Q. I want to lose a few pounds over the winter. Is cutting out refined sugar a good way to go?
A. If you are looking to drop a few pounds it is definitely advisable to cut refined sugar from your diet. Not only will you lose weight, but you will also see many improvements in your overall health and performance.
Refined sugar is considered one of the most harmful foods in our diet. The major drawback is that it raises insulin levels, which inhibits the release of growth hormones, which, in turn suppresses the immune system.
Refined sugar is simply a source of empty calories. Excess sugar doesn't only upset the body's mineral balance but also can provoke mood swings, an acid stomach, tooth decay, and contribute to weight gain and obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis, to name just a few unwelcome effects.
The recommendation for women is no more than 28g (7 teaspoons) of added sugar per day and for men no more than 34g (8 teaspoons) per day. However, this is fairly generous so I would suggest you aim for less.
On any food's list of ingredients, the higher up the list you find the sugar, the more sugar the product contains. Be aware that sucrose, glucose, glucose syrup, golden syrup, maple syrup, treacle, invert sugar, honey, dextrose and maltose are all added sugars. On labels, 10g of sugar per 100g is a lot, 2g of sugar per 100g is a little.
To overcome sugar cravings try to:
- Start your day with hot water and lemon - for many this helps to lessen sweet tooth cravings
- Add a half-teaspoon of cinnamon to your breakfast - this helps insulin to do its job of stabilising blood-sugar levels
- Balance your blood sugar effectively by eating regular, well-balanced meals
- Combine complex carbohydrates with protein (animal or vegetable)
- Reduce your food volume in one sitting
- Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea, cigarettes)
- Avoid sugar
If you have any doubts about the effects of sugar (sucrose), leave it out of your diet for several weeks and see what difference it makes.
Henrietta Bailey is a nutritionist who works as part of the Pure Sports Medicine team (puresportsmed.com). She specialises in sports nutrition and performance, obesity, cardiovascular issues, and diabetes and insulin resistance. She has worked with professional athletes and non-elites. She is a member of the Nutrition Therapy Council (NTC) and the British Association for Nutrition Therapy (BANT).