A few weeks ago, the World Health Organisation cut its recommendated daily sugar intake by 50%. Whoa! If that’s not an acknowledgment of the dangers of sugar, please can someone tell me what is? The WHO now recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 g) of sugar a day. To put this in context, a can of cola contains 7 tsps, a bowl of Alpen has 5 tsps while a tablespoon of ketchup contains 1 tsp of sugar. And as it’s almost Easter, let’s throw in the ubiquitous 190g chocolate egg with over 24 tsps of sugar! Yup – it’s everywhere. Yup – we’re eating far too much. And yup – the whole area of sweeteners and food labelling is a minefield.
Now dubbed “the new tobacco,” sugar is finally being recognised as the single biggest contributor to modern-day malnutrition. If you missed last week’s BBC The Truth About Sugar, catch up here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05n2bn7/the-truth-about-1-sugar. Or, even more informative, Canada’s The Secrets of Sugar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDaYa0AB8TQ.
This week, one of our Kale & Cocoa community slipped me, hot off the press, a 65-page report on sugar prepared by Morgan Stanley. It made for bleak reading. While most people think only of the direct costs of ‘diabesity’ (the newly-coined term for obesity and diabetes), the Morgan Stanley report looked at the total cost to the global economy. Its summary? The diabesity epidemic poses a huge threat to future economic growth across the globe. Diabesity is no longer confined to the over-fed West – its fastest growth is now in emerging markets.
At the end of 2014, the European Court ruled that diabetes now constitutes a disability. 8.3% of the global population now has diagnosed diabetes, with an additional 175 million thought to have undiagnosed diabetes. We’re facing a world where ten per cent of the working population may be physically unable to work – and where those that can pick up the tab – a projected bill of $561 billion by 2030. Other than food manufacturers and some Pharma companies, there are no winners here.
We know sugar is ageing, addictive and potentially dangerous.* But what to do? Here’s what we suggest (and what we’re attempting in our own homes!):
- Buy and eat fewer sweet things (if they’re not in the house, you can’t eat them!)
- Replace table sugar with less refined sweeteners (sugar alternatives are a minefield – but panic not and read on):
- The more refined the sweetener, the fewer mitigating nutrients it has (if you’re going to eat sweetened food at least try and get some antioxidants, minerals, vitamins alongside – that means following the nutrition and ageing experts .. see my next point)
- The nutrition and ageing experts favour: Stevia; Zylitol or other sugar alcohols (ie Etythritol or Sorbitol – these are the healthy equivalent of artificial sweeteners but with added benefits, for example Zylitol reduces dental cavities in teeth); raw, dark honey (the darker the honey, the more nutrients it has, and raw means prebiotics); blackstrap molasses for its iron content; barley malt syrup; brown rice syrup; date syrup; evaporated grape juice and maple syrup (only buy pure maple syrup, not the blended stuff – we’ve all been caught out!).
- Ditch the artificial sweeteners and High Fructose Corn Syrup , AT ONCE! Here’s why http://blog.lef.org/search?q=sweeteners&submit=Goe
- Don’t be fooled by Agave (I no longer buy it) or Raw Organic Cane Sugar or Cane Juice or brown sugar – or processed food that contains them. They are heavily refined and the same as sugar…
- When you crave something sweet, take a short walk instead. A report out this week suggests a 15 minute walk is all you need to satiate your sugar craving. Read more here http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/291362.php
- Be careful when checking food labels – it’s not always easy to see how much sugar’s been added. If possible, avoid processed food (ready meals, tinned soup, biscuits, sweetened yogurt, cereal, bottled sauces etc). The only sure way to keep control of your sugar intake is to cook from scratch!
- If you’ve a serious sugar habit you’re struggling to break, check out mysugarhabit.com. It’s full of sound advice for the genuine sugar addict.
- Finally, don’t panic – if you’re following a healthy diet, doing some exercise every day, not drinking daily colas and sugar-sweetened tea or eating daily Mars bars, a little bit of sugar every now and then won’t hurt you! According to Morgan Stanley, the Swiss have one of the world’s highest per-capita rates of sugar consumption but relatively low rates of diabesity – allegedly because of all the physical activity they do (although I reckon it’s the cheese!)
Most of us reach for sweet things when we’re tired, stressed or depressed. Try this fabulous, energising treat instead … Naturally-sweet Medjool dates, cinnamon, cocoa, almonds and coconut on a slice of wholemeal or sour dough toast. It’s barely a recipe… but it’s fast, delicious and sweet. And an awful lot nicer than an Easter egg! Otherwise check out some of our sugar-free treats here and here.
DATES ON TOAST (serves 1)
- Slice of wholemeal or sour dough bread
- Coconut oil
- 2-3 Medjool dates (stoned and preferably not the dried ones)
- Pinch of cinnamon and pinch of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp toasted, flaked almonds
- Optional: Date syrup and toasted dessicated coconut or coconut flakes
Toast a slice of wholemeal or sourdough bread. Spread it with coconut oil. Slice 2-3 Medjool dates and place on top. Sift over a little cocoa powder and cinnamon (you only need a pinch of each). Briefly dry roast the flaked almonds and coconut (if using) and scatter over. Drizzle with a little date syrup.
You won’t find anything more delicious, I promise!
*According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, too much sugar can lead potentially and indirectly to: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder, liver disease, osteoarthritis, respiratory and gynaecological problems.