Sweet Freedom and the Inconvenient Truth

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Words by Lula Rose

We all love a yummy treat don't we?!

The sweet taste buds know no limitations. The evolution of homo sapiens as foragers has seen us develop a preference for sweet flavours. Naturally sweet foods such as fruits, grasses and flowers, are an important energy source for a scavenging primate .

Everywhere we go there are sugary treats reaching out to us, beautiful Instagram ready cakes in every cafe you pass, especially in trendy Brighton where I live. Pastries, croissants, patisseries, coffee shops, biscuits, chocolates. Rows and aisles in the supermarkets dedicated to sugar and sugar-rich foods.

However, it is now becoming well known in the field of Health and wellbeing that sugar is incredibly addictive. A study called 'Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward,' reports:

Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug sensitised and addicted individuals.
— Lenoir M et Al
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They state that the addictive potential to sweetness results from inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastes. Sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments low in sugars and therefore humans have not adapted to a food culture high in available sugars. The over stimulation of the sweet receptors in sugar rich diets generate an abnormal reward signalling in the brain, with the potential to over-ride self control mechanisms and lead to addictions. It is understood that addictive behaviours stimulate dopamine pathways which are associated with reward systems within the brain.

The people most at risk to the dangers of sugar within the population are children. The food industry directly targets children with advertising campaigns offering brightly coloured characters or prizes in cereal packets. We may joke about witnessing a child on a sugar high and then a sugar crash. But it is no joke, this phenomena is a serious issue for the population.


A study published in 2011, on the 'Correlation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sugar consumption, quality of diet, and dietary behaviour in school children,' found numerous studies on the negative effects of sugar on children's behaviour, IQ and health.

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In her article, Will today's children die earlier than their parents? Laura Grey, a BBC journalist, echoes a widely held view that this is the first generation of children who will not outlive their parents. This is due to an increase in diabetes, obesity and heart disease in children and teenagers.

Sugar and processed foods along with environmental toxins are playing havoc with the sensitive immune systems of children. A sugary children's party could have each child eating the equivalent of 100 teaspoons of sugar!

Do you know how much sugar your food contains?

Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar are in a soft drinks, sweets, a shop bought cake, biscuits and processed foods? Even supposedly ‘savoury’ foods often have colossal amounts of sugar in them.

According to the Public Health Collaboration there is 35g of sugar in a 330ml can of coke. 35g is the equivalent to 7 teaspoons of sugar.

  • 150g serving of basmati rice there is 10.1 tsp of sugar

  • 150g serving of boiled potatoes 9.1 tsp of sugar

  • 200ml pure apple juice 8.6 tsp of sugar

  • 30 g serving of cornflakes 8.4 tsp sugar.

  • French fries 150g is 7.5 tsp of sugar.

  • 120g banana is 5.9 tsp of sugar.

What about natural sugar in fruit such as fructose?

Nearly all sugars and natural sweeteners are a combination of glucose and fructose. Virtually every cell in the body can use glucose for energy, however fructose is only metabolised by the liver. Via several complicated enzymatic chemical transactions, this fructose is turned into triglycerides, a form of fat. These triglycerides in excess can cause non alcoholic fatty liver disease, and can contribute to plaque inside artery walls. This metabolic process forms Uric acid, which can turn off the production for nitric oxide, which helps to protect artery walls from damage plus free radicals, which contribute to cell damage.

Fructose consumption has risen since the late 1800’s from just 15 grams a day to up to 73 grams a day, and this increased fructose consumption has been linked to obesity, diabetes and non alcoholic fatty liver disease

What about ‘Sugar Free’ branded foods?

There are many food products which state they are sugar free. However, the sugar is usually replaced in these instances with artificial sweeteners which come with other health concerns. Even the trusted NHS has conflicting information regarding the safety of Aspartame, Saccharine and other artificial sweeteners. In America and the UK, research data isn't readily available concerning health and side effects of artificial sweeteners. There is a law in America that protects food corporations from having to publish data concerning the health and side effects of these artificial sweeteners. This research gets mired with conflicting messages and strong advertising, so the general public become confused. In order to access the research and information concerning health and side effects of artificial sweeteners, you need to know exactly which websites to search for.

Sugar and sweeteners also go under many different names which makes it hard for the consumer to know what they are buying.

Let's have a look at some of the artificial sweeteners

The most common sweeteners used in the UK are:

  • Acesulfame K, (to be avoided), is a synthesised chemical and is a known carcinogen, brand names - Sunett, Sweet One and Sweet and Safe,

  • Aspartame (to be avoided) also known as Acesulfame Potassium, APM and Aspartyl phenylalanine methyl ester, brand names NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal-measure, Canderel, Benevia, AminoSweet, NatraTaste. Aspartame is the most controversial of all the artificial sweeteners, it contains GMO as it is usually paired with maltodextrin which is made from GMO corn in the US. Aspartame  is linked to a whole list of health conditions and side effects. See the list in the National Library Medicine Index.

  • Maltodextrin (considered safe), found in many foods including 'healthy' crisps such as flavoured kettle chips and is made from GMO corn or wheat.

  • Erythritol (considered safe), brand names - Zsweet, Wholesome Sweeteners, Organic Zero, Zerose, Now Foods, Nunaturals, Swerve Natural Sweeteners, is made from GMO corn.

  • Isomalt, Brand names DiabetiSweet, ClearCut, Decornmalt and is usually made from GMO sugar

  • Maltitol (considered safe), also known as D-Maltitol, Dried Maltitol Syrup, Hydrogenated Glucose Syrup, Hydrogenated High Maltose Content Glucose Syrup, Hydrogenated Maltose, Maltitol Syrup Powder, brand names Lesys, Maltisweet, Sweet Pearl. It is usually made from GMO corn syrup unless it's an organic product.

  • Saccharin, (to be avoided), brand names Sweet'N' Low, Necta Sweet, Cologran, Heremesetas, Sucaryl, Sucron, Sugar Twin, Sweet 10. Usually paired with other sweeteners which contain GMOs

  • Sorbitol (considered safe), known as D-Glucitol, D-Glucitol Syrup, Sorbit, D-Sorbitol, Sorbol, sold as sorbitol, it is made from glucose and is sometimes made from GMO corn

  • Sucralose,( to be avoided), known as 4, 1, 6 trichlorogalactosucrtose, brand names Splenda, Nevella, Splenda contains dextrose and maltodextrin both of which are made from GMO corn. Sucralose is an organochloride, which are some of the most toxic substances on the earth. Sucralose is a synthetic additive made by chlorinating sugar. Its chemical structure is almost the same as the now banned DDT!

  • Stevia, is considered the safest sweetener, although the brand Truvia has 42 processing steps and uses toxic solvents during the processing. The only form of stevia that is safe is the the plant version not the processed version. Many Stevia brands contain other GMO ingredients, see above.

  • Xylitol, considered safe, known as Xylitol, the best version of Xylitol is that derived from hardwood birch trees, otherwise it is derived from corn which is usually GMO

    For more information on the above please go to https://myersdetox.com/complete-list-of-artificial-sweeteners/

That list is by no means exhaustive and only touches the tip of the iceberg.

How are we meant to navigate this sugar addicted food market?

Many moons ago before I realised that gluten and sugar were the main culprits for my depression and brain fog, I used to buy biscuits. I would not be able to stop eating them once they were open. The sugar sweet yumminess just too tempting and before I knew it I was feeling sick and had gone through a whole packet. Now I simply don’t buy them. One possible solution to sugar addiction then, is to simply not buy the foods that cause you harm. This is very simple, when in the supermarket, do not venture into the centre aisles, and ask yourself if you really want that sweet treat or if it’s your addiction speaking

What about natural sweeteners?

A friend of mine often says "I've made a cake, it's sugar free, gluten free and dairy free!". But have you ever eaten a cake, healthy or otherwise, without any sweetener? It's not tasty at all and will rely on some form of sweetness to make it palatable. These sweeteners, despite being ‘natural’ are still in essence sugar.

Natural sweeteners include: Date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, honey, coconut sugar.

They are generally perceived to be healthier than sugar because they are ‘unrefined’ and higher in minerals, (Although you'd need to eat a lot of sugar to get the mineral benefits. You are better off eating your leafy greens!)

Agave syrup started off being heralded as an amazing non GI sweetener, however it contains a whopping 84% fructose. Foods high in fructose are actually lower in sucrose. Sucrose scores high on the glycemic index. So although it is favoured by diabetes for not causing sugar spikes, it can cause insulin resistance and disrupts normal liver metabolism leading to higher rates of lipogenesis, high triglycerides, both of which can lead to heart disease and other diseases mentioned above. Avoid Agave!

Honey, best to use raw and unprocessed. Contains many minerals, vitamin C, antioxidants and phytonutrients. It is about 75% sugars, made of approximately half and half glucose and fructose. Despite its health benefits it isn't vastly superior to sugar in terms of its GI ratings and is still a sugar and should be treated as such. Heating honey over 40 degrees, denatures the honey and alters its chemical structure and according to Ayurvedic principles becomes like glue within the mucus membranes in the body and should never be heated and eaten!

Maple syrup can be heated, contains minerals and it is roughly half glucose and half fructose. It is a 'healthier' sweetener than sugar however it cannot be objectively labelled healthy.

Dates and date syrup; you can make your own date syrup by soaking dates in warm water and then blending on high to form a paste of the desired consistency. Dates are a whole food and contain fibre, minerals, some amino acids, making it a better sweetener than the others listed. However they are 75% simple sugars glucose and fructose. So moderation is key.

Coconut sugar is high in minerals, lower in fructose, but higher in sucrose, meaning it is higher on the Glycemic Index. Again use in moderation and as an alternative to sugar in recipes.

How much sugar should we actually be consuming per day?

According to the American National Institute for Health: 6 teaspoons for women, 6 teaspoons for toddlers and teens under 18, 9 teaspoons for men and 0 for children under 2. The NHS in the UK advocate similar guidelines. All their information and websites discuss the health benefits of drastically reducing sugar intake, this is across the board including alcohol, sweets and cakes, sweet fruits, high glycemic foods and carbohydrates.

Assessing your own relationship with sugar

If you are raiding your cupboards in the evening craving something sweet. Stop and ask yourself, what are your unmet needs behind that craving? Do you want sweetness in your belly or do you long for more sweetness in your life? These existential questions can lead you to do some soul and spirit searching to make some positive changes in your life that could lead to healing some areas of your life.

I recently stopped an addictive behaviour that wasn't serving me. Then I found myself seeking some sweet treats in the evening once my children have gone to bed. I've started to meditate on how I can bring more sweetness into my life, some of the insights and answers have surprised me! Try it for yourself.

Remember, the world isn’t going to end if you eat something sweet, food should never be the site of neurosis, but it’s worthwhile looking compassionately at our relationship with certain foods and behaviours to see which ones are really serving us, and which one’s are more unconscious habit/addictions that could be gently let go of.

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Lula is passionate about living life to her fullest potential, understanding the healing power of nature's gifts. Plants, clean water, clean air, sunshine and a daily practise. She loves to create amazing simple tasty food that looks good too, stimulating all the senses! Lula trained as a nutritionist in 2013. She specialises in, empowering people to make life changing decisions about their health and wellbeing. She has been following a clean live food diet for over 15 years. She has two daughters who have been raised on a healthy real food all their lives. She cooks for yoga retreats offering gluten free, refined sugar free, vegan and vegetarian food. Designing menus with gut health, digestion and simplicity in mind.

For enquiries and bookings go to lularose.me.uk

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