We all love to indulge in a sweet treat every now and then, but you probably aren’t aware of how much sugar you’re consuming on a daily basis. If we understood the detrimental ways in which sugar can impact our health, as well as the benefits of reducing our sugar intake, then we’d probably look at the sugar content of what we eat a lot more.
Although, per NHS advice, adults should have no more than 30g (the equivalent of 7 sugar cubes) of free sugars - sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purees - a day, as a sweet-toothed nation this number is surpassed over and over again. One of the main reasons for this is because it is literally in everything we eat. Even foodstuffs you wouldn’t expect, such as salad dressings, yoghurt, ketchup, baked beans and granola contain refined sugars. This is a big problem: because we don’t perceive many of these foods as particularly sugar-filled, it means we continually exceed our daily intake without even meaning to.
It’s all very easy to take this information lightly - everyone eats sugar, what’s the big deal? - but countless studies have found that there is a direct link between sugar and conditions such as inflammation, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even addiction. When people say that they can’t give up their favourite chocolate or sweets, they aren’t entirely wrong! Added sugar actually shares many of the same addictive qualities as illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, opioid prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines.
Although cutting refined sugar out of your diet might feel like an impossible task, with a little organisation and disciplin10th we are all capable of going sugar-free. If you’re not sure where to start, fear not, as we’ve put together this handy guide on how to quit highly sugary items for good.
Although a sugary snack might perk us up at the time, as it leaves your system the body experiences a blood sugar crash, leaving us lethargic and unfocused. Think - afternoon crash! Relying on slow-burning carbs or protein, and snacks like a piece of fruit with almond butter, offers a sweet treat that provides the body with more fuel for energy without the inevitable crash.
The rush of dopamine we experience from consuming sugar reinforces our desire for more of it. Giving up sugar can help to return the body’s dopamine levels to normal, thus reducing physical cravings.
Weight gain is a key factor in the development of Type 2 Diabetes, as excess fat makes the body resistant to insulin until eventually the pancreas can’t produce enough to meet demands. Fortunately for those suffering with Type 2 Diabetes, lifestyle changes such as exercise, losing weight and giving up sugar can reverse many of its effects, and some people even return to pre-diabetic health levels.
Over time, sugar in the body forms an unhealthy relationship with the proteins that are responsible for producing collagen - that which helps to keep our skin youthful and free of wrinkles. When this happens, we lose the benefits of collagen. When too much sugar leads to inflammation, your skin can become more prone to acne and other conditions.
All of these benefits combined are great for improving your mental health. Reducing inflammation in the brain and body caused by sugar leads to an improved ability to think clearly and concentrate better. For the same reasons, people tend to experience improvements in their mood and reduce the risk of dealing with depressive episodes.
A lot of sugars in the UK come from sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, colas, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and others. Even drinks that many of us perceive as healthy, such as smoothies, can still contain shocking amounts of sugar. A 1L carton of Sainsbury’s Mango Juice Drink, for example, contains a whopping 6.9 teaspoons of sugar. On top of this, our bodies don’t recognise calories from drinks in the same way as those from food. Calories from drinks are absorbed quickly, resulting in a rapid increase in your blood sugar level. Drinks also don’t make you feel as full as solid food, so people who consume lots of calories from drinks naturally won’t eat less to compensate. In light of this, reducing your intake of sugary drinks can help massively with weight loss and improve your overall health. Some healthier beverage options that are naturally low in sugar include:
- Unsweetened sparkling water
- Herbal teas
- Black or white coffee
- Cold pressed juices made with vegetable and fruits, such as Daily Dose Juices
Despite being delicious, most desserts don’t actually provide much in the way of nutritional value. They are absolutely loaded with sugar, which leads to spikes in blood sugar that can leave your body feeling tired and hungry, thus making you crave more sugar.
At Pow Food, we only use unrefined sugars, and each of our desserts is carefully designed by nutritionists to give you the sweet fix you crave, without being loaded with refined sugars, like our Vegan Chocolate and Avocado Mousse here!
If you’re looking for lower-sugar treats that will still satisfy your sweet tooth, you can also try these alternatives:
- Fresh fruit
- Dark chocolate (with 70% cocoa or higher)
- Greek yoghurt with cinnamon or fruit
The added bonus of eating whole fruit is that swapping it out for sugar-heavy desserts is that it not only reduces your sugar intake but also increases the fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your diet.
Popular condiments and cooking sauces such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, pasta sauce and sweet chilli sauce are surprisingly high in their sugar content. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains about 1 teaspoon of sugar. That means that overall, ketchup is a whopping 29% sugar - more sugary than ice cream!
Making sauces from scratch takes time, skill and effort. If you are buying them, try to buy handmade sauces made using 100% natural ingredients with no added sugar such as our Miso Ginger Dressing or our Vegan, Nut-free Pesto. If you’re in a store, look for condiments and sauces that are labelled “no added sugar” to cut back on the concealed sugar in these products. Additionally, options for seasoning your food that naturally don’t contain added sugars, including herbs and spices, chilli, mustard, vinegar, and lemon or lime juice.
This advice might come as a bit of a surprise, given that for a majority of our lives we are fed the message that fat is automatically bad. In every supermarket there are dozens of low-fat varieties of our favourite foods, and it might feel logical to reach for these options over the full-fat versions.
However, the ugly truth is that they tend to contain more sugar, and sometimes even more calories, than their full-fat rivals. For example, a 170 gram serving of low-fat yoghurt contains 24 grams of sugar and 144 calories, whereas the same amount of full-fat plain yoghurt contains just 8 grams of naturally-occurring milk sugar and just 104 calories.
As mentioned earlier, high sugar intake has been linked to weight gain, which negates the reason that you might have chosen a low-fat product in the first place. When you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, it’s recommended to opt for full-fat foods instead.
Some breakfast cereals can be chock-full of sugar. For example, a 30g serving of sugar-frosted corn flakes contains 11.5g of sugar, which makes up 13% of our daily reference intake. Even granola, which is typically marketed as a health food, can sometimes be just as sugar-filled as cereals that are quite obviously bad for you. To cut down on sugar, skip on those sweet breakfast cereals and try these alternatives instead:
- Porridge with fresh fruit
- Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts
- Scrambled eggs with cheese or vegetables
- Avocado on whole grain toast
Choosing a low-sugar option with plenty of protein and fibre for breakfast will also increase your chances of feeling full until lunchtime, preventing unnecessary snacking.
If you need a helping hand with embarking upon your sugar-free journey, why not try our healthy meal delivery service? Here at Pow Food, we remain vigilant in our quest to ensure that all of our products are entirely free of refined sugar, helping you to make healthy, informed decisions when it comes to your meals.
From healthy, gluten and dairy free ready meals, to specialty diet meal plans to suit your needs and staple pantry items, all of our products are designed by expert nutritionists to support your wellbeing, energy levels and gut health. Delivered nationwide, simply select your individual meals or curated box and we will take care of the rest. Whether you want you and your family to eat more healthy meals at home, or you have specific diet and health goals, explore our range for your healthy meal delivery needs. For more information, please get in touch.