regular soft drinks. Diet drinks also cause the hormone leptin to drop, which triggers you to feel hungry so people end up eating more than they would have. And all soft drinks and many other sugary products contain preservatives and other chemicals, which cause another list of health problems.

Back to the topic of moderation. We often hear that you can consume certain unhealthy foods ‘in moderation’ as part of a healthy lifestyle. But what is moderation? Once a day? Month? Year? There is no definition of this term giving everyone an excuse to overindulge. And there are many sugar products that I think people should just never consume.

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Next time you are at the supermarket, check out the labels on your favourite products. You may be shocked to find how much sugar is hiding there. Nutrigrain cereal is one product I have a particular problem with because it advertises itself as being healthy and for athletes, but I doubt any athlete eats 27% sugar for breakfast!  Other products to look out for are sauces.  Tomato sauce (ketchup) is 30% sugar.  Juices can be between 10 and 18% sugar – more than soft drink!!

If you have any questions about sugar, talk to your local naturopath. Try cutting down on your sugar intake and see how you (and your waistline!) feel.

Check out my Healthy Heathcote 90-Day Challenge video about sugar here:

Water, Water Everywhere

Small Girl in the kitchen

Some symptoms of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, poor sleep quality, dark coloured urine, constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, muscle cramps and dry skin.  With chronic dehydration the body learns to adapt and changes the point at which it asks for water.  The less water you drink on a regular basis, the less water your body will ask for.

The generally accepted rule is to drink 8 glasses that are 8 oz each or almost 2L.  If you exercise during the day than this amount needs to increase depending on how much you sweat.  If you are exercising for longer than an hour, weigh yourself before and after exercise to see if you have lost weight due to dehydration.  If you weigh less after exercise, then you need to drink more water.  You may also need to add an electrolyte supplement if you are sweating a lot.

If you consume caffeine during the day than you also need to consume more water. Some people say you can count caffeinated beverages toward water intake.  I strongly disagree.  Caffeine is a diuretic. This means it increases the amount of water excreted in your urine.  My general rule for patients is if you drink a cup of a caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, energy drink, soft drink) than you need to drink a cup of water to compensate.  This brings you back to zero and you have to drink your 2L on top of this.  Alcohol is an even stronger diuretic and requires even more compensation.  Some medications will also dehydrate you.

As mentioned your body adapts to being dehydrated so you need to increase you intake slowly.  Increase your intake each week by 250ml per day.  Keep increasing until you get to 2L per day after compensating for your caffeine intake.  If you still have any of the above symptoms or your urine is still not clear or light coloured, talk to your naturopath before increasing more, as it is possible to drink too much water.

beauty girl drink water

Some of your water intake comes from fruits and vegetables especially high water content ones like watermelon or cucumber but unless you are consuming these in large quantities I don’t count them.  Juice is mostly water, but it also contains lots of sugar so should only be consumed in small quantities. If you don’t like the taste of water, add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange.  Or perhaps some watermelon and mint.  Get creative!

Consult your naturopath if you are on any medications or have a kidney disease.  Start drinking water today and see the difference it makes!

Check out my video about water for the Healthy Heathcote 90-Day Challenge: