For years now, nutritional experts have been warning us that sugar is the new cigarette, and while people are undoubtedly more conscious of sugar intake, a fitness exec at a Burnley gym operator has revealed a few tricks to avoid over-indulgence.
While the classic snacking scenario sees the peckish protagonist reach for something sweet when their gut starts to rumble at work, at home, or on the go, that quick fix provided by countless readily available treats is just that - a temporary fix. With National Sugar Awareness Week upon us, it's important to look at the science behind the food we eat.
As soon as the snack is ingested, glucose levels spike, with the glucose sent to the muscles for immediate energy, prompting the brain to release the chemicals serotonin and dopamine every time you eat something sugary. The combination of the high from the dopamine with the increased energy makes sugary things pretty addictive.
What is troubling is the fact that sugar is everywhere. It is in everything, and it is hidden from plain sight, making trying to eat more healthily tougher, especially when products are marketed as being healthy alternatives to more blatantly unhealthy options like chocolate or sweets. Low-fat yogurt, jarred pasta sauces, granola, flavoured milk, coffees, sports drinks, cereal bars - all these things are paradoxically associated with healthiness or sports.
But one thing links them all: they all taste great. And that's because they're full of sugar offering that short-term dopamine hit and energy spike, followed by an inevitable crash, which can cause weight gain due to the heightened calorific content of such foods, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as a raft of mental health issues.
"It’s not too late to cut down on the amount of sugar you eat daily," says Sam Turpin, Health Fitness Executive with Xercise4Less, who have a branch in Burnley. "I have 10 tips to help you cut down on your sugar intake."
- Reduce the amount of sugary foods you have in your cupboards: "Just get rid of them," says Sam. "If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. If you want to feel better about it, see if friends or a charity will take the products."
- Track your intake: "There are plenty of apps out there that help you keep an eye on how much you eat," he adds. "Set yourself a healthy limit and stick to it."
- Compare: "When buying, compare nutrition labels for sugar content."
- Go whole: "Predominantly eat whole foods, they are lower in sugar than processed," Sam recommends.
- Natural sugars: "If you have a craving, eat natural sugars such as fruit and honey, for example," Sam says, with such sugar sources also providing crucial fibre.
- Don’t go cold turkey: "Slowly reduce your intake over several weeks to a healthy level."
- Happy hours: "Set yourself certain times of the day where you are allowed sugary snacks and stick to it," he says. "Don’t over indulge at these times though."
- No processed: "Remove as much processed foods as possible."
- Protein! "Increase your protein intake, you will be fuller for longer and crave less," Sam explains.
- Do your food shop on a full stomach: "You are less likely to impulse buy."