Tips on controlling sugar intake
This blog covers guidance on balancing blood sugar, and leads on from my blog ‘Thinking about sugar’ (so if you haven’t read that already, please read that first as this will make more sense).
Balancing your blood sugar is imperative to overall health, as well as keeping body weight in check and combatting the risks associated with chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. Carbohydrates, and particularly refined carbohydrates, are the fastest acting form of fuel for the body, and are great if we need instant energy (for example, immediately after exercise or sport). On the flipside, this injection of instant energy has a downside and your blood sugar can drop quickly following the initial boost, leaving you feeling tired, irritable and crucially, hungrier! This scenario is not good if you are sat at a desk all day or driving in your car for long periods of time. The graph below depicts this, and demonstrates the effect that the 3 categories of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) have on your blood sugar.
So how can you put this into practice and manage your blood sugar on a daily basis? Here are some tips to guide you:
- Consider cutting down (and eventually cutting out or eating very occasionally) refined carbohydrates – sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, pastries, white bread, chips (fries) and crisps.
- Reduce your intake of high GI foods, and stick to low GI options. A simple example is: switch your white bread for brown/wholemeal bread, white pasta for wholemeal pasta, and white rice for brown rice.
- Choose lower GI fruits. Fruit is an important part of a balanced diet because it provides a source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. However, fruit contains fructose and although this a natural sugar, needs to be controlled if you are to keep blood sugar balanced. Eat high GI fruits (melon, pineapple, bananas, papaya and dried fruits) minimally and opt for lower GI fruits such as cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and citrus fruits.
- High GI vegetables are also worth a mention, these are: white potatoes, sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips and turnips. Consider consuming other types of veg that are lower GI, and where possible swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes.
- Reduce your intake of sugary (and diet) drinks, these could be fizzy drinks, energy drinks, squash, or hot drinks with added sugar. Plain water, tea and coffee without added sugar, and herbal teas are the best drinks to consume. Even fruit juice is high in sugar, in comparison to raw fruit, and should be consumed occasionally.
- Check the labels on the foods you buy. If sugar (or a form of sugar) is on the list, and either in the top 3 ingredients or there is more than one type of sugar on the list put it back on the shelf, or consume occasionally, or if it’s a sauce why not make your own? There are many different names for sugar, so become aware when you read labels – some of those most commonly used are: maltodextrin, dextrin, fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose, rice syrup, honey, treacle, corn syrup, and palm sugar.
- Finally, don’t turn to artificial sweeteners as the solution to controlling sugar intake. Yes, they will serve to reduce your calorie intake, but they raise insulin levels in the same way as sugar does.
- Diabetes Support Forum UK. (n.d) Food conversion to glucose. [online] Available from: http://www.diabetes-support.org.uk/info/?page_id=438 [16/02/16]
- Fung, J. (2016) The obesity code: Unlocking the secret of weight loss. British Columbia, Canada, Greystone.