Monday, 18 August 2014

The big, fat, sugar debate

We like to keep our ears to the ground when it comes to the latest health and nutrition news and lately there seems to be a big focus on sugar. Where we used to be warned about the dangers of too much fat in our diet, more recently the leading culprit being linked to the obesity epidemic in the West is sugar. The latest plan for cutting sugar out of your diet I’ve heard about is an 8 week detox plan.  A friend of mine is following this plan and has felt incredible results - more energy, more alert, weight loss and her tastes have changed. She no longer craves processed sugary ‘foods’ and feels great. For a shorter period she has also limited her fruit intake for a short time, which I couldn’t see myself doing as I think there are too many nutrients in fresh fruit and that it is excessive to deprive your body of those but more on the sugar in fruit in a future blog!

I heard recently that sugar is the most addictive substance on the planet, and I can believe it. I admit I’m an addict! You only have to google search ‘sugar addiction’ to find reams of information about the dangers of over-consumption: obesity, diabetes, increased cancer risk, heart disease. There is a huge amount of interest in the effect of sugar on our bodies, how much sugar we actually need and how the over-consumption of refined sugar is affecting our health, but one simple conclusion we can draw from all the current research is that refined sugar (found in table sugar, fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets – all the “fun” stuff!) is being massively over-consumed and is not good for us.

So it makes sense to reduce or even cut out refined sugar all together (I don't include fruit here which contains naturally occurring sugar as well as other nutrients and soluble fibre), but this is far easier said than done, for three reasons:
  1.         It’s addictive (some doctors say more so than cocaine and many of us are addicted to sugar and don’t even realise) – as you begin to cut it out you can start to crave it.
  2.         It’s readily available – I think more so than healthy options. Just stop at a motorway services or corner shop and you are bombarded with sugary snacks, drinks etc. You have to be prepared and know where to shop and where to avoid if you want to stay away from temptation.
  3.          It’s hidden in many foods – even more sneakily our trusty food manufacturers ‘hide’ it in foods beneath cleverly labelled ‘low fat’ and so called healthy foods which can actually be packed with sugar.
Below is a list of places it often hides, a few tips on checking labels and the current recommended daily intake. If like me, you are intending on battling the sugar I hope some of the following helps…

Common foods with ‘hidden’ sugars…
Low fat yoghurts, cereal bars, ketchup, some bread, ready-made sauces, reduced fat salad dressing, some flavoured coffees, baked beans and some refined carbs (such as white pasta) turn into glucose (sugar) in your body.

Other names for sugar (Sugar has many other aliases so check food labels before you buy)
Agave nectar, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, glucose, lactose, malt syrup, molasses – are all other names for sugar.

Our recommended daily intake
The new recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are that only 5% of your daily calorie intake should consist of added or 'free' sugars. This equates to approximately five-six teaspoons for women and seven-eight teaspoons for men – just for comparison one Snickers bar - contains 7 teaspoons of sugar.

If you want to kick the habit the sensible advice out there seems to be ‘don’t get drastic’. Experts suggest making small, simple changes to your diet that you can sustain over time. Eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water and eat less processed food. Cut out a little bit of sugar each week. After a few weeks of cutting back on sugar you will start to adjust and the cravings will subside.

Like my friend is experiencing you can retrain your taste buds. You don't need sugar as much as you think you do. Experts say if we wean ourselves off sugar, we can train our taste buds to enjoy things that aren't as sweet. Cut out one sugary food from your diet each week. Get out of the habit of having dessert after meals. Over time, you should lose your dependence on that sensation.

Tip: Add protein. High protein foods digest more slowly than high carbs, making you feel fuller for longer. It also doesn’t give you blood sugar spikes like refined carbs and sugars do. Healthy sources of protein include lean chicken or turkey, natural yoghurt, eggs, nuts or beans.

Sugar withdrawal: When you first cut back on sugar, you are likely to go through a withdrawal. You might feel tired, irritable or on edge, but this shouldn’t last too long – approximately two weeks depending on how quickly you cut it out.  The quicker you cut it out the harder the withdrawal but the quicker you’ll be free from sugar addiction.

Water - also don't forget some tips form our last blog on drinking plenty of water - staying hydrated will mean you only feel hungry when you really are and not when you're actually just thirsty!

I’m starting with cutting out treats/desserts after meals as my first goal, try whatever works for you – you know yourself better than anyone. Also knowing that you'll soon be free from your sugar cravings and on the road to better health can also be a real motivator. Good luck!

Ruth Worth
Clinic Receptionist

Friday, 1 August 2014

How much water should I drink?

With the weather continuing to be hot and steamy we thought it might be a good idea to have a review of your water intake. So here's a little recap on why you want to make sure you drink enough water.

When the weather is hot, we lose water through sweating to keep our body temperature stable and so we will need to replenish our water supplies more than we do when the climate is cooler.

We are all told water is essential for good health but why? Your bodies principle chemical component is water and makes up at least 60% of your bodies weight. In essence our actual structure floats in water. Water is held in all our bodily systems and is required for every chemical reaction that occurs. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, is required in the making of new cells, transmits messages to and from the brain and provides a moist environment for the nose, throat and ears.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration. A sure sign you are dehydrated is a dry mouth and this means your body will not be performing optimally.

So how much water do you need?

Water is constantly lost from the body via breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. So to keep our 60% we must replenish our supplies by eating and drinking. On average we need 1 litre of water for every 25kg of body weight, (in a temperate climate such as the U.K.). This however does not mean you need to drink litres of water daily! The water in your food counts too. Fruit and vegetables are very high in water as well as being full of vital vitamins and minerals.

Making sure you drink enough water can also help with back pain as the discs in your back - which absorb all the pressure from standing upright - have a high water content and if you are dehydrated these will not be able to absorb as much pressure and so you will take more pressure through the joints of your spine which can lead to discomfort.

Another hidden benefit of water is, that if you need to, water helps you lose weight! It is a natural appetite suppressant and helps metabolise stored fat.

Why and how does this work?

Without enough water your kidneys cannot function correctly. In essence the kidneys job is to filter out 'the junk' in our bloodstream, ridding us of toxic waste!

If the kidneys cannot work to capacity some of their load is dumped on the liver, which is also a detoxifier. However the livers primary function is actually to metabolise stored fat into usable energy. If it is doing the kidneys work it cannot do its own. The result-more fat gets/remains stored.

Moral of the story......Drink (more) Water!

Rachel Hodson MChiro DC BSc (Hons)  Rachel Hodson is a Chiropractor at the Octagon Chiropractic Clinic