By now we all should know that refined sugar is bad for us. I asked Tim Joyce, co-founder of MixMyMuesli to delve a little deeper on the subject for us.
Refined Sugar. It’s a topic that the media seem to talk about daily. We see it on the news, on current affairs shows, in newspapers, magazines and all over the web and social media. It’s everywhere.
And this coverage is all for good reason. Refined sugar leads to tooth decay, vitamin and mineral depletion, hypoglycaemia (otherwise known as “the sugar blues”), diabetes and obesity.
It’s easy to discover whether the foods you are buying from the supermarket are being manufactured with refined sugars. You just need to simply read the back of the pack.
Sucrose, glucose, fructose, rice syrup, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, cane crystals and corn sweeteners are all ingredients that indicate that refined sugars have been added to the product to improve the taste.
So why do manufacturers use refined sugars to improve the taste?
It’s simple. Refined sugars are the cheapest way to sweeten the taste of food and beverages. And the manufacturers know that most people love the taste of sweet products. Plus, they are often very addictive.
If you check out Coles online, you can find 2kgs of Coles brand white sugar costs $1.80. That’s $0.90 per kilo.
400gms of Californian Walnuts cost $9.00, or $22.50 per kilo.
150gms of Goji Berries costs $8.80, or $58.70 per kilo.
As most manufacturers are more focused on profits than people’s health, it’s easy to see why so many foods found on our supermarket shelves are packed with refined sugars to improve their flavour.
So how does refined sugar added to your foods lead to weight gain?
There are multiple ways refined sugar does this, but today I want to focus on the role it plays in increasing the body’s production of insulin. Forgive me as I’m going to get a little “sciency”.
Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate human metabolism and energy use.
It is secreted by the pancreas and then travels in the blood to peripheral cells like muscle cells. Insulin sends a signal to these cells that they should put transporters for glucose onto their surface, thereby allowing glucose to get into the cells where it can be used.
When we eat food with a high glycaemic index (GI), our glucose levels go up. Excess glucose is toxic so the body rapidly releases insulin to get the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells. If we didn’t have insulin or it wasn’t functioning correctly, blood glucose would reach toxic levels.
One of the main functions of insulin is to send signals to our fat cells. Insulin tells the fat cells to pick up fat from the bloodstream, store it and to avoid burning the fat that they already carry. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, much of the energy in our bloodstream gets selectively deposited in the fat cells and stored.
Refined sugars have medium to high GI
Now here’s the big issue! Refined sugars all have a medium to high GI, which means they make the body release insulin faster than foods with a low GI.
When foods have refined sugars added to them, the overall GI rating will be increased. This means that any food or meal with refined sugar added would have a higher GI rating than a food without it. This will see your body produce more insulin at faster rates and more frequently – increasing the likelihood that your body is going to store fat, instead of using it as a fuel during your day to day activities.
Every meal you consume with added sugar is therefore telling your body to raise insulin levels and ultimately store fat. However, there are ways to stop the body from releasing excess insulin and lessening the likelihood of your body storing fat.
When shopping, choose foods that are as natural as possible.
For example, when choosing a breakfast option look for products that have whole grains, such as oats, barley, rye or triticale, with the addition of quality dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
These are all packed with fibre, which will lower the GI rating of the meal and significantly reduce the release of insulin by your body. When considering what to snack on, avoid the chocolate bar or lollies. Look towards fruit, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, which are all higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
They also have significantly higher levels of fibre, protein and good fats that will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
For a little science to back up my thoughts, consider a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition*. It found that brown rice and oatmeal could help you burn belly fat.
The study found that people who included three servings of whole grains in their daily diets lost 10 per cent more abdominal weight than people whose diets contained mostly processed fibre, including sugars, white bread and white rice.
Another easy way to look at what food options are good for us is to use the ‘eyeball test’. Name someone you personally know who is overweight and snacks on grains, porridge, fruit, nuts and seeds.
Now see if you know someone who is overweight and snacks on lollies, chocolate, muffins, cereals or sugar loaded granolas.
Avoiding foods with added refined sugars is key to maintaining stable blood sugar levels and keeping body fat in check. The next time you are shopping, read the ingredients list carefully. Your body will thank you for it!
MixMyMuesli, a healthier alternative
Muesli is one category where you need to be careful of refined sugars.
Alongside my co-founder Kris Veleski, we developed MixMyMuesli as a result of obvious gaps in the market for consumers who wanted a truly healthy and convenient breakfast option.
We found that many Australian muesli manufacturers were misleading consumers by promoting trendy ingredients or health slogans on their packaging. Despite sugar making up more than 35% of the ingredients in some popular brands.
The MixMyMuesli Healthy Start range has 100% no added sugars, syrups and oils. And contains premium dried fruits, nuts and grains to increase the flavour of the base muesli.
Each mix is low in kilojoules, and combines natural, unprocessed and nutrient-dense ingredients. Plus there are seven different mixes for Australian consumers with diverse health needs.
To learn more or to discover the perfect mix for you, visit www.mixmymuesli.com.au
* American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010