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Sugar – are there really better options?
Sugar, it is in almost everything we consume. Food manufactures can’t get enough of it! The reason; sugar is addictive. If you need your sweet fix, are there better options than sugar? What should we be avoiding? Hear all you need to know on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.
Sugar, many people have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s got a very bad rep over the last few years. There are plenty of alternatives popping up, but are they better? Are they worse? On this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition we give you the low down on if there are possibly better options than sugar.
Also the things that we really need to watch out for. Because there are so many things popping up out there and a lot of them are really not good for you. Welcome back onto the podcast with myself, Mr Active, David Katz. Joined once again by Mark Wolff. Mark, first of all, sugar, it’s bad reputation, has it earned it for a reason?
Mark Wolff: It surely has Dave and I’m not going to knock sugar completely. I’m just going to say that first of all, a lot of disease and illness worldwide is definitely because of excessive sugar consumption, that’s a given. We’re seeing that more and more. Sugar is an inflammatory and it obviously raises the acidity levels of the body and it causes inflammation.
I think that that’s another problem which eventually does lead to illness. One of the biggest problems is it’s like a drug, it’s addictive. That does lead to over-consumption. I think sugar in that way, it tastes good, people love it, people are attached to it emotionally.
Every single food manufacturer in the world uses it in order to be able to make their foods more attractive to the consumer. Because sweet sells and people are addicted to it. The problem is, is that sugar being the most natural sweet of them all, is getting the biggest and baddest rap of them all. Because it does lead to addiction and lead to over-consumption which eventually does lead to ill health.
DK: Everything in moderation once again. Unfortunately, we do see that. We always talk about eating clean over processed food. That’s because of the amount of salt, the amount of sugar. A lot of this food does not need that quantity. I think people are changing, but a lot of people are, as you say, because of the addictiveness, getting stuck on still eating these products.
Honey as an alternative to sugar
The other thing that is coming out is all the alternatives to sugar. Some are good, some are bad, so let’s look at a few of those. Even Mark, if we look at something like honey, some honey, when it’s been irradiated, I think it is, it’s like sugar. But raw, natural honey is not a bad option?
MW: Look, if you’re looking at it from a sugar perspective, honey and sugar are exactly the same. As far as let’s look at the glycaemic index goes. Looking at raising blood sugar, that’s exactly the same. But if you look at the properties that honey does contain, such as propolis and any other minerals or vitamins, you’ve got to look at the difference between raw and processed honey. You’re not really going to find raw, unprocessed honey in any kind of a store, except for a health store. If you are going to go for honey, yes, you want to go for raw, unprocessed.
Yes, it’s obviously a much healthier replacement for sugar, not from a sweet or a blood sugar perspective, but from a benefit perspective. If you want to look at the nutrients inside it and understand those benefits. I think if you look at it as a replacement; I’d just like to state this fact. One of the things that I tell people that really have an addiction, who have a sweet tooth. I always try and tell them that every time you look for a sugar replacement, the problem is you’re still training the brain to create a sweet. You’re not really getting away from that.
You should try and move away from that by not consuming sugar replacements, even sweeteners, because you’re still training the brain. However, for some people it’s very difficult to remove it completely and I don’t say remove it completely. But they will try and look for healthier or alternative replacements when it comes to sugar. Honey is definitely a healthier option, but again, not processed honey, we’re talking about unprocessed, the raw honey.
DK: One of the other benefits of that is the taste. If you go buy proper honey, you will taste the difference, it’s fantastic. The same thing with milk, we’ve also started buying better milk from a better farm. You can taste that richness which in. A lot of the store bought milks you don’t get anymore. It really is a good way to go.
Why berries really are the ultimate fruit
I know the Banters and the low carb diets, there are certain fruits they can eat because they’re low in fructose. There’s some they say not to eat, but in saying that, that’s one of the things that I don’t really like about Banting. Yes, you’re cutting out the fructose, but you’re also cutting out a lot of nutrients and minerals that are in that fruit.
When looking at fruit, should we look to avoid certain fruits? The other thing is, using fruit as an alternative, maybe you get that sweet craving, you want a piece of chocolate; is fruit a good go-to to curb that or just as an alternative?
MW: I find for me personally, especially when I’m going through peaks of heavy training, my carbohydrate intake does come up a fair amount. Especially through large volumes of training, mainly from a recovery perspective. You do get a little bit of a sugar craving because your blood sugar does drop quite a lot here and there.
In that case I generally tend to go for a fruit option as opposed to going for processed sugar food like chocolate etc. In that case I definitely look at berries, I look at mango, I try and keep the sugar content of the fruit that I do consume as low as possible. Berries are a really decent option.
Apples are also a decent option, so are pears. Grapes are a lot higher in sugar, so generally I tend to avoid them. But I do love mango quite a bit and I do consume that. Pineapple I also consume, but the thing is that it contains anti-inflammatory properties, so that’s why I consume pineapple as well.
Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but again, when you are going to consume some sort of a sugar food, let’s call it ‘sugar food’. Everything really has got sugar and all carbohydrates eventually do break down into a form of sugar. You should probably try and time the intake of that meal to be of benefit as opposed to a detriment.
Generally, I time those post-exercise that I know that those carbohydrates will be utilised to help with the recovery process. I don’t generally consume any high carbohydrate foods too late in the evening. Generally it will be post-exercise, used for recovery. I like to periodise the carbs like that and that way you look forward to actually eating something that you might crave from a sugar perspective. But you know that it’s being used as a benefit to the body and it’s not going to have the opposite effect.
Natural alternatives to sugar
DK: We’ve talked about honey as an alternative and being very similar in terms of natural products out there, there’s a lot of things popping up. A lot of them are natural options and people are always looking. These other natural options, just talk us through some of them. Is it the same case, are they just effectively another option to sugar?
MW: There are some natural options. I think let’s look at a few. The biggest name on the market at the moment is Stevia. Stevia is a plant extract, so it’s considered to be natural. Personally, the taste of Stevia drives me nuts. It’s got a really bad after taste. That just depends on the quality of the Stevia that you’re purchasing.
If you’re going to pay less for Stevia, you’re going to get probably a worse tasting Stevia. You can get Stevia that is extremely expensive and obviously the after taste is a little bit more masked. People tend to go for things like Stevia these days.
Agave is another plant based syrup which is extracted. I’m not talking about from a glycaemic perspective, if these do raise or don’t raise your blood sugar. But definitely it’s a healthier perspective, Agave syrup is a healthier perspective.
Coconut sugar has come into the forefront as well, it is quite expensive but a lot of people like coconut sugar. It does have minerals in it and it does have a nice, sweet taste to it as well. Probably very nice for baking as opposed to putting a proper sugar in.
Why non-nutritive sweeteners are a no-no!
If you want to look at other sweeteners which I tell people to completely avoid. If I see them on the lid of a tub, I completely avoid and these are things like Acesulfame K and Aspartame. I won’t touch any product that contains those. Those are called non-nutritive sweeteners.
They’re definitely not natural and again, you should also look at the amounts that are placed into any product. Some of these are getting bad raps because they’re considered to be carcinogenic. To be honest, we don’t know the exact health problems that these kinds of things can cause. Nothing is ever proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But to me, if anything is completely unnatural, I try and avoid it as much as possible and rather go for a natural replacement for sure.
DK: Because of sugars bad rep, a lot of these non-nutritive sweeteners as you said, have popped up onto the market. A lot of people use them, a lot of people are adding them to drinks and food. That’s low sugar or no sugar and that is the alternative. I’ll put you on the spot a bit, I also don’t like to touch that stuff but natural versus unnatural, is sugar the better option of the two?
MW: When I was a kid I used to eat sugar cane straight off the stick, it is natural. It obviously goes through a process but without a doubt, raw organic cane sugar is far better to consume than going for a non-nutritive sweetener, that’s my personal opinion.
Don’t give in to the addictiveness of sugar
Again, it’s the amount of sugar that you’re consuming. It’s when you’re consuming that sugar, in most cases that sweet taste is like somebody who has got a gambling problem or an alcohol problem. It is addictive and the problem is, it just leads to more and more consumption.
If you give somebody a delicious tasting bar of chocolate and you tell them they’re only allowed one block. Once they’ve had one block, it’s very difficult to stay away from the rest of it. If you’re that kind of a person with that sort of addictive personality, which a lot of the population of the world is, you want to try and avoid the sugars as much as possible. Try and train your brain to not crave sweets so that when you do eat sweets you’ll enjoy it. But you won’t actually necessarily be dependent on it.
It does take about a minimum of 3-4 weeks to try and get rid of that feeling. Not taking it in and getting rid of that feeling, but if you are a person that’s able to eat sugary foods in moderation and not in excess, please, definitely go for the healthier options.
Go for the things like the coconut sugars, the Agave syrup, the raw, unprocessed honey. Rather use that from a baking perspective and from a meal perspective. Not just for you, but even for your children, I think it’s a far healthier option.
We don’t know what the side effects are of the non-nutritives and I suppose you just never know. What is legal today could be banned tomorrow. Somebody, somewhere along the line will come up with something. For now, people say it’s such a small amount, it’s not going to do anything. We just don’t know and I just say it’s risk management, try and avoid it at all costs. Try and stick to as natural as possible, it’s far better for your health in the long run.
DK: There you have it. If you do want more information or you have more questions about sugar, you can email email@example.com or pop onto our website, 32gi.com. There’s plenty of information and stuff for you to look through on that site as well.
Non-nutritive sweeteners, want to look more into that, but we’ll talk about that next week. So do tune in once again to 32Gi Sports Nutrition with myself, Mr Active, David Katz and Mark Wolff.