I’ve just returned home from an amazing holiday in Hawaii and “aloha” is probably the most common word you will hear over there! Its meaning is truly beautiful, as it is not only used in both greeting someone and saying goodbye, it also means love, respect and affection. There are other powerful spiritual messages and intentions behind this sweet word and one of the deeper teachings of it is to guide us to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread this love to others.
Doesn’t that just make “aloha” sound that little bit sweeter!
Well believe you me; it is definitely NOT the only sweet thing that comes out of Hawaii!
We indulged in an abundance of beautiful tropical fruit, they have pineapples that made our mouth water from the sweet juiciness and mangos that are so abundant that they literally fell off the trees lining the streets. Everything was ripe, sweet and abundant due to the warm tropical climate.
And then there was the abundance of ADDED sugars… to EVERYTHING!
My first experience of this extra sweet side to Hawaii was when I went down to the local township near where we were staying one morning to get a cup of chai tea, I was delighted to see on the menu that they had coconut and almond milk options and I was getting excited to try something familiar somewhere different. Would it taste the same? Would it be better? Would it be worse?
The answer – It was sweeter!
Not just a little bit sweeter, but MUCH sweeter than any chai tea I had ever had before in my life. I even had to ask if there was any sugar or artificial sweetener added to my cup of tea as I was baffled. It turns out that there wasn’t anything sweet added to my cup of tea, it was actually added to the “chai mix” my tea was made out of. When I asked to read the back of the packet of the pre-mix chai tea it told me that the “sugar” content in 1 x serve of chai was 25 grams of sugar. This translates to 5 x teaspoons of added sugar to my 1 x cup of chai tea!
5 TEASPOONS! Now that’s getting pretty close to a can of coke (which averages about 8 teaspoons of sugar per can) and was definitely not the kind of thing I was looking for first thing in the morning!
So you may be wondering why we have SO much hidden sugar in our foods? Was it because I was in Hawaii and they just like things sweeter and that kind of thing doesn’t happen here in Australia?
I’m sorry to say, it does! It happens everywhere that you find processed and refined foods (food in packets/jars/cans etc.) and even the so called healthier things like chai tea that you wouldn’t think are processed and refined or full of sugar.
So let’s look into this sugar thing a bit more. Did you know that the average Australian consumes about 40 teaspoons of sugar per day? Yep that’s right 40 TEASPOONS, which averages to be between 160-200 grams of sugar.
And why is it not such a good idea to eat that much sugar?
Well sugar comes in a few different forms; We have glucose which is a naturally derived type of sugar that is essential to the healthy functioning of our body system as it helps to feed the brain and give us energy. You can find healthy daily doses of glucose from lots of sources of complex carbohydrates, including things like whole fruit, vegetables, a small amount of honey or maple syrup.
And then we have sucrose, which is more of a refined and processed sugar that is devoid of any vitamins and minerals so the body has to convert to be able to use it. This requires the body to product more insulin (from the pancreas) to help regulate the blood sugar spike that comes from sucrose and insulin helps to store this artificial sugar for later use. This is one of the ways we can put on weight and quickly add to our fat storages. In fact an excess production of insulin from too much sugar daily can lead to severe health conditions such as diabetes, insulin resistance and drive many inflammatory conditions (inflammation is often associated with pain and ill health). Sucrose can be found everywhere, it’s most common guise is table sugar, lollies and anything refined or processed is usually packed full of it!
So you might be asking? “How much sugar can I have per day? And how can I support myself to reduce the current daily intake of added sugar from my world?”
Great questions! According to the American Heart Foundation the maximum daily intake of sugar should be around 5-9 teaspoons per day, so that’s about 20-40 grams of sugar (1 x teaspoon is about 4-5 grams). In simple terms that is equivalent to about 2 serves of fruit per day or one serve, which is a tiny square of your favourite chocolate, Or 1 x cup of sweet Hawaiian chai tea per day! And nothing else!
So if you are the average Australian eating the average amount of sugar per day of 40 teaspoons (160-200 grams) then you can see that this is a lot of sugar. In fact it is too much sugar and that could be why the leading cause of death in Australia has now changed from heart disease to diabetes, which as I mentioned before is largely a sugar overload health issue, which is a very real and concerning subject across all age groups.
If you would like to cut down on your sugar intake, here are a few rules of thumb to follow to help you get started;
- Read labels on ALL packet foods, now this includes jars, cans, boxes, wrappers, carton’s etc. and I’m talking about ALL foods, not just the foods that you think are unhealthy. There is very high amounts of sugar found in lots of foods that are considered to be healthy by most people for example; flavoured yogurt. About 80% of the supermarket shelves are loaded with processed and refined foods, which are packed full of sugar to make them nice and tasty, And ADDICTIVE! Basically added sugar is found in most foods these days!
- To help you keep tabs on your current sugar intake download to your smart phone a great app from “That Sugar Film” website, you can find the link by clicking here. The app is a really helpful tool for when you are in the supermarket and you don’t have enough time (or patience) to read all the labels of your favourite foods, you can just scan in the barcode to your app and it will give you a visual of how many teaspoons are in each serve of the food you are looking at and then you can decide if that is a good choice for you or not. It also helps you to keep tabs on how much sugar you are consuming throughout your day, which can be very insightful.
- Watch “That Sugar Film” if you haven’t already. Please do yourself a favour and get some more awesome facts, tips and insights into this crazy sugar world.
- Keep your fruit intake to a maximum of 2 x pieces or equivalent per day, this includes dried fruit as well as fruit juices. Juices often have really high sugar loading as there is no fibre left in the juice and the fibre is the part that helps to slow down the speed at which your body uptakes the sugars from the juice.
This in turn makes your body work harder to utilise the sugars, even though they are the natural glucose sugars. Halving the amount of juice you drink per day is good practice and consuming equal amounts of water after your juice can also help reduce the sugar loading. Some people even like to add the pulp (fibre) of their juice back into the juice, which helps to slow down the sugar uptake, but this is definitely a personal preference and can make your juice rather chunky.
With dried fruits you may like to add a handful of nuts and seeds to the mix, like a trail mix for example, to help reduce your sugar uptake, therefore helping to stabilise your blood sugar levels. And while you are at it, always try to choose organic dried fruit so you can avoid the preservative sulphur that is added to most dried fruit, this is often what upsets people’s tummy’s if you eat too much of it.
Ok this is where I do the sugie woogie boogie and get on out of here. I hope you’ve found some useful tips to get you started into a world with less sugar, please let me know if you have any insights or questions below.
Until next time!