What is it about sugar and refined carbohydrates that has recently been creating such a lot of media interest? It’s true that most of us love a sweet treat or two; a little bit of what you fancy does you good right? Well, that depends…
Paul Michael, consultant medical herbalist at Health Matters London, explains:
‘Sugar acts like a drug. When sugar is eaten it stimulates areas of the brain in a similar way to addictive drugs, promoting further consumption.
Studies have also shown that sugar and refined carbohydrates can affect immunity by reducing the ability of neutrophils [white blood cells] to attack & destroy bacteria.
Ingesting around 100g of sugar has been found to reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells by around 40%, which reduces the body’s immunity. This inhibitive effect can last between 2 and 5 hours.’
High levels of sugar consumption have also been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
How much sugar?
What does 100g of sugar or refined carbohydrate represent in the real world? Approximately 100g of sugar can be found in:
Two and a half standard size cans [330ml] of soft drink
Two king sized chocolate / candy bars.
So how much sugar or refined carbohydrate should we be consuming? It depends on the type of sugar – there are two kinds:
Free sugars – those added to food & drinks as well as sugar found in honey, syrups & fruit juices
Naturally occurring sugars – found in fruits, milk & vegetables
In July 2015 the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommended a maximum total sugar intake [free & naturally occurring] of 90g per day for the average adult.
It also recommended the following free sugar intake levels, which represent 5% of the average daily energy intake:
That’s not a lot of chocolate or soft drink…
Eating for health & immunity
The addictive nature of refined carbohydrates means once your diet becomes high in sugar it can be difficult to get off the ‘sugar rush super highway’ and break the habit.
Thankfully there are alternative sources of carbohydrate and other healthy foods that can help. Paul Michael elaborates:
‘Diet & lifestyle are very important in maintaining your immunity. This is an area that is often overlooked. In terms of diet it’s really important to cut down on sugar and refined carbohydrates.
I’m often asked about the foods that we should eat, those that support or enhance our immune systems. Fermented foods are excellent for improving immunity, for example sauerkraut, miso, kefir & kombucha.
There are also a lot of herbs that you can use in your cooking that have immune enhancing properties or even anti-viral / fungal effects. For example garlic; best crushed & used raw. Oregano & thyme are beneficial. Also star anise, an excellent anti-viral that formed the basis of Tamiflu drugs.
In terms of carbohydrates it depends on the Glycemic Index [GI] rating. High GI carbs tend to produce a rapid spike of blood glucose levels. Low GI carbs are slower release.
Ideally your diet should include less high GI carbs and more low GI carbs. Low GI foods such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato & buckwheat are ideal and also have a lot of beneficial nutrients in the husk or skin.’
We will be looking at diet & lifestyle in more detail in future blogs.In the meantime, please contact us on 020 8441 8335 if you need more advice or information.
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