The sugar balance

There’s been quite a lot of talk in the media recently about sugar, how to avoid it completely and the ways it’s detrimental to your health. Any sort of sugar. Understandably, there’s a lot of confusion around this subject and a lot of conflicting information on the airwaves and the internet. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple, all inclusive answer to the question of “how much sugar should I eat?”. Let’s try to explain a little bit about the complexities of sugar.

Most of us know that feeling when you eat something you know is very rich in plain old sugar, you immediately feel good – for a moment. We also know how it makes us feel afterwards. Crash. Burn. Tired. Sluggish. Hungry.

How to avoid feeling that way? Knowing what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat to keep your blood sugar balanced is the key.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates are generally classified into two types; simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Put more simply, there are three different types of carbohydrate: sugar, starch and fibre.

Most carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharides, or single sugars for absorption. Some types of sugar will enter your bloodstream faster than others. The role of the carbohydrates is to provide a steady and readily available supply of energy to the brain and the central nervous system. Carbohydrates can either be used immediately or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, a starch that maintains blood sugar levels.

Complex carbohydrates provide a more slowly releasing source of fuel for the body as they take more time to be digested. Any monosaccharides that have been eaten, are simply absorbed through the wall of the small intestine, as they require no digestion.

In order to maintain a good balance of blood sugar and therefore an energy balance, eating foods that contain complex carbohydrates (like green vegetables, wholegrains and foods made of them, beans, lentils and peas) a little bit at a time with plenty of water in between.

Sounds simple? It can be. Be sure to include some fibre rich food sources at every meal (for example oats, bananas, apples, root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, wholemeal bread (watch out for the sweetened versions) and nuts and seeds). And oh, try to avoid simple sugary things like cake, biscuits and sweets that will make your blood sugar behave like a rollercoaster. Balancing your blood sugar will influence how you feel overall, so stay strong, you'll feel the difference soon!

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