TheGo asks our local, qualified and respected nutritionists a question that has been puzzling you. This week it’s about that sweet stuff that’s found in so many of the things we love to eat. Sugar has been dubbed ‘sweet poison’, but is it really that bad?
If you have a food query for our expert panel to answer, please email [email protected].
Mitch Smith – Health Management
In a world where protein is king and sugar is the small little goblin on the outside trying to break through the front gates, it’s just easier to conform to the masses and accept the fact that sugar is evil, right?
Everywhere we look there are new products coming out with higher amounts of protein and fat and no sugar, but when we actually stop and think about the bigger picture (that being total calories), it’s not as it seems.
Of course we want to consume as minimal amounts of sugar as possible, but blaming one nutrient (sugar) is not the answer. Sugar can be found in yoghurt, milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, muesli, oats; the list goes on. If we were to cut out all sugar, we would be eating meat for breakfast lunch and dinner. We would also be putting our bodies at risk of being deficient in vitamins B, D, K, folate, fibre and calcium for a start.
Sugar can be a big source of unnecessary calories and the goal should be to focus on reducing ‘excess’ sugar, not all sugar, along with total calories. Choosing wholemeal and wholegrain breads and cereals in small quantities is a great way to ensure you are consuming enough vitamin and minerals and not leaving yourself feeling flat and fatigued.
About Mitch Smith
As an accredited dietitian and accredited sports dietitian; it’s Mitch’s mission to debunk as many nutrition myths as possible. He works with elite professional athletes from a range of sports such as triathlon, body building and football, as well as the Cairns Taipans NBL team (don’t hold that against him!). Mitch has a passion for helping men lose weight and get fit and healthy. He practises what he preaches and translates complicated nutritional jargon into easy-to-understand advice. Mitch has just completed his first Half Ironman in Cairns.
Hannah Gentile – Eat Well Australia
What is sugar exactly? It is carbohydrate – fruit, vegetables, grains, pasta, and rice – one of the most essential food groups in our diet. Sugar gives us the energy to complete our daily activities and fuels our muscles when we exercise.
For decades the advice from professionals was to lower fat consumption. This drove food companies to find alternative flavour enhancers for their products. Thus ‘low fat’ higher sugar products were born, such as ‘diet’ yoghurts and fat-free desserts. Chronic disease diets, such as Atkins, started to pick up popularity due to publication in the mainstream media. They rode off the back of our increasing waistlines, citing the ‘obesity epidemic’ and sugar consumption as being linked. In reality, research suggests that the 50/50 combo of fat and sugar is most appealing – after all, you wouldn’t eat a block of butter on its own or a bowl of sugar; however mix them and you have the base for most baked goods – much easier to be eaten in excess.
My advice? Look at the types of sugars you are eating. Instead of refined simple sugar you tend to find in processed foods, opt for complex ones that are made up of more than one type of sugar; such as wholegrains and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates take longer to breakdown and digest, leaving you feeling fuller and less likely to snack. They also tend to contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, making them an excellent source of nutrients for a healthy body.
About Hannah Gentile
Hannah Gentile has a Masters of Nutrition from Deakin University. She has spent the past 10 years working in the fields of behavioural science, health, and nutrition with women and children across New Zealand and Australia. Hannah decided to focus her nutritional background on women and children after experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. Addressing the need for good quality information, especially for mothers, Hannah is determined to provide a service women can turn to during the most important stages of their life.
Brie Salagaras – Compleat Nutrition
Sugar is not poison, nor is it the sole cause of ill health in today’s society. Excess caloric intake is the largest contributor with 60% of Australians overweight or obese.
Obesity is closely associated with the majority of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health disorders and eating disorders. Theoretically an individual could eat sugar all day long and consume less than their energy needs and would still lose weight. It wouldn’t be at all healthy, or sustainable, but they would lose weight.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that there is sugar in the form of carbohydrates in nearly everything we eat: breads, cereals, rice, pasta, dairy, vegetables, fruit; the list goes on. We require a wide variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups to live a happy healthy life. Without carbohydrate-containing foods we wouldn’t have a source of glucose to fuel our muscles and brain (carbohydrates break down into glucose), and without glucose we would die.
Given that we need a form of sugar to survive; I feel it’s fair to say that sugar plays the complete opposite role to poison in the body. But in excessive amounts it can result in increased caloric consumption and, therefore, an increased risk of obesity and disease. In summary, sugar isn’t the problem it’s the dose found in today’s current diet that’s the problem.
About Brie Salagaras
Brie has studied a Bachelor of Health and Exercise Science, Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certificate of Diabetes Education. She is currently completing another masters degree in Exercise Physiology Chronic Disease Rehabilitation. Brie is a strong advocate for a holistic approach to a healthy living and incorporating both a healthy diet and exercise into each and every day.
The information provided is general in nature and should not substitute any health or medical advice. Please consult a qualified professional to assist with any specific conditions or queries. The opinions expressed as those of the individual columnists. You know the drill…