The benefits of a sugarless diet

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Monday, February 13, 2017

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ELIMINATING sugar from your diet, especially if you have a sweet tooth, can be quite difficult. This is due to the highly addictive properties of sugar, which are almost synonymous in nature to cocaine addiction. But fighting the temptation, even if it means that you will cheat a few times, has great benefits, according to dietician and nutritionist Jenelle Solomon.


"Research has shown that the eating habits of the western world, which Jamaica is a part of, are [mainly] sugar-related. In fact, if you should remove all items with sugar, only 20 per cent of items would remain on supermarket shelves. The reason for this is that sugar, generally glucose, is found in a myriad of foods, for example pasta, canned vegetables and even grains," Solomon explained.


Solomon was quick to point that while sugars don’t add value to the diet, all sugars are not equal, and artificial sugars in particular actually cause more harm to the body.


"Most foods found in the supermarket have glucose, while other products such as dairy contain lactose. However, the sugar that is of most concern is the table sugar that is used in the production of your soft drinks or used to sweeten your teas. It is 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose."


Fructose, according to Solomon, was formerly found in just a few foods, but now many foods are manufactured using this sugar, even though the body has not developed an efficient way to deal with it or metabolise it.


"To put things into context here, someone on a 2,300-calorie diet (which is normal) can develop heart disease, diabetes, gain excess weight and develop an insulin resistance just from having 40 teaspoons of sugar daily or even a little less," Solomon explained.


How do people who decide to commit to a sugar-free diet stand to benefit?


It’s a great anti-ageing therapy


Sugary foods are the skin’s enemy. The collagen proteins in the skin are very adhesive and when sugar molecules attach to them they become inflamed and are compromised. This results in the skin losing its youthful appearance and becoming dry and creased.




Wards off diseases


Sugars play a pivotal role in the development of many harmful diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, you could begin to develop a fatty liver, which incurs risks of insulin-resistant diabetes, more triglycerides in the blood which will result in blocked arteries and subsequently heart disease.


Less fat build-up/less stress on the metabolic system


When we consume foods with fructose or sucrose, the body deals effectively with the glucose portion, but as for fructose, it turns to fat. This fat accumulates and creates what is called visceral fat, which is fat around the organs (thin on the outside, fat on the inside) which subsequently causes a range of metabolic diseases.



Aids in managing weight gain


Too many sugary foods in the diet over an extended period of time encourage the resistance to insulin, which triggers the body to store extra fat and slows down metabolism. Additionally, sugars also encourage overeating. This is because sugary foods influence leptin — a hormone key to controlling and managing glucose storage. Weight gain as a result of this is seen around the waistline.




Improved sleep


When the blood sugar is regulated, this promotes good sleep patterns and gives you consistent energy which will not be drained as quickly as with sugar consumption. Regulated insulin diets promoted by consumption of whole foods in the absence of sugars also reduce fatigue, meaning you can focus more, and by extension improve brain function.




Improved oral health


Sugar is bad for your teeth. Most of the bacteria that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health complications are caused by sugar consumption.


Solomon said that while 25 grams or six teaspoons per day is safe to consume, avoiding sugar altogether is perhaps the best alternative. It is tempting to overindulge because most foods — even those perceived to be healthy — contain sugar.

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