Keeping it healthy

What's the deal about sugar?

With Christmas just around the corner, some of us are starting to think of what yummy foods we can make for Christmas (at least I am!) I love looking through magazines at different dessert ideas for Christmas and coming up with a list of my favourites. Which often then has to be reduced from about 20 options down to about 3. This photo was from our 2016 Christmas dessert menu. My daughter and I had a lot of fun preparing this (and eating it!)

Sugar is one of those controversial dietary issues that many people get hung up on. Some people tell us that it is a silent killer, or that we should "quit sugar". Imagine if these statements were true! Our family, would not be able eat these beautiful desserts at Christmas or other special occasions (very, very sad face!).

However, these are very broad statements that when looking at sugar in general, is just not correct.

If you consider that sugar is a carbohydrate found in fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy products, we would be eliminating a large portion of healthy, beneficial foods from our diet. Not only that, many people find having strict rules around not eating certain foods eventually leads to breaking those rules and then guilt and self-condemnation.

Lets look a bit deeper into that question, "Is sugar bad for you?".

Our body needs glucose (a form of sugar) for energy and brain function. So, if our food does not supply glucose, it finds it elsewhere.

All foods containing carbohydrate, when digested convert to some form of sugar. Body proteins (ie muscle) also will convert to glucose when there is a very low intake of carbohydrate rich foods, which then can deplete your muscle, which can lead to muscle wasting.

As mentioned before, carbohydrates are found in grains, milk, fruit and some vegetables. In addition, sugar sweetened foods and drinks are high in carbohydrates. If you hear someone say, “I’m not having carbs” all of these are the foods they theoretically are avoiding.

The “quit sugar” movement appears to be mainly focusing on fructose. Fructose is the main form of sugar in fruit and honey. Even though the quitting sugar movement is referring to fructose in general, the studies they refer to, are talking about high fructose corn syrup [1]. This is corn starch that has been treated with an enzyme that converts some of the glucose into fructose [2]. This sugar is used in soft-drinks and other sweetened products. It is super sweet and is therefore supposedly used in lesser quantities to achieve the same result of adding more glucose.

quitting high fructose corn syrup and other processed foods with a high sugar content and very little nutritional value, is a positive step in improving your healthAs high fructose corn syrup is usually found in foods with very little nutritional value, it is providing kilojoules (or energy), with no other benefit. So, sure, . But fruit, which is also high in fructose, has many useful health benefits including being high in antioxidants, full of vitamins and high fibre.

A lack of fruit in the diet will leave the body potentially lacking in fibre (which is good for: keeping the bowels moving, maintaining a healthy gut and reducing bad cholesterol levels), also vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants (important for maintaining healthy bodies and reducing the risk of many illnesses and chronic conditions).

So if you are giving up on sugar, don’t “quit” fruit or other whole foods such as grains, vegetables and dairy (or their alternatives) as they are providing the body with the sugar and other nutrients it needs.

The recommended amount of fruit children from 9 and all adults should be consuming each day to provide the nutrients our bodies need, is only 2 serves [3] (Children under 9 need 1 to 1 ½ serves a day). As a guide, one serve is 1 medium apple, orange or pear; or 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits, or plums; or 1 cup of diced or canned fruit (no added sugar is a healthier option) [3].

So in conclusion fruit and other carbohydrate rich foods are important to include for good health. And remember, the occasional splurge at Christmas is not going to be the end of the world, if you are not doing it all the time! Take time to go for a leisurely stroll with your family and/or friends while you are on holidays and everyone is eating more than they need, and you will be offsetting some of that extra food!

If you would like help in finding evidence based dietary advice to avoid the yo-yo of dieting, a consultation with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) can help you reach your health goals. You can easily book in to see me (Michelle Fenner APD) at I do home visits* and Skype consultations. No need to leave the comfort of your home!

*within a 20km radius of Samford.


[1] K. Stanhope, J. Schwarz, N. Keim, S. Griffen, A. Bremer, J. Graham and P. Havel, "Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans.," The Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 119, no. 5, p. 1322–1334., 2009.

[2] E. Whitney, S. Rolfes, T. Crowe, D. Cameron-Smith and A. Walsh, Understanding Nutrition, South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning Australia, 2011.

[3] Eat For Health, "Australian Dietary Guidelines 1-5," 27 March 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 31 July 2016].

#sugar #fructose #fruit #dietitian #homevisits #AustralianDietaryGuidelines

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