Natural health with Megan Sheppard: In defence of sugar

Is sugar really as bad as we are made to believe? It seems to be the latest fad to quit all sugar from your diet, but I wonder if this is just another extreme from the clean eating movement?

Natural health with Megan Sheppard: In defence of sugar

You are quite right — just as fat was once the scapegoat for all health issues, it does seem as if sugar is now copping the blame for a whole host of chronic diseases, behavioural disorders, and excess weight.

It can be difficult to sort the facts from the hype when a substance is either widely maligned or touted as the next big thing!

The truth is that all sugar is not created equal — the science behind food technology has allowed us to manipulate a whole food into a substance that serves a variety of purposes, from added flavour to preservation.

Sugar is added to everyday foods in levels that add up quickly, and can appear in surprising foods (processed meats, crisps, canned foods, savoury sauces) as well as the obvious sweet treats.

One of the biggest culprits when it comes to sugar intake is not cakes, sweets, and biscuits, but sugar-laden beverages.

Whether it be fruit juices, sports drinks, or fizzy drinks and cordials, on average we are drinking far more sugar than we are eating.

There are those who argue that sugar is sugar, and it doesn’t matter what form you consume it in.

However, foods made using refined sugar are far more likely to be low in nutrients and fibre, and high in calories.

Sugar can be found as a monosaccharide (sucrose, fructose, galactose); a combination of two (e.g. sucrose = glucose + fructose); or the less refined polysaccharides (long chain complex carbohydrates such as starch, cellulose, and glycogen).

Natural sugars are the ones found in foods without being processed or isolated, refined sugars are those that have been processed, and added sugars are either natural or refined sugars that have been added into food products.

Raw and unrefined ‘healthy’ sugar foods such as pure honey can actually contain trace minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, although the big issue with over consumption of honey to replace sugar is that it is still high in calories and low in fibre.

It is certainly a case of using common sense — everything in moderation.

Fruits also provide naturally occurring sugar along with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but they also have the added benefits of fibre and relatively low calorie intake.

The fibre is important, as this helps to moderate blood sugar levels rather than causing them to spike.

Any time you are eating foods in their whole natural state, the sugars and starches are balanced out by the proteins, fats, fibre, and other components, whereas the process of refining sugars and foods in general comes at a nutritional cost.

At the end of the day, it is more useful to frame sugar in terms of moderation rather than outright banning all forms of sugar from your kitchen.

Consider the source of your sugar, how often you use it, and try to avoid or minimise added and refined sugars.

I have trouble with corns on my toes. I file them down using emery boards and pumice stone, but they keep coming back. Do you know how I can get rid of them permanently?

A corn is basically a callous that has developed a core and often has accompanying nerve pain. You might want to take a look at your footwear, as this can often be a factor in developing callouses and corns on the toes — soft, comfortable shoes that don’t rub will help, along with natural fibre socks that allow the feet to breathe.

Unfortunately, some people just seem to be more prone than others to developing this issue, perhaps due to an inherited physiology of the hands and/or feet. Improving your circulation helps.

You can do this simply by adding the ginger, cayenne, and garlic to meals, or brewing them as a tea.

Topically, it may be worth soaking your feet each evening and adding a half to 1 cup of epsom salts to the water.

Once you have soaked your feet, apply castor oil to the affected area and cover with a corn pad (you might need to tape this down so that it doesn’t slip due to the oil).

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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