‘Sugar Is The New Fat’ by Dr Helena Popovic published in Great Health Guide (Oct 2016). The anti-sugar bandwagon is growing by the minute. Sugar has become the new fat and ‘sugar-free’ is the modern health guru’s mantra. The average Australian consumes over 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. Where is all the sugar coming from? Read Dr Popovic’s 3 part article on sugar to discover how we can cut down on sugar in our diet & live a healthier lifestyle.
Read other Nutrition articles on Great Health Guide, a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.
NUTRITION: Sugar Is The New Fat
written by Dr Helena Popovic
The anti-sugar bandwagon is growing by the minute. Sugar has become the new fat and ‘sugar-free’ is the modern health guru’s mantra. However, many people are not really sure what the term ‘sugar’ actually means. Is sugar a synonym for all carbohydrates? Or does sugar only refer to the white stuff my mother used to add to her tea?
Sugar is a subtype of carbohydrate that is sweet in taste, soluble in water and contains only one or two chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. By far the most common sugars in our diet are glucose, fructose and sucrose. In nature, glucose and fructose occur as building blocks of other carbohydrates and this mitigates how the body handles them.
Sucrose is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose and is present in many plants especially their roots and fruits. If we only ate whole unadulterated foods found in nature, we would struggle to overeat sugar – whether in the form of glucose, fructose or sucrose – because in nature these sugars are packaged with generous amounts of water and fibre, which fill us up before we eat too much. Simply put, you’d give yourself a stomach-ache or start to feel bloated. The one exception is honey. It does not contain fibre but is sickly sweet in large quantities.
Sugar is extracted and processed and when we extract sucrose (glucose and fructose) from cane, beets, coconuts, dates, palms or other sources and refine it to produce odourless, crystalline, white, yellow or brown powders, it is all too easy to overeat sugar because nature’s control mechanisms (water and fibre) have been removed.
Sugar by any name is a problem. It doesn’t matter whether it’s called raw, organic, granulated or any of the other 50 names the food industry uses, it’s still refined sugar and it provides a rapidly absorbed source of calories devoid of any nutrients. Herein lies the problem: when the bloodstream and liver are overloaded with either glucose or fructose, these sugars are converted to fat and contribute to widespread inflammation in the brain and body. Inflammation is synonymous with disease.
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So what constitutes too much sugar? The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that a safe level of sugar consumption (i.e. unlikely to cause disease) is four teaspoons per day for children under the age of 12, six teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men. Even this is probably generous, but given that the average Australian consumes over 20 teaspoons per day, the WHO targets are a good start.
Where is all this added sugar in our diet coming from?
1. Soft drinks are the biggest culprits:
Coca Cola, 375mL- 40g (10 teaspoons)
Solo, 600mL – 72.6g (18 teaspoons)
2. Sports drinks:
Gatorade, 600mL – 36g (9 teaspoons)
Powerade, 600mL – 34g (8 teaspoons)
3. Fruit and vegetable juices are also significant contributors as many contain added sugar & preservative. But even fruit juices with ‘nothing added’ contain high levels of sugar. Without the fiber that comes with the whole fruit, we absorb the sugar too quickly and overload our bloodstream with glucose and our liver with fructose.
Grape juice, 300mL – 49g (12 teaspoons)
Apple juice, 300mL – 33g (8 teaspoons)
Orange juice, 300mL – 28g (7 teaspoons)
4. Processed foods are the other source which have added sugar.
Some examples showing grams of sugar per serve or teaspoons.
Average canned soup: 15g or 3.75 teaspoons
Ready to eat Sweet & Sour Pork: 30g or 7.5 teaspoons
Chinese BBQ cooking sauce: 18g or 4.5 teaspoons
Frozen prepared meal of Lemon Chicken: 23g or 5.75 teaspoons
Popular brands of Spaghetti & Meatballs: 10g or 2.5 teaspoons
General Sweet & Sour sauces: 32g or 8 teaspoons
If you eat packaged food including sauces, breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, tinned fruits, canned vegetables, frozen meals, sweets, pastries, cakes, biscuits or muesli bars then you need to become savvy in calculating the sugar content of what you are buying.
If you don’t eat any processed foods, you have nothing to worry about and no need to calculate your daily sugar intake.
In my book, NeuroSlimming, I give a detailed explanation of how to calculate your daily sugar intake. In summary, one teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4 grams. Ignore anything written about the health value of the food on the front of the packaging. This is purely marketing and most of it is cleverly deceptive.
Examine the nutrition panel on the back.
Look to see how many grams of sugar per serve.
Divide the grams by four to calculate the number of teaspoons.
Then look to see how many servings are in the packet.
Ask yourself how many serves you’d be likely to eat in one sitting.
Then multiply the number of servings you will eat by the number of teaspoons.
Are you surprised by how many teaspoons of sugar are hiding in your favourite breakfast cereal?
Author of this article:
Dr Helena Popovic is a medical doctor, a leading authority on how to improve brain function, international speaker and best-selling author. She is the founder of a ground-breaking weight management program called Winning at Slimming – thinking the light way and the author of ‘NeuroSlimming – let your brain change your body’. For more information, refer to Helena’s website.
by Dr Helena Popovic
Paperback. Published 2016.