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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 cardiovascular 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.

The fructose contained in whole fruit is far less fattening, due to the naturally occurring fibre which acts to slow the conversion to fat. But even eating fruit in excess of 1 -2 pieces per day will tip your fructose consumption over the edge, especially the high sugar varieties such as grapes, watermelons, mangoes, bananas 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 you're 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 it's more bioavailable when consumed as whole fresh fruit.

Dried fruit is not a healthy substitute either, in fact I nearly keeled 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 bowl 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 bowl 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 book - Love Your Gut. Inside you'll find how to balance your diet with a mix of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates, in addition 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 addiction for life.

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