In the 1980s fat was firmly blamed for obesity/being unhealthy and given all the bad press. We were told to trim all meat and avoid butter/full-cream milk/cream/avocado, and that eggs (especially the yolk) should be severely limited.

Despite this pervasive message, obesity kept climbing until, by 2016, 13% of the world’s adult population were obese (TRIPLE the number in 1975) and 40 million children aged 5-19 were obese or overweight.

Fast forward to today and science is finally pointing the finger at sugar, or more specifically ‘added’ sugar, as the real problem.

First a bit of History

Sugar is one of the world’s oldest ingredients, first recorded around 300 BC in Polynesia. In 510 BC India invaded the Persians and found sugarcane – “the reed that gives honey without bees” (such a great description!). In the 11th Century AD, Crusaders returned to Europe having discovered an exciting “new ‘spice” with a wonderful taste, that over the next few centuries became a valuable trading commodity.

In 1319 AD, the price of sugar in London was recorded at “two shillings a pound”, which in today’s money is more than $100 US per kilo – a luxury by anyone’s standards! In the 1700s, it became known as “white gold”, as only the rich and high-ranking people in society could afford it.

Today, there are sugarcane plantations all over the world (predominantly in South East Asia, and Brazil) whilst 80% of Australian sugarcane comes from north Queensland. As they grow, the plants make a simple form of sugar (glucose) as food – absorbing water and minerals from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air through the leaves. Any excess food is turned into sugar. This is then extracted via a highly complex process that leaves sucrose – a natural, sweet white substance.

Did you know?

Sugar itself is not bad. It’s an essential fuel and nutrient for the body. When eaten as a complete food or compound the body knows how to utilise it.

Sugar is an essential fuel and nutrient for the body

Jo Rushton, CHEK Institute

BUT when it’s added rather than part of a whole-food, it can become a problem:

Added sugar is any sugar that is added to food or beverages during processing, food preparation or at the table. It is distinct from naturally occurring sugars in fruit, vegetables or other foods that don’t have ingredient lists. There are 61 different names for sugar used in food processing that appear on ingredient lists.

Sugar Science – the unsweetened truth

Above right: an ‘old school’ advert for sugar recently shared by the Weston A. Price foundation … just shows how opinions have changed!

You may be surprised where you’ll find added sugar (it’s not just in the obvious cake and biscuits!) – try baked beans, mayonnaise, fresh cream, and many more; in fact up to 74% of packaged foods contain sugar.

So if we’re wanting to be healthier and reduce the amount of added sugar we consume, we need to be know some of the more common aliases – sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, cane juice, fruit juice concentrate and maltodextrin.  All of these have largely the same effect on the human body – sugar is sugar.

Too much ‘added’ sugar:

  • Strips the body of vital minerals 
  • Displaces the body’s acid and alkaline levels = inflammatory response (96% to 98% root cause of all disease) which leaches away vital nutrients
  • Increases cortisol response (‘flight or fight’ stress hormone)
  • Plays with blood sugar levels – creating a roller coaster of energy across the day
  • Can lead to mood swings – emotional and physical energy 
  • Poor mental performance – lack of focus, foggy thinking, monkey chatter.

The Good News!

The symptoms of too much added sugar can be reversed by choosing healthier alternatives that contain natural wholefood sugars, providing a good level of nutrition and satisfying that sweet tooth.

Everyone’s level of sweetness is different, ie what an individual can taste. The more sugar consumed in it’s complete form, the better.

Jo Ruston, CHEK Institute

Healthy Alternatives 

Here are some examples of natural whole-food sugars:

  • Fruit contains natural sugars and fibre that the body can use
  • Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes or pumpkin) – great to sweeten desserts
  • Raw, unpasteurised honey – full of natural nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, pollen and powerful antioxidants
  • Molasses – (a rich mineral based syrup, a by-product of sugar production) – many health benefits from strengthening the immune system and bones and providing relief from constipation, headaches and anaemia
  • Dried fruit – higher sugar content, but a better choice if eaten in conjunction with a good quality fat like coconut oil (to slow release of sugars into the blood) 

Take care if you are insulin sensitive though – be honest with yourself and listen to your body, as too much sugar (in any form) will likely trigger a craving/ stress response.

Be sensible and limit as much as possible your intake of processed and packaged foods.

Instead, include wholefood dishes for you and your family that provide sustained nutrition, keeping you all healthy and strong, with good levels of energy… and lots of taste!

Recipe suggestions

  • Coconut and Banana pikelets + blueberries (perfect afternoon snack) 
  • Chia Seed pudding + seasonal fruit like mangoes or peaches 
  • Choc Brownies made with nuts, dates or prunes (beautiful sweet texture) and coconut oil
  • Homemade ice cream using coconut milk alternatives, whole fruit and egg whites

Foods for emergency cravings

  • Teaspoon of coconut oil
  • Teaspoon of avocado
  • Handful of nuts (almonds, macadamias, almonds)
  • Small bowl of full fat yoghurt with frozen blueberries
  • Small smoothie – ½ avo, ½ banana, ¼ cup coconut milk
  • Chopped up carrot, cucumber, beetroot
  • Glass of kombucha


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