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The truth about sugar

Posted by Danielle Harvey on 22 September 2023

woman holding a cake in hand looking at it confused Celebrations such as weddings are typically marked with something sweet – who would say "no" to a slice of cake? While there's nothing wrong with enjoying sweet treats, excess sugar is inextricably linked with poor health and is the possible cause of issues like inflammatory skin conditions and mood swings. None of which make particularly desirable additions to a wedding day!

The trouble is we can't do without it! The simplest form of sugar, glucose, is used by every cell in the body to create energy, so it's a vital molecule helping us to function. According to the NHS, we should be aiming for an intake of no more than 30g of sugar per day. Although, experts say that we unwittingly consume much more due to hidden sugars found in various foods. Such culprits include a myriad of favourites like pasta sauces, dips, ready meals, chilled meats, yoghurts and cereals, as well as carbohydrates including potatoes, pasta, bread and even vegetables like carrots.

Why is this a problem? Over time excess sugar intake can lead to more sinister health concerns such as type 2 diabetes. So, to find out how to look forward to a happy, healthy wedding day and beyond, County Wedding Magazines' beauty and wellbeing editor, Kelly Andrews, asked expert nutritionists Minal Sudra and Elizabeth Andrews from Wedding Wellness for some advice on managing the sweet tooth in all of us.

To find hidden sugars, review the ingredients in your food by using the traffic light labels on packaging, which indicate total sugars. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so avoid anything that lists sugar high up or switch to a sugar-free substitute. Watch out for alternative names for sugar like syrup and anything that ends in "-ose" (sucrose, fructose).

Whether it's a syrupy cocktail, a fizzy energy drink, or a glass of orange juice, certain drinks contain a shocking level of sugar that actually causes you to eat more than normal. Opt for water or tonic-based drinks that are not only lower in sugar, but will help keep your teeth healthy too.

No doubt sugar makes us feel good. It lights up an area of the brain that we associate with being rewarded, which is why sugar cravings can be hard to beat. Planning is key; if you like to snack, choose sugar-free options such as nuts, veg sticks and hummus or plain yoghurt with berries. Ensure your meals include complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to keep you full with more nutrient-dense foods. This is why dessert is served last!

A common mistake many make is to continue eating poorly if they don't put on weight. Body shape however, isn't always the truest indicator of health. Genetics and ethnicity play a big part in how we metabolise foods, so be mindful of what you're eating regardless of your size. Healthy on the inside equals healthy on the outside.

Foods like honey, maple syrup, jaggery, molasses and treacle are often considered healthier due to their additional benefits, such as vitamin, mineral and antioxidant properties. They are however forms of sugar just like the regular white or brown kinds, so be mindful of any source of the sweet stuff.

Fibre is found in all fruits and vegetables and is essential for gut health. The reason whole fruits are usually preferred over the juiced alternative is that fibre dramatically slows down the rate at which sugar hits the bloodstream, making it much more manageable for the body to store, while keeping you satiated. Fruit also comes with essential vitamins and minerals, making it a perfect alternative to processed sugary foods.

All food, including sugar, should be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. Pay attention to the total amount of sugar you consume and make better choices to avoid hidden sugars. This way, you can consciously enjoy sweet treats when you fancy. Being restrictive and associating guilt with food only causes confusion and emotional distress leading to further complications impacting long-term health. Knowing what's in your food will help you make better decisions for better wellbeing.

Wedding Wellness offers bespoke services for brides and couples to help you reach your health and wellness goals in the lead up to your big day. Always consult a professional if you have any specific skin concerns or medical conditions for personalised support. Check out www.wedding-wellness.co.uk

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