Just a spoonful of sugar (might be making you really sick)

It’s estimated that more than 6% of South Africans are living with diabetes and around five million are pre-diabetic – with thousands more undiagnosed. The prevalence of fast food and hidden sugars in “healthy” foods has increased our intake of sugar considerably – and the results are shocking.

New research shows the intake of sugar amongst South Africans is on the rise, with children consuming between 40 and 60 grams of sugar per day, and adolescents, up to 100 grams. This represents between 5 and 20% of total recommended energy intake. It’s this rapid increase in sugar consumption that’s seen a sharp upwards spike in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and related illnesses.

Diabetes unpacked

Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells in the body don’t process and use insulin the way they should. This leads to sugar build-up in the blood. High blood sugar can cause permanent damage to your heart and blood vessels, eyes, nerves and kidneys.

Although there are factors that influence the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, there are several lifestyle factors you can control to ensure this doesn’t happen – and cutting down on sugar is perhaps the most crucial.

Making smart food choices and substituting sugar for sweeteners that don’t affect blood sugar – such as Canderel Stevia – is a simple step towards avoiding Type 2 diabetes.

High sugar high risk

According to dietician and nutritional expert, Nicola Walters, there are many damaging effects of eating a high sugar diet because when excessive amounts of sugar are ingested, cells are flooded with glucose which results in cell damage and the formation of free radicals.

Walters goes on to explain that this is known as ‘oxidative stress’ and can cause illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Oxidative stress, obesity and nutrient dilution (high kilojoule intake without micronutrients) are all stepping stones to the development of Type 2 diabetes. According to Walters, the way we’ve approached sugar consumption in the past needs to change drastically.

Living better without

Walters also explains that the foods we eat contain more than enough sugars to provide our bodies with energy – we don’t need to ingest any more sugar than we do from fruits, vegetables and carbohydatres.

She goes on to say that a balanced diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables, unsaturated fats, lean protein, whole grain carbohydrates and low fat dairy will provide enough energy to fuel adequate concentration and activity throughout the day.

Anything extra and sweet should be approached with caution – unless it’s a reliable sugar-substitute, such as Canderel Stevia or Sucralose.

A sweet alternative

Replacing the desire for sweetness with non-nutritive sweeteners can be useful and practical. Available in Sucralose and Stevia variants, Canderel Crunch is the perfect alternative for those looking to live sugar free. It looks and tastes just like sugar, without the kilojoules, and can be used in baking, cereals, smoothies and hot drinks.

Both Stevia and Sucralose have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are an easy and effective way to satisfy sweet cravings, without consuming empty kilojoules and glucose that’s damaging to the body.

Try these top tips for cutting sugar from your diet, to avoid Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes:

  • Avoid adding sugar to tea and coffee, and use non-nutritive sweeteners instead, such as Candere Stevia or Sucralose.
  • Add chopped fruits to cereal, instead of sprinkling sugar over your breakfast.
  • Avoid high-sugar altogether – even though it adds palatability, it’s not necessary in a healthy diet.
  • Avoid adding sugar, syrup and dressings to fruit and vegetables – add fresh herbs and spices for flavour
  • Examine labels for sugar content. If sugar is one of the first three on a list of ingredients, it indicates that it’s one of the most predominant ingredients. A food product is considered low in sugar if the sugar content is no more than 5g per 100g (1 teaspoon) or 2.5g per 100ml (½ teaspoon). A food product is considered almost free from added sugar if the sugar content is no more than 0.5g per 100g or 100ml.