Could I be addicted to sugar?
Well – no, not really. We humans love sugar. Some scientists think that it may even be an evolutionary thing – back in our mammoth-hunting days the more calories you could get, the better your chances of survival. So when we eat sugar, it feels good, and we want to keep it going – which is why a lot of us can’t stop once we start. This makes it difficult for many of us to cut down on sugar – we talk about “having a sweet tooth”, and lots of people feel that a meal isn’t complete without a sweet treat afterwards.
But cutting down on sugar is not actually much like giving up an addictive drug, where terrible withdrawal symptoms can make the going extremely tough. In fact, there is very little evidence to suggest that sugar is “addictive” at all. So maybe it’s time to stop letting sugar have power over you, and take charge!
Having Type 2 diabetes also means that your blood glucose is already too high, so it’s even more important to cut the sugar you eat down to a minimum. The good news is that cutting down on sugar is totally do-able, and can even be enjoyable: there’s a whole word of flavours out there to explore, and if you’re able to get your blood sugar levels down to a healthier level, you might even find you have more energy to enjoy life and do the things you enjoy.
Seek and destroy: how to find sugar in your food
Everyone knows that sugar is not good for your health, especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. Trouble is, added sugar tends to get hidden in processed food and drinks, so even if you cut out the obvious culprits like sweets and cake, you can still be getting sugar in other ways. For example…
Sugar by any other name is just as sweet
Different forms of sugar you might see on food labels include:
- Fruit sugars/juices
- Hydrolysed starch
- Invert sugar
- Corn syrup honey
- Fruit juice seems healthy, but is loaded with sugar and doesn’t contain all the fibre of the whole fruit. Don’t forget that smoothies, although often sold as health drinks, can contain a lot of sugar, so if you have Type 2 diabetes they may not be so healthy after all
- Honey is 82% sugar. Cutting down on sugar means cutting down on honey too – it’s not really a healthy alternative. Your body processes “natural” sugars in the same way as refined sugar – it’s all the same to your cells
- Ingredients lists on packet foods may include sugar by other names – they are produced in different ways, but they’re ALL sugar and provoke the same insulin response
- Habits are sneaky. You might be so used to putting sugar in your tea or jam on your toast that you forget to count it towards your daily intake
- “Low fat” versions of some foods are packed with sugar instead so they still taste good – yoghurts, breakfast biscuits and ready meals are just some of the places this extra sugar can lurk
So how do I reduce sugar but keep the flavour?
- You can reduce the proportion of sugar you eat by choosing reduced-sugar versions of your favourite foods
- You can also reduce the number of sugar-containing foods you eat by just not buying cakes and biscuits and so on – otherwise they’ll sit in your cupboard and tempt you
- Adding lime or lemon juice to food and drink can give it a real boost of zingy flavour, with very little sugar
- Fruit can be a tasty sweet topping for cereals, porridge, or even toast
- Making your own tomato sauce for pasta with just a tin of chopped tomatoes, some herbs and a bit of black pepper can save you loads of sugar, and it usually tastes better and fresher than the jars
- A little bit of cinnamon adds a sweet flavour to hot drinks – try it on a cappuccino or hot chocolate
- If you’re one of nature’s nibblers, you could try swapping a bag of sweets for something with more nutrients that’s still suitably “nibbly”: think almonds, pistachios, carrot, cucumber or celery sticks, olives, plain popcorn or pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Don’t bother with “light” or “low fat” foods like fat-free yoghurts or spreads. The fat is often replaced with sugar which is no good if you have Type 2 diabetes – they’re not necessarily better for you or lower in calories than their normal varieties