The sneaky ways of sugar

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Many of us have followed the advice to cut down on cakes, cookies, soda and candy. We know that sweets and sugary snacks add empty calories and are linked to obesity and tooth decay. We save treats for special occasions and look for sugar-free substitutes for our fizzy drinks. But our sugar consumption continues to rise.

The World Health Organisation recommends we limit our sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day, yet the average British adult consumes 15 teaspoons. Where is it all coming from?

Sugar is stealthy. It lurks in many foods under many different names. Everyday savoury products such as pasta sauce, tomato soup, baked beans and yoghurt contain surprising amounts of added sugar. One serving of Chinese takeaway can pack a whopping 88 grams of sugar.

When we eat these free sugars, they hit our bloodstream immediately, causing the familiar feeling of a sugar rush. This is quickly followed by a crash, leading us to crave sugar again. But there’s much more going on than these highs and lows. In fact, this vicious circle is creating more problems inside the body.

Refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potatoes release a surge of sugar in the form of glucose. The liver processes it into glycogen, but can only store so much before it begins to export it into the bloodstream. This stimulates insulin production as your body tries to move the sugar into your cells, causing your blood sugar to drop. All the excess sugar goes into cells to be stored as fat, while your pancreas works harder and harder to pump out insulin. Keeping this cycle going puts you at risk of insulin resistance and eventually diabetes.

In the form of fructose, sugar causes problems in a different way. When fructose reaches the liver, it is converted directly into fat. Unlike with glycogen, the liver has no storage limit on fructose. Excess sugars accumulate there, eventually leading to fatty liver disease or even non-alcoholic cirrhosis.

Yes, fructose is a sugar naturally found in fruit. But it’s important to keep in mind the quantity of fructose and the rate at which it hits the liver. Whole fruit is much better for you than juice, because the body needs to break down the fruit’s fibre and the sugar is slower to hit the bloodstream.

In Rose & Mary’s kitchen, we make sure that no refined sugars ever sneak their way into your meals. By making our condiments from scratch, we know exactly what’s in our dishes. And by using the best-quality ingredients and letting their natural sweetness come through, we don’t need to add sugar to trick the palate.

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