Sugar has been receiving lots of attention in the news lately, especially with TV chef Jamie Oliver’s drive for sugar tax. It’s no secret that most of us including our children eat sugar on a daily basis, but too much can be dangerous leading to serious health issues. Here at Tutor Doctor we want to help educate you and your kids all about sugar and the effects it can have on the body.
So.. What is sugar?
Sugar is a sweet substance that comes from plants, mostly sugar cane or sugar beets. These plants are harvested, processed and refined to resemble the white sugar we all know. It’s made up of two carbohydrates called fructose and glucose. It’s important to know that sugar has absolutely no nutritional value – no protein, vitamins, minerals or fibers.
Why do my we like sugar so much?
Studies have shown that sugar has addictive effects, as it triggers you to want and need it more, making it hard to give up. Eating too much sugar can change your taste buds, so that you start craving sweeter foods, making natural sweetness from fruits and wholefoods less flavorful.
What happens to our body when we eat sugar?
When you eat sugar, it enters your bloodstream extremely quickly as there aren’t any nutrients or fibers to slow it down. This then causes the glucose levels in your blood to rise.
Your body then needs to process the sugar. Your pancreas does this by releasing a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the glucose to leave your blood and help it enter your cells, often releasing a rush of energy.
If you eat lots of sugar, the insulin in your body has to work overtime to force the glucose out of your blood, to enable your blood sugar to lower. This can often make you feel grumpy, anxious, agitated, tired and wanting more sugar.
What short-term health effects does sugar have?
- Sugar will often provide a short burst of energy that can make you feel hyper but unable to focus properly.
- After your insulin has lowered your blood sugar levels you might be left feeling irritable and moody. You may also find it hard to concentrate and unwilling to learn.
- Too much sugar can also make you feel sick and give you a headache.
- Studies have shown that sugar can suppress our immune systems by making our white blood cells less able to engulf bacteria. This means you are more likely to catch colds and feel run down.
What long-term problems can be caused by too much sugar?
Eating lots of sugary foods can mean that you miss out on healthy foods that provide your body with the nutrients it needs like protein, vitamins and minerals. Refined sugar has also been linked to these health complications:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart Disease
How can I actively reduce my child’s sugar intake?
- Look out for hidden sugars in foods that appear to be healthy
- Combat sugar cravings with foods with protein and good fats
- Try sugar substitutes such as sweeteners or stevia
- Swap sugary drinks for fizzy water
- Always have healthy snacks on hand or in their lunch box. Tasty alternatives include nuts and seeds. These are high in fat and protein, which will keep your kids tummies fuller for longer.
- As sugar cravings are mostly connected to the pleasure we get when we eat it, a distraction such as reading, listening to music or playing a game will move your child’s thoughts away from eating bad foods.
So remember, even though your kids think sugar tastes yummy, eating it in moderation will reap in the benefits. Not only will it make them feel as though they have a lot more energy but they will also be able to concentrate better and learn more.