Sugar in Food

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Sugar is so sweet and addictive, so many of us get cravings for it, which causes us to reach for the chocolate or baked treat. But it’s actually present in a whole range of foods, such as processed grains, takeaways and ready meals.

What is sugar?

At its most basic level, sugar is a molecule and a plant. However, it is not always listed as an ingredient by its name of ‘sugar’ and is listed as any number of the following:

Glucose

Fructose

Dextrose

Barley Malt

Maltodextrin

Maltose

Sucrose

However, this is just a small number of the names by which it is known. There are, in fact, 61 variations of sugar that is found in the ingredients of foods.


What are ‘high sugar’ and ‘low sugar’ foods?

You might think that foods that don’t explicitly contain sugar are ‘low sugar’ foods. However, this is not the case. When you are reading the labels of packaged foods, sugar is not simply in the form of sugar, glucose or fructose. Look at the amount of “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)” to find out the real sugar content of a food.

Looking at this nutritional value, high and low sugar foods are regarded as:

Low sugar food: 5g or less per 100g

High sugar food: 22.5g or more per 100g

If the amount of sugar falls between these two values, it has a ‘medium’ sugar content.


What foods are typically high and low in sugar?

You might surprised that certain foods in your everyday diet are very high in sugar, even though they aren’t sweet treats like cake and chocolate. In fact processed foods like bread, pasta and meats like sausages are very high in sugar.

Instead, fruits and vegetables are sweet, but not very high in sugar. Likewise, wholegrain breads and pastas have a much lower amount of sugar than their white counterparts.

What can happen when you have too much sugar in your diet?

Eating too much sugar is well known to cause weight gain, and is directly related to obesity. In the UK, an increase in consumption of high sugar foods has caused the obesity prevalence to increase from 15% in 1993, to 27% in 2015. Which increased sugar consumption comes increased blood sugar and the risk of developing diabetes. As such, in 2015 it was estimated that more than 1 in 16 people in the UK has diabetes. This figure includes people with both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes. This is because of the effects that too much sugar can have on our bodies.

What does sugar do in the body?

Sugar has a huge impact on your body and influences your levels of insulin, dopamine and glycogen. Glycogen is needed to maintain the blood-glucose balance within your body, which is hugely important as glucose is the only fuel used by the brain. Similarly, sugar gives you a sudden boost in dopamine. This a feel-good chemical which sugar releases, and is why you will crave a candy bar at 3pm rather than a fruit or vegetable. You become addicted to this surge, and your body needs more to get the same effect.

However, sugar doesn’t simply release a temporary amount of chemicals, increased sugar intake for a prolonged period of time can actually lead to long-term health complications. Glucose gets into your intestine, where it triggers a release of a hormone called insulin. When high levels of insulin are released, your leptin levels decrease. Leptin is what causes you to feel full, so if this hormone is blocked you’ll always feel hungry, no matter how much you’ve eaten. Your body is triggered into a simulated mode of starvation, so any glucose gets stored as fat.7 Not only that, but excess insulin is left in your system, where you eventually develop high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia. This condition could ultimately lead to the development of diabetes.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure you consume a moderate amount of sugar, and if you feel you might be at risk of developing hyperglycaemia, you should consult your doctor.

What supplements can help control blood sugar?

If you have been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic by your GP, and you don’t want to use synthetic chemicals or medications to treat your condition you could speak to them about natural supplements that can control blood sugar. Below, you will find a list of the supplements that have been know to help control blood sugar levels.

Garlic

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 found that rats given high doses of raw garlic had a decrease in their blood glucose levels. Garlic is also known to have antioxidant properties, and helps with the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates. As carbs can sugar, garlic’s role in maintaining a proper concentration of glucose in the body. If you don’t want to eat enough garlic to keep a whole tribe of vampires away, it could be an option to take a garlic tablet.

Cinnamon

This sweet spice has been added to baked goods for generations, and has been used in medical treatments for centuries. It is native to Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean, and is taken from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. However, there has been increasing amounts of studies which have unearthed the potential of cinnamon to reduce and regulate blood glucose levels.

Chromium

Chromium is an essential trace mineral necessary for proper health, but sources of chromium are generally scarce which means dietary intake tends to be rather low. It is found in hard drinking water and in some fresh fruits and vegetables.Chromium helps move blood sugar from the bloodstream into the cells and can turns carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. Many studies have shown that it can have a huge positive impact on blood sugar levels, which may reduce the risk of diabetes development.

White kidney bean

Also known as cannellini bean, or ‘common bean’, white kidney beans are most commonly used as a rich source of protein and almost all the amino acids needed. However, it has been known for a long time to be helpful in the treatment of diabetes and diarrhea. Studies have concluded that it can be very helpful in reducing the spikes of glucose that can occur after a meal that is high in carbohydrates.

Green Tea

Green tea is from the same family as black and oolong tea, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is primarily known for its antioxidant properties. Studies have since been done about the potential benefit of green tea for reducing blood sugar levels. This is because green tea contains polysaccharides that have the same effect on blood sugar as insulin.

Bilberry

These are very similar in appearance to blueberries, but smaller and darker and can help with reducing the risk of retinal problems in people with diabetes. The powerful antioxidants in these berries are wonderful for eye and heart health Studies have suggested that bilberries have the ability to reduce the body’s amount of glucose after a sugar-rich meal.

Aloe Vera

This plant is known as a ‘miracle’ plant because it can be used to treat a whole range of health problems, particularly gut and stomach problems. That’s not all, however, as aloe vera has been the subject of a number of studies to see if it has the ability to maintain and regulate blood glucose concentration.These studies have found a possible link between aloe vera and blood sugar levels, as aloe vera can reduce the amount of fats in the blood stream, which can lower blood sugar.

 

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