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Eat Yourself Healthy – Sally Joseph

Is sugar really the devil in disguise?

Is sugar really the devil in disguise?

The short answer to this is yes. In the twelve years I have been in clinical practice as a nutritionist I have told my patients of all the changes they could make to their diet, cutting out sugar would create the greatest impact on their health .

This is because sugar forms the basis of so much of our western diet and I’m not just talking about the obvious sources such as adding sugar to your morning coffee. I’m also referring to the hidden sugars that appear in so many processed foods now days. Even worse, manufacturers have been trying to fool us by disguising sugar under names that most of us would never have heard of, let alone would need a degree in food technology to understand. Names like maltitol, mannitol, polydextrose, sorbitol, inulin, HFCS short for – high fructose corn syrup – the most dangerous of all the sugars. The truth is if you’re eating packaged carbohydrate based foods, such as commercial brands of cereal, biscuits, ice cream, yoghurt, muesli and nut bars, bottled fruit juice, salad dressings and mayonnaises, condiments like BBQ and sweet chilli sauce and obviously any confectionary and soft drinks, you’re consuming the most dangerous form of sugar – fructose and that’s not to mention the obvious high carb foods like bread, pasta, rice, honey, maple syrup or agave and so on.

So what makes sugar so dangerous to our health and why are we only now starting to wake up to the links it has to nearly every degenerative lifestyle disease suffered in the western world.

Sugar becomes dangerous to our health when we consume excess amounts, in forms that impact on our appetite control hormones – desensitising the brains mechanism for telling us when we are full. The form of sugar most responsible for this is fructose – the naturally occurring sugar in ripe fruit, however the fructose in whole fruit is not the enemy I am referring to, but rather the processed form of fructose added to so many processed foods, we consume each and every day. Sugar is also highly addictive – as addictive as nicotine and some argue as much as heroin. Worse still we are feeding it to our children from the get go, when we introduce them to bottled fruit juice – nothing more than sugary water and a recipe for obesity, diabetes and cardio vascular disease later in life, not to mention a myriad of other chronic illnesses and behavioural problems.

The problem with fructose resides around the fact that it is converted immediately to fat by the liver, unlike straight glucose that is utilised by the body cells for energy. But even in this form, the body will still convert any unused portion to fat.

In its natural unprocessed form – whole fruit , fructose is far less lethal due to the fibre content slowing down the conversion to fat, but even eating fruit in excess of 1 -2 pieces per day will tip you over the edge, especially the high sugar varieties such as grapes, watermelons, mangoes, banana’s and pineapple.

Drinking fruit juice is no better than eating out of the sugar bowl either, thanks to the fact the fibre has been removed.  And if you think freshly squeezed fruit juice is the healthy option, consider this – it takes around 4 – 6 pieces of fruit ( or more if your buying a jumbo size from a juice bar) to make your average serve of fresh fruit juice and remember the fibre has been removed, so up goes the rate of conversion to fat right there. And if you have fallen for the trick of starting your day with a big glass of OJ as a great way to get your daily dose of vitamin C, your only being fooled by the manufacturer, as there’s more vitamin C in a whole kiwi fruit than an orange and its more bioavailable when consumed as whole fresh fruit.

Dried fruit is not a healthy substitute either, in fact I nearly keel over when I see so many mothers feeding their kids an endless supply of dried fruit followed by a fruit juice poppa and dried crackers, hell you may as well just hand them the sugar bowel and the same goes for the grown up’s who start their day with a processed brand of cereal, toast and vegemite, followed by a cheese and tomato sandwich at lunch, a few biscuits from the cookie jar, a couple of soy lattes, maybe a chocolate bar to get you over the afternoon slump, washed down with a bowel of pasta or rice dish at night and desert and if you’re really unlucky a glass or two of wine or beer for good measure.  A days food intake like this and you could be consuming as much carbohydrate as contained in nearly 7 cans of coke. So if you think drinking that many cans of coke is pretty insane, then you had better go back to the drawing board on your diet or listen up and get educated on what’s really good for you and will help you to shed that excess weight. You can find the answers and much more in my e-book Eat Yourself Health In 28 days.

Inside you’ll find how to balance your diet with a mix of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates, in addiction to quick and easy recipes, a healthy grocery shopping guide and digestive rehab and detox plan, to help heal your digestive function and get your body firing to become a natural fat burning machine and quit your sugar adduction for life.

My next post I’ll be writing about how fats are not the enemy when it comes to the battle against the bulge.

For more health tips and delicious recipes, checkout my e-book, Eat Yourself Healthy.
It's not just a healthy diet, but a way of life, so you can feel better than you have ever felt before .
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  1. Wow I had no idea sugar came in so many different forms or that i was eating so many hidden forms! This article has really opened my eyes. Think I better look at getting off the white devil. Any tips?

  2. HI Casey
    fresh coconut water from young green coconuts can be included as part of a low sugar, healthy diet, I personally have one every day, as not only are they a natural source of magnesium and potassium but the coconut meat is a rich source of healthy fat and great for adding to smoothies. See the link to my recipe below. So there is no need to hold back on the coconut water, just ensure its fresh as the bottled coconut water has been heat treated.
    take care

    Sally x

  3. HI Kate

    I will be posting an article about how to read food labels next week so stay tuned to find the answers to your question and more! Thanks again for reading

    Sally x

  4. Hi Sally,

    Can you please tell me your thoughts on coconut water in the context of its sugar content? Do you think it should be avoided by those on low-no sugar eating plans?

    Many thanks!

  5. Hi Sally, this was a really good post, as was the one you did on fats too. it really cleared up a lot of confusion i had about the different types and which ones were good/to avoid etc.

    i just had a question about nutrition labels and the percentage of sugars to total carbs. I thought i heard somewhere that the ratio mattered but i could never remember why or how much you would want. if sugar makes up most of the carb content is that good? or if it makes up only a small amount is that bad? or what is the remainder of the carbs then? or does it really depend on the product?

    thanks for helping with any confusion.

  6. Hi Hannah, great to hear your being so conscious when it comes to what you are putting in your body by eating organic. The new edition has just been completed but because you have already purchased 2 copies of the first edition I am offering the 2nd edition at $5, so email my PA linden@sallyjoseph.com.au and he will organise this for you 🙂

  7. Hi Casey
    you read my mind, I am planning on doing a post on Paleo diets as your right there is a lot of confusion surrounding this diet. The eating program I have devised in my booklet Begin A Healthy Life In 28 days has been designed from over 12 yrs clinical experience and 17 yrs of personal experience in formulating the right balance and combinations of carbohydrates, fats and proteins as well as information on digestive support to ensure your body is processing and absorbing the food properly. If you have not already, subscribe to my blog so that you will receive an email alert when I post on the Paleo diet. Take care and thanks for your comment

  8. Stevia is a great alternative to sugar and an extraction from a herb – Rebaudiuna, native to Paraguay. It has no calories and does not impact on insulin the way other sugars do, although it is 250 – 300 times sweeter than sugar so be sure to use sparingly as it has a nasty bitter after taste if your too heavy handed in serving.

  9. Hi Sally,

    Thank you so much for this great post, very informative. I have been reading a lot in the media about sugar and sugar-free diets so it was very timely. I am also hearing a lot about paleo diets. I was wondering if you had the time, whether you could please do a post on paleo diets/styles of eating. I would love to hear your take on them (in terms of health/safety etc) and to clear up some possible misconceptions out there!

  10. Hi Sally,
    Noticed when we were in Japan, that their food is really sweet, even the noodles etc, and I did not see one overweight Japanese person on the whole trip…and that included disneyland where the snack carts had peppered popcorn as a snack! (Much to my kids disgust) They also had hundreds of stores and vending machines full of little cakes, jellies and sweets. While talking to one of our guides and investigating online a bit, I found they use stevia as a sweetener in their food production. I have noticed that stevia and stevia blends are now available in Coles etc, is this a decent substitute to use at home if the family (read “man”) are resistant to giving up sugar?

  11. Thank you for your thorough reply Sally I really appreciate it!
    You would be pleased to know that I make sure all my fruit and veggies are organic, it is a necessity (:

    I have already two editions of Begin a Healthy Life in 28 days, and looking froward to your next edition.

    Hannah (:

  12. Hello Hannah

    thanks for your comment, you raise an interesting question. There is a lot of confusion around the sugar / fructose topic and it can be a little complex, but firstly I want to clarify the naturally occurring fructose in fruit, as mentioned in my post, is not nearly as bad as the form found in processed foods as long as you limit it to 1 – 2 pieces of fresh fruit per day, however it is true when you juice fresh fruit, removing the fibre, the glycaemic index or insulin producing factor rises and this is a problem when juicing more than 1 – 2 pieces of fruit per day. So the way you are incorporating fruit into your vegetable juice – only one small apple, is fine and not a consideration when it comes to fructose converting to fat easily. That form of fructose relates more to HFCS – high fructose corn syrup or other forms of sugar that contain high levels of fructose like sucrose (table sugar) – you can read more about this in detail in the new edition of my e-book Begin A Healthy Life In 28 Days – due out Wednesday.
    So keep up your green juice each day with one apple (organic I hope) and your are in no danger of consuming excess fructose or producing excess insulin this way.

    You may find a previous post I wrote about juice helpful too.

    Take care


  13. Hi Sally,

    Great article!
    I was just curious with what you said about the Oj juice, how the conversion to fat ratio is increased when fibre is not present. I have a Green juice every morning and add a small apple to the mixture of vegetables, therefore since I am not consuming the apple as a whole and am not receiving the benefits of fibre from the apple, does this mean I have increased the likelihood of the fructose converting into fat?

    Thanks (:

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