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A Nutritionist’s Guide to Cutting Sugar from Your Diet

by Voices Wellness 08 Sep 2021
Photo: Unsplash

Culinary nutritionist Caroline Chow shines a spotlight on reducing your daily sugar intake for better health and a happier mood. By CAROLINE CHOW; edited by SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

From Keto to Atkins, fad diets have come and gone. But beyond their hype, one thing remains consistent in almost all these diets—and that’s a focus on whole foods, blood sugar stabilising meals, and sugar alternatives.

Why reduce your sugar intake?

Whether you’re keeping up with the latest wellness trends, living with diabetes, or simply want to improve your overall health, there are many reasons to reduce your daily sugar intake. Sugar alternatives are especially helpful for those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or other inflammatory conditions. This is because excessive amounts of sugar in the body act as free radicals and can contribute to inflammation. Those who find themselves being “hangry” (read: hungry and angry) often could also benefit from more awareness around sugar intake as the feeling is often a result of a drop in blood sugar.

Photo: Unsplash

Bad versus good sugar

Now, that’s not to say that all sugar is “bad” as it’s a form of carbohydrates, which is the body’s main form of energy. What you want to avoid is a spike in blood sugars to excessive levels as this can contribute to accelerated aging, as well as symptoms such as poor mood and energy when blood sugar levels eventually drop. What one should aim for is stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Understanding the Glycaemic Index

This is where the Glycaemic Index (GI) comes in handy. GI is a list of foods ranked by how quickly they impact your blood sugar level. Foods are then assigned a GI score and the range that the score falls under then determines if it is within the low, medium, or high glycaemic food ranges. Pure glucose and white bread are used as benchmarks since both have a GI score of 100 and raise blood sugar levels the fastest.

The snippet above shows how some fruits fall on the index. You can see that those in the range of 55 or less are considered low on the scale, 55-69 are in the middle range, while 70 or higher are considered high GI foods. We should aim to consume foods found on the lower end of the GI (within the 55 or less range) the majority of the time.

Photo: Unsplash

Low GI foods to try

Fruits – apples, berries, cherries, grapefruit, oranges, plums, pears

Vegetables – tomatoes, green beans, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), carrots

Legumes – lentils, adzuki beans, lima beans, green peas

Sweeteners – try incorporating alternative sweeteners such as monk fruit, natural sweetener Stevia, coconut sugar, or coconut syrup. Both monk fruit and Stevia won’t impact blood sugar levels, while coconut sugar and syrup are ranked low in the GI.

Whole grain alternatives – many of the grains mentioned here, except for couscous, which falls within the middle range of the GI ratings

 

When enjoying higher-ranked GI foods, ensure that you supplement your diet with protein such as tofu, chicken, fish, beans, nuts, or seeds, as well as healthy fats such as avocado, nut, and seed butter or coconut oil. Doing so will slow the absorption of the sugar leading to more stable blood sugars, reduced inflammation, slowed aging, and better moods.

Read Caroline’s blog here.

 

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