Sugar diaries: what your sweet tooth says about you

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Sugar diaries: what your sweet tooth says about you

By Jane Clarke

December 02, 2019

anti-inflammatory, Cancer, dementia, diabetes

The spoonful in your wake-up coffee and the sprinkle on your morning cereal. The 4pm biscuit booster and the ‘I deserve it’ bar of chocolate on the sofa in front of a box set. Your sugar diaries showed the many ways – and reasons – we add a little sweetness to our day. But they also revealed the unwitting ways we overload our diets with sugar. ‘Until I looked at the food labels when filling in my diary, I had no idea my regular breakfast yoghurt contained so much sugar,’ wrote Maisie. ‘It was the same with the salad dressing on my lunch; I thought I was making a healthy choice but it’s like pouring pure sugar on top of my couscous.’

I don’t prescribe a diet that’s free from all added sugar – I believe that unless advised not to by a doctor, we should all be able to enjoy the occasional slice of cake or a gorgeous buttery biscuit. A homemade jelly or ice cream, or one of our Nourish Drinks, may contain sugar but they’re also filled with wholesome ingredients that provide essential protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. These help your body to absorb the sugar more slowly, so you’re less likely to experience the classic sugar high followed by the inevitable crash.

Many of your diaries showed the link between sugar and your mood. ‘I’ve fallen into the habit of eating a chocolate bar on my drive home from work,’ wrote Helen. ‘It started as a comforting treat at the end of a stressful day but it doesn’t fix the problem. Since writing the diary, I’ve started putting on a podcast to help me relax instead.’ John says he eats sweets when he’s watching TV, then is always surprised to find he’s devoured the whole packet. Marie told us that she turns to chocolate when she’s feeling premenstrual, then becomes even more irritable and snappy. That may be because women can be more sensitive to sugar’s effects at certain times during their menstrual cycle.

Being aware not just of what we eat but why we choose certain foods at particular times is the first step to making positive changes to our diet. Too much sugar is linked with greater risk of developing certain health conditions, including some cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. So make it an occasional treat, rather than an everyday one, and really savour and enjoy it when you do have it, rather than eating it mindlessly or out of habit. Try these tips to help you become sugar savvy…

Add protein and fibre to your sugar fix.These will help to slow down the absorption of sugar so your body handles it better. Try our Nourish Carrot Cake or snack on a medjool date and a few nuts.

Eat sugar with a meal. Having a pudding after dinner, rather than a chocolate bar mid afternoon or in the evening, 'cushions' the impact of sugar on your body, as above.

Do the sugar swap. Cinnamon, coconut shavings and dried fruit have a natural sweetness; add them to muesli or porridge instead of sugar or syrups.

Check the label.The amount of sugar in grams will be listed on the back of packaged foods. Rather than swap for low-sugar versions, which will use artificial sweeteners, go for foods that are unprocessed – natural yoghurt rather than flavoured versions, for example – or make your own meals when possible.

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