Sugar free for life

People often ask if it really is beneficial to cut refined sugar out of their diets. One reply is to ask them to compile a list of the health benefits of refined sugar (beet, cane and glucose). That list is always exceptionally short, the only answer generally being that it can be used as an emergency fuel source.


Glucose (the simplest form of sugar) is essential to life. However the ingestion of refined sugar is unnecessary as the body can obtain glucose from carbohydrate-containing foods like fruit, vegetables and cereals. In our primitive past we needed fruit to get necessary nutrients and fibre. Almost everything sweet was safe to eat, so by choosing sweet fruits, there was little chance of being poisoned; however our overall sugar consumption was very low. Even 200 years ago we ate an average of 4 pounds of sugar a year, but most of us now consume that amount in a fortnight! It takes thousands of years for the human body to adapt to new ways of eating; the result is that our bodies simply aren’t designed to handle the amount of sugar in the modern diet.

Obesity, dental caries, polycystic ovaries, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are just a few of the health risks associated with over-consumption of sugar, and despite our knowledge of a good diet, these problems are not going away. The number of Britons diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled since 1996 and a staggering 10% of the entire NHS budget is spent on treating this preventable condition every single year.

Maybe the reason we find it so hard to cut down is because processed sugar has been shown in many studies to be more addictive than opioid drugs, like cocaine. Cutting out sugar can also cause considerable withdrawal symptoms including headaches, depression and behavioural problems, so this needs to be managed carefully.

The other problem is that sugar is everywhere – as well as obvious added sugar there is also a huge amount of hidden sugar in processed foods; just look at the nutrient panel on pasta sauces, ‘healthy’ cereal bars and fruit yogurts. Some supermarkets even add sugar to packaged cold meat to gain a flavour advantage over their competitors. Following the introduction of the sugar tax in the UK most soft drinks and some foods have now had some or all of the sugar replaced with artificial sweeteners which – as well as adding to the chemical load that the body has to deal with - does nothing to retrain the tastebuds and instead keeps us craving more and more sweet foods and drinks.

It can take a few weeks to retrain the tastebuds so if you are keen to cut down on added sugar, start gradually and persevere. After a short time you will find that foods which you once craved are now too sweet for your taste and your diet will naturally become all the better for it. Your sleep patterns and energy levels will improve and no longer will you be reaching for sugary snacks throughout the day.


16 grams of sugar is equal to 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar.