I want to start by clarifying one thing: I DO eat sugar.
A surprising opening line coming from the girl who many of you know for not eating sugar, I’m sure. A better explanation for what I try to avoid is 'excess added sugar’.
The sugar debate is somewhat controversial at the moment, and I think it’s left people unsure of what to and what not to eat. Sarah Wilson, who some of you may know as ‘The I Quit Sugar’ lady, has really done her research. I don’t strictly follow everything Sarah Wilson says, but she does provide a clear and simple breakdown of the ‘what and why’ when it comes to sugar. This is a good starting point if you want to take a look:
But back to my opening statement: I do eat sugar, however I whole-heartedly believe that the naturally occurring sugars in wholefoods are more than enough for the human body. Processed foods, most often in the form of packaged food you get at the supermarkets, are quite often loaded with added sugars that our bodies just don’t need more of.
The one thing I add into my cooking to sweeten it is rice malt syrup (RMS). “RMS is made by culturing organic brown rice with enzymes in order to break down starches. What is left is then cooked until it becomes syrup. This syrup is made up of carbohydrates and glucose, among other things.”
I am still learning about rice malt syrup, as I’ve only added it into my diet recently. Nonetheless, I’d like to explain why I use it. So far I have discovered that RMS contains no fructose. On that premise, I choose to use rice malt syrup because I am convinced, by research I’ve found, that our bodies react better to glucose than to fructose. As this short and simple article explains: “Virtually every cell in the body can use glucose for energy. In contrast, only liver cells break down fructose.” It is an article very much worth the read: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-fructose-bad-for-you-201104262425
That said, I do LOVE fruit (which contains fructose) and I very rarely go a day without it. I think that nature has given us the right sugar to fiber ratio in a compact package (that we call fruit) that lets our brains know when we’ve had enough sugar by telling us that we’re full, which is the role of fibre. I mean, I would say that most people have one banana and that’s it, I haven’t come across anyone that I know of who eats two or three bananas in one sitting. So keep in mind that ‘moderation principle’ and I think fruit is a gift that should be enjoyed!
I think my verdict is that at the end of the day Rice Malt Syrup, or any other glucose you’re ingesting, is still sugar and we shouldn’t have too much of it. I have also found research to say that RMS doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits, but personally, if I had to choose between two substances of little-to-no nutritional value (ie. rice malt syrup and sugar), with the difference being that one does harm to the body, then the choice is obvious to me. I just recognise that this particular element of my recipe is purely for taste purposes rather than nutrition. Which is fine when it is just one small ingredient among many that do offer a whole host of nutrients, i.e. nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables.
So, just reiterating my ‘I DO eat sugar’ stance, I don’t believe that ‘sugar’ is necessarily a problem. I think we collectively as a society have an over consumption of sugar problem, which is partly due to a lack of understanding just how much sugar is added into in our food. As I’ve said in previous posts already, the solution seems to be going back to the kitchen, knowing exactly what you’re consuming, that way you know what’s going into your food and you have the power to determine the quantities of sugars, fats and salts that you’re ingesting and thus you can keep them at a healthy level.
I eat a predominantly wholefood diet, with most of what I consume made from scratch by me, which means no added sugars in processed foods that I don’t know about. I do realise that not everyone has the capacity, or the desire to spend valuable time cooking every meal from scratch. If you’re one of those people, you are in luck! There are still some steps you can take in the right direction and, oh, look, it just so happens that it’s almost SUGAR FREE SEPTEMBER! What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s an initiative that encourages people to check the labels of the foods they purchase and commit to only purchasing products with less than 5% sugar. What you’re looking for on the label is 5g of sugar or less, per 100g.
If the idea of cutting down your sugar intake is daunting, then just give it a try for a month alongside a whole lot of other people who are committed to the cause! Read more about it here:
And just know that cutting out added sugar doesn’t have to result in boring food! Exhibit A: this week’s recipe! You can have some fun in the kitchen (or at least I can, and will share the recipes with you). This one was a particularly fun one to recipe test. Presenting healthy(er) (and remember, moderation is still key!) Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups! (Recipe here)
If you do decide to significantly cut down the sugar in your diet, then I highly recommend watching this short satirical video. I don’t know about you but humour gets me through uncomfortable situations - such as the discomfort of coming off sugar!