Sweet peril

Sugar’s the new bad. Well ok, maybe not new but definitely bad, and the top choice of something to avoid if you want to be healthier, slimmer, happier, wealthier… It appeals to us because of its addictive properties, explained in some detail and complexity – and length – in Robert Lustig‘s now-famous talk Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Here’s a shorter, simpler version that explains the mechanics of sugar metabolism, and why it’s such a compelling taste:

If you’re wanting to cut back but are used to eating lots of sweets, you’ll have to re-train your palate to expect less sugar with each mouthful. Here are some suggestions for getting the sweetness you crave while minimizing the harm:

  • Be an educated consumer: read up on natural sweeteners. Some are better than others.. but they’re all sugar of some kind.
  • “Sugar-free desserts” are often in the realm of  ‘too good to be true’. They usually rely upon artificial sweeteners (bad!) or natural sweeteners (see above) so approach with caution.
  • Retrain your palate Cut the amount of sugar called for in baking recipes by 1/3 and taste; if it’s not sweet enough for you try 1/4 and then gradually reduce each time you make it. Raisins can add a little sweetness to muffins and cookies so you don’t need as much sugar.
  • Use naturally sweet foods as sweeteners: add a few raisins, fresh berries or some diced cooked sweet potato to your hot cereal instead of sprinkling on the sugar.
  • When you do need a treat, try to stick to high-fibre sweet treats, like fresh fruit or (strictly limited quantities of) high-fibre baked goods (Nairn’s ginger oatcakes spring all-too readily to mind).
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