If I asked you how much sugar is in your diet, what would you say? None? A little more than you would really like? Too much? Many people believe that there is virtually no sugar in their diet – until they take the challenge of leaving it out completely for two weeks. Then they realise just how much they were eating.
Our typical modern diet is laced heavily with sugar – its in our breakfast cereals, in bread, in most packaged foods, and of course in soft drinks, cakes and ice creams. Our bodies aren't designed to eat that much sugar, and they let us know in many ways – especially in energy slumps, mood swings, and of course through the development of type II diabetes.
Why is eating sugar such a problem anyway? Partly because the rush of glucose into your blood stream can cause a crash in energy soon after insulin is secreted to push the glucose into cells; the sudden change in glucose levels can affect how you think, as your brain functions mostly on glucose. Many people continually 'top up' with sugary drinks during the day to keep going. (Not just soft drinks, but sugary tea or coffee too!)
If you still believe that there is no added sugar in your diet, here's a challenge for you. Over the next 14 days, examine everything you eat, and choose only foods with no added sugar. There will be lots of food to choose from: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, raw nuts. But you'll have to examine any packaged food carefully to check that it doesn't include added sugar, or fructose, or syrup. (Important note: diabetics or people taking medication for blood sugar regulation shouldn't do this challenge without checking first with their health practitioner. If in doubt, check first.)
Here are some tips to help you along –
- start your day with a breakfast that includes high quality protein, some fat and some fibre. Eggs and vegetables or fruit are ideal. Protein is digested slowly, causing just a gentle rise in your blood glucose to an optimum level. A sugary breakfast cereal, in comparison, will cause your blood glucose level to rise quickly, and often fall just as fast, giving you an energy slump.
- on a hot day, when you want something cool and sweet, nibble on frozen slices of watermelon
- fresh fruit and raw nuts make a great between-meal snack
- ensure your lunch includes high quality protein like chicken, meat or fish.
- enjoy a dinner that includes vegetables and protein. Cook a few extra vegetables like potato, pumpkin or sweet potato and include them in a vegetable omelette the next morning.
Feeling up to the challenge? Try it out and let us know how you go!