Why does sugar make us fat?
At the beginning of the month, we took a look at some of the fact, fuss and fiction that’s recently been written about sugar to explain why different types of sugar might be considered good, not so good and bad. Now read on to find out why some sugar turns to fat and how you can reduce your sugar intake… Immediately!
When it’s running properly, the human body is an incredible machine. But physiologically speaking, we’re not really designed to handle many of the things that make up our modern lifestyles… We’re not designed to sit all day. We’re not designed to look at computer screens relentlessly. And we’re not designed to eat processed foods!
The current backlash against food manufacturers is whipping up because so many modern foods contain added sugar. Many say this is perniciously addictive and present in volumes that our bodies can only handle by creating fat. In other words, food manufactures make money through deliberately encouraging sugar addiction at the expense – and expanse – of unwitting consumers.
So why does sugar make us fat? As you know, a great deal of what we eat and drink is useful to – or is turned into something useful by – our bodies. What we don’t immediately need, though, is either excreted by the body, or stored somewhere until such a time as we do need it.
As we discussed in the first Bob’s Bones of 2014, some sugars easily convert into essential energy – but much of it is typically stored as fat, supposedly for future use! And with different types of sugar being processed in different ways and at different speeds, it leads to long-term weight gain in a couple of ways: through erratic blood-sugar levels and through an excess consumption of food.
Sweet and Dour: Ever eat something sugary and then notice feeling tired soon afterwards? That’s because, after you eat sweet foods, your body releases insulin to process it. If you eat a lot of sugar, you need a lot of insulin. But after the insulin’s been released, your blood sugar level plummets again – and to a level that’s lower than it was before you ate! This makes you feel tired, and you quickly start craving sugary food again…
It’s a roller-coaster of sugar rushes and crashes! This is quite stressful for your body and creates – forgive the cliche – a vicious circle. As well as eating more sugary foods, we also often end up eating more food than we really need. To break the cycle, we have to consume less sugary food, eating more steadily throughout the day. In particular, sugar-dodgers need to beware at breakfast because if you get off on the wrong foot, the trap is already sprung!
What should I eat?
Well… Not to cop out, but it’s beyond the scope of this Info Sheet to address every reader’s diet needs. That said, we encourage you to find out more about eating sugar-free foods in a couple of books. Take a look at ‘I Quit Sugar’ by Sarah Wilson or ‘Sweet Poison’ by David Gillespie. That said, you should always check with your doctor before seriously adjusting your diet and remember: the issue of blood sugar can be a critical one. Get tested for diabetes and pay careful attention to any advice that your doctor gives.
All that said, if you want to cut down on foods that you know are very sugary, then here are some terrific tips that you can try straight away.
Purge your kitchen: We can all strike a blow against sugar cravings by making sweet foods less readily available in the home. Start by rounding up all the obviously sugary stuff – ice creams, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolates. Clear out the fridge and all of the cupboards. Of course, this is only one half of the strategy… You must also vow not to replace it all when you go shopping!
Eat your main meals slowly: What the heck’s this got to do with sugar? Well, succinctly put, it takes a short while for your stomach and brain to communicate with each other when enough food has been consumed. So any kind of diet benefits from slowing the pace of your eating, and paying more attention to the physical acts of biting, chewing and swallowing food. So switch off the television. Sit at the table… Take your time. And concentrate!
Put your cutlery down while you chew: This tip reinforces the above. The same applies if you’re eating ‘finger foods’. Put it down after every bite… It sounds silly but it really works! Keep an open mind and try it over the course of ten meals or so. Many discover that they really don’t want a dessert or sweet snack after they develop this habit!
Take a hike: Walking a short distance after you’ve eaten helps too. You don’t need to walk far or for long, either – ten minutes’ worth is plenty. Ideally, of course, one pictures this tip as being a brisk perambulation around relaxing grounds on a balmy summer’s evening! In truth, you could just walk up and down the stairs if it comes down to it!
Taste clashes: Here’s a lovely tip: if you still fancy a sugary food after all that, brush your teeth! The aftertaste is in distinct contrast to that of sweet food. For that reason, you’re unlikely to much fancy sugar anytime soon after scrubbing.
Avoid artificial sweeteners: Not only does some research show that sweeteners contribute towards a craving for sweets… It seems they may be linked to a higher risk of cancer, too. Not worth taking a chance when there are other ways to achieve the same thing…
Get up and fetch a drink of water: As you may know from previous Info Sheets, your brain switches from left-side dominance to right-side dominance every 90 minutes or so… This often – naturally – results in the feeling that it’s time to take a break! However, it seems that many people that do take a break aren’t sure why they’re doing it… And, usually on auto-pilot, they often fetch themselves a snack! The same is true when you’re thirsty: we’re sometimes confused as to what we think we want… So if you notice yourself suddenly wanting to eat something sweet, physically go and get a glass of water. A few minutes later, you may well discover that the enforced break or H2O were what you really wanted all along.
Try chai tea: It might sound like a martial art, but – in a tip similar to the above – Sarah Wilson’s book recommends making chai tea. The author says, “…the ritual of heating milk and adding cardamom, cinnamon bark, ginger, liquorice root and loose-leaf rooibos, then pouring cup after cup into a nice glass, makes for very happy times. The spices provide a sweet kick while killing blood-sugar craziness.”
If it turns out that you really do want something sweet, the fructose and fibre mix that you consume by eating fresh fruit is processed more healthily and effectively than many other food sugars. You’re also putting vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients into the body via food that comes just as nature intends! As we said in the last issue of Bob’s Bones, drinking juices or smoothies just doesn’t work the same way.
One of the very first health updates we sent out was on how some chocolate is actually quite good for you! If you missed it, check it out… And those of you that come to Back in Shape regularly will also know that we’re not the sugar police! If you really do fancy sweets – not fruit, water or a break – then make a meal of the finest quality, rich, dark chocolate you can afford! Concentrate on relishing the chocolate; indulge in the anticipation of eating a just couple of small squares… Focussing almost hypnotically on a little high-quality chocolate is a treat even the scientists can’t deny the majority of us. Read the chocolate Info Sheet here: https://www.sloane-square-clinic.co.uk/chocolate/
So there we go! As you become more aware of the amount of sugar that’s in the foods we buy and, indeed, begin to cut down a little here and there, you might become more interested in the nitty-gritty of all this! That being the case, remember the books we suggested earlier: Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ and ‘Sweet Poison’ by David Gillespie.
Sloane Square Clinic accepts no responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on advice in its Newsletters or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is and will always to be pop in and see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health!