Nowadays, most parents understand sugar is bad for them and their family, but feel somehow protected by food labelling and the recently added traffic light system placed on the front of many packages. But in this blog, while we discuss sugar, we will also see that labelling is often very misleading. Even food with healthy" labels are often hiding heaps of sugar.  

Over the next two blogs, I am going to discuss two of the most common forms of sugar: glucose and fructose. While the molecules structurally are very similar and if over-consumed, the effect on our health is similar too, the pathways they travel and the side effects they can cause are very different.

Here are some fundamental basics of sugar. Table sugar is actually two sugars in one. It is half fructose (the sweet sugar you often find in fruit) and half glucose (the sugar found in potato, rice, pasta, bread). But there is a problem with both sugars when over-consumed. But let’s focus on glucose for now. All of the blood in your body, approximately 5 litres of it, can only hold around 1 teaspoon of glucose. Excess glucose is effectively a poison while travelling around our bloodstream and our body has to try to get rid of it quickly. Eat a 12’ subway and the bread will turn into around 15 teaspoons of sugar/glucose, and therefore you need to rapidly either burn it for energy or dispose of it. Drink a can of Coke and the body has to quickly deal with 7 teaspoons of glucose. Eat a jacket potato and you need to deal with around 10 teaspoons, etc.  

Do you want to know the real irony? Our bodies don’t need to consume sugar/carbohydrates at all. That’s right ZERO. While we must eat protein and fat to survive, the human requirement for carbohydrates is a grand total of ZERO. Did you know that there are remote Eskimo communities, where reportedly nobody suffers from cancer or heart disease and that high up in the Andes mountains there is a village where people regularly live to over 100 years old? These are far from isolated incidents: just go to any non-westernised community where they don’t consume processed foods and you will be amazed at how much life they add to their years. 

And here are the cold hard facts. Supermarkets and westernised food manufacturers make a lot of money selling highly processed sugar-laden foods and pharmaceutical companies make even more by producing drugs to mask their effects, so I think we can safely say, neither one is looking out for our or our children’s best interests. I personally feel embarrassed that it took me so long to wake up and realise that I was simply listening to what I was told, rather than thinking for myself – and there’s little comfort in knowing that I’m also not alone.

Potatoes, pasta, bread, cereals and rice all convert to glucose in the body, and when it enters our bloodstream, as we have seen above, more than one teaspoon can be dangerous. Excess sugar can lead to chronic illnesses. Period! It might be dressed up in fancy packaging, and often carry labels with misleading health benefits, but we need to realise our body was never designed to consume sugar in large quantities, all year round. 

Understanding the Label

I found this on a loaf of bread this morning. Look how on the label, the only thing that stands out is the nutritional claim of Vitamin D & fibre! What does not stand out is how 2 slices turn into more than 11 teaspoons of sugar (45.3g)! It does not highlight the salt, palm oil, soya, the rapeseed oil that is used in the production.

While I am on a roll (pardon the pun) about bread, or more importantly what bread has become – it’s more like boiled flannel these days. Did you know at the beginning of the 19th century, in Vienna, they introduced a measure for diabetics called BU. Have a guess what it stands for….go on…what do you think? It stands for Bread Units. Even back then, they realised that diabetics needed to restrict their carbohydrates intake. They figured out that half a bread roll, weighing 20 grams, released 12 grams of utilisable carbohydrates. So they called this one BU. 

Bread isn’t bread like it used to be. Most wheat in the UK is of course grown on a commercial scale. Despite whatever the adverts say, it's industrial, commercialised wheat, grown in a monocrop and therefore needs commercial fertilisers to be added to the soil, it's then sprayed with chemical pesticides and there are typically chemicals still on the grain at harvest time. Then it goes to the mill where it is refined into flour, with the germ and bran taken out. If you absolutely need to eat bread, try and get sourdough, at least it is fermented properly. Sourdough is the way bread was made until we designed the fast-acting yeast. 

What about brown bread over white bread if you are trying to lose weight? Or brown rice over white? Or Sweet potatoes over regular potatoes? Aren’t they better? Yes, but marginally. However, if you really want to unlock your true health potential and increase both your healthspan and lifespan, avoid them all. They are better for sure, but only in the same sense that one broken leg is better than 2 broken legs!

For the past thousand years, bread had only 3 ingredients, flour, yeast and water. Trouble is, the process to make real bread needs a good 24 hours, is quite labour intensive and when you need to sell a loaf for 36p, things have to change.  

Here are some hard bread facts to swallow! Bread is said to be bought by 99.8% of British households, and the equivalent of nearly 11 million loaves are sold each day. Approximately 60-70% of the bread we eat is white and sandwiches are thought to account for 50% of overall bread consumption. 

Average bread purchases are the equivalent of 60.3 loaves per person per year. And that’s just loaves. Add on top of that the fact that there are over 2000 subways, 2000 costa coffee, 2000 Greggs, and it appears everyone is eating bread constantly. Not only is it spiking our insulin levels and keeping them elevated all day, but it is also making the nation fat, fuelling diabetes and much more. 

By the way, it is also rotting our teeth! My good friend Dr James Goolnik is an award-winning dentist and all-round great chap, who does so much via his charity Dentaid to raise the awareness of how sugar affects our teeth. He explained to me, how our enzymes convert bread to sugar before it even leaves the mouth and is possibly now the UK's number one culprit for tooth decay! Plus, it appears there is now so much salt added, that bread is said to be the largest source of salt in the British diet. 

Sorry, I digressed a little, this blog is after all about sugar and not bread! This week we will just look at Glucose and cover fructose next week. 

Glycaemic Index

Now I know I have discussed the Glycaemic Index before, but I feel it’s worth revisiting. First of all, the name ‘glycaemic’ is derived from the medical term ‘glycaemia’ meaning 'the presence of glucose in the blood'. All carbohydrates (CARBS) receive a glycaemic index (GI) score from 1 to 100. The lower the number the better - or should I say, ‘less horrible’. A score of 1 is the lowest and slowest and 100 is the highest and fastest to convert CARBS to glucose (a type of sugar). Therefore, pure glucose obviously scores 100. However, it is not as black and white as the GI score might suggest, as it assumes we are only eating the food being scored in isolation and not combining it with other foods, which when bound together after digested may change the speed of conversion into sugar. 

The other limiting factor of GI is that it doesn’t look at portion sizes. There are some items with a fairly low GI score, where the portion sizes are by definition big and therefore still not recommended if we are either trying to lose weight or stay healthy. A more reflective index is the glycaemic load (GL). While GI is useful to know how quickly glucose will enter the bloodstream, the GL informs us how dangerous that load will be. 

The GL index is calculated simply by multiplying the typical grams of carbohydrates in a serving by the GI index for that type of CARB and then dividing it by 100. For an easy and comprehensive list, I have created a combined GI & GL chart. 

By measuring both the GI and GL, it is possible to calculate the equivalent effect of glucose level, compared to eating straight spoonsful of table sugar and who would do that!

Here is an extract from our food database and on our FREE Primal Living App (please download it now and if you can please leave a review). On our app, you will discover our entire food database (it's possibly the biggest on the planet). Type in any food and you will discover if it turns into sugar or not and if it does, exactly how much!

Identifying Sugar

While food manufacturers are clever and have all sorts of marketing spins, with a little knowledge you can spot the deadly white stuff even if it has been well hidden. On food packages, pretty much every word that ends in ‘-ose’ is a sugar. Maybe it’s a subliminal acronym for something like ‘other sugar exposed’, or buyer beware, ‘obesity sugar exists’. 

Dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose and sucrose are all simply different types of sugar. As well as watching out for the deadly ‘-ose’, treat all syrups with the same contempt. They are all high in sugar, with heaps of calories that offer minimal nutritional value. 

But why are there so many names? Well, it certainly isn’t to make it easier for you to identify the sugar! One reason for it is that on the ingredient list, it is a legal requirement to list ingredients in descending quantity. Often the sugar is the biggest quantity, but nobody wants to tell you that. So they intersperse small quantities through the list under various disguises.

Here are 99 Names Used for Sugar (and I am sure there may be more)

  1. Agave 
  2. Agave nectar 
  3. Anhydrous dextrose 
  4. Barbados sugar 
  5. Barley malt 
  6. Barley malt syrup 
  7. Beet sugar 
  8. Blackstrap molasses 
  9. Brown sugar 
  10. Buttered syrup 
  11. Cane juice 
  12. Cane juice crystals 
  13. Cane juice solids 
  14. Cane sugar 
  15. Cane syrup 
  16. Caramel 
  17. Carob syrup 
  18. Castor sugar 
  19. Coconut palm sugar 
  20. Coconut sugar 
  21. Confectioners' sugar 
  22. Corn sweetener 
  23. Corn syrup 
  24. Corn syrup solids 
  25. Crystalline fructose 
  26. Date sugar 
  27. Dehydrated cane juice 
  28. Demerara sugar 
  29. Dextran 
  30. Dextrin 
  31. Dextrose 
  32. Diastatic malt 
  33. Diastase 
  34. Dried oat syrup 
  35. Ethyl maltol 
  36. Evaporated cane juice crystals 
  37. Evaporated cane juice 
  38. Evaporated cane syrup 
  39. Evaporated sugar cane 
  40. Florida crystals 
  41. Free-flowing brown sugars 
  42. Fructose Fructose crystals Fruit juice 
  43. Fruit juice concentrate 
  44. Fruit juice crystals 
  45. Galactose 
  46. Glazing sugar 
  47. Glucose Glucose solids 
  48. Glucose syrup 
  49. Golden sugar 
  50. Golden syrup 
  51. Granulated sugar 
  52. Grape sugar 
  53. Gum syrup 
  54. HFCS
  55. High-fructose corn syrup 
  56. Honey 
  57. Icing Sugar 
  58. Invert sugar 
  59. Invert syrup 
  60. King’s syrup 
  61. Lactose 
  62. Malt sugar 
  63. Malt syrup 
  64. Maltodextrin 
  65. Maltol 
  66. Maltose 
  67. Mannose 
  68. Maple sugar Maple syrup 
  69. Molasses 
  70. Muscovado sugar 
  71. Nectar 
  72. Palm sugar 
  73. Pancake syrup 
  74. Panocha 
  75. Powered sugar 
  76. Raw sugar 
  77. Refiner’s syrup 
  78. Rice syrup 
  79. Saccharose 
  80. Simple syrup 
  81. Sorbitol 
  82. Sorghum 
  83. Sorghum syrup 
  84. Sucanat 
  85. Sucrose 
  86. Sugar 
  87. Sugar (granulated) 
  88. Superfine sugar 
  89. Sweet sorghum 
  90. Syrup 
  91. Treacle 
  92. Turbinado sugar 
  93. White sugar 
  94. Xylose 
  95. Yellow sugar

During this week, why not have a look at food labels and use them to increase your frustration with the packaged food industry. Doing this, often helps individuals to derive even more pleasure out of cooking, preparing and eating healthier real foods at home.

Sorry, no recipe of the week today, nor the usual closing features. It's Black Friday and I have been asked to go and do some real work! How inconvenient!