September 04, 2019
Sugar provides calories – 4 per gram – but they are empty calories, since sugar doesn’t contain any other nutrients. Too much sugar isn’t good for us, as it causes dental decay, may be a factor in the development of heart disease, it is linked to certain cancers and is suspected of having a bearing on low IQ. A diet high in sugar can also be a factor in promoting insulin resistance (insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels). This can mean that, over time, the effect that insulin has on the body is weakened, so that more and more insulin is needed to clear the body of unwanted sugars. Eventually this can lead to diabetes, and is one of the factors in the increasingly common adult condition called Syndrome X, a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
GI is a ranking of foods from 0 to 100 according to how quickly each food will raise blood sugar levels (factors such as fibre, fat and protein content influence how quickly they are absorbed into the body).
High GI foods:
Honey; sugar of all sorts; chocolate; sweet still and fizzy drinks, bananas, watermelons, figs, dried dates and raisins; mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, squashes, parsnips and swedes; white and wholemeal bread; rye-based crispbreads; couscous, rice cakes and wholegrain cereals (including bran flakes); popcorn.
Medium GI foods:
Grapes, oranges, fresh dates, mangoes and kiwi fruits; raw carrots, sweetcorn, peas and potatoes (apart from mashed); white and wholegrain pasta; porridge and oatmeal; wholegrain rye bread (including pumpernickel); brown and white rice.
Low GI foods:
Apples, pears, peaches, grapefruits, plums, cherries and dried apricots; avocados; green, leafy vegetables and most other vegetables (but see above); lentils and beans; soya products.
Should I cut out sugar from my diet?
Of course we need some carbohydrate (and that's what sugar is) because it is an essential energy source – but refined, processed sugar just isn’t necessary in our diet. For thousands of years of human evolution we didn't have any sugar, and physiologically we haven't changed from the cavemen and women so we shouldn't need it now.
There are lots of flavourings that you can use to add sweetness to foods – coconut shavings, almond milk, dried fruits, star anise, to name a few. If you want to cut back on sugar, you should also look at the glycaemic index (GI) of the foods you eat.