What The Food Series: Sugar

Way back at the start of November we, at SFYNS, hosted our final #WhatTheFood event of 2016 – exploring all things sugar. Sarah Duley reports on our event: 

‘Sugar has certainly been a hot topic this year and is obviously catching peoples’ interest as we had a decent crowd packed into the lovely space at Hula Juice Bar. After some casual catch ups and delicious smoothies the event began in earnest, with Janice Clyne of Nourished by Nature leading our discussions.

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Janice covered a range of topics and issues associated with sugar and our ever increasing consumption of it – and dished out some heavy statistics e.g. 70% of supermarket products contain sugar, sugary drinks deplete our immune systems by 40% and there are 7 tsps of sugar in an average tin of beans – a savoury product!!

We talked about ‘hidden sugar’; there are around 60 different names for what is essentially sugar and this means it isn’t always clear to the consumer how much sugar a product might contain. As a general rule, anything ending in ‘ose’, such as glucose, fructose, lactose, is a sugar but there are many more hiding in the labels. Food labels also don’t differentiate between natural and added sugar, adding an extra layer of navigation for even the astute consumer.

Janice explained that sugar has only one benefit – energy – but a whole host of disadvantages which take their toll on our bodies, our health service, our environment and our society – not to mention our pockets! Ranging from tooth decay – old news – to wrinkles (eek), heart disease, diabetes (rates of are increasing rapidly, and in younger and younger people), behavioural issues and obesity. Sugar also has more subtle adverse effects like dulling your brain (yeah!) and switching off the hormone lepton which makes you feel full – the crafty thing!

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Sugar doesn’t have a particularly glorious history, hangovers from colonialism still exist today, but until very recently it wasn’t eaten in large amounts by the masses. It was a treat for the rich – today it is the cheapest ingredient for the food industry. No wonder it’s in so many supermarket products and has so many names. Big food industry has a lot to answer for now sugar is undoubtedly a public health issue and so widely consumed. The sugar tax is something we didn’t have time to discuss but there are some useful articles listed below which explore what the sugar tax will do, how it could help and how likely it is to curb our appetite for sugar – the drug we’re all addicted to – to varying extents.

 

We finished the evening with some delicious tasters of refined sugar free cakes from Grams Edinburgh and I personally vowed to cut my sugar consumption (sweet tooth alert) – with a small caveat carved out for the indulgence that is Christmas! After all – moderation not abstention is the way forward.

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Further reading suggestions from Janice:

Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence

Bad Food Britain and Swallow This by Joanna Blythman

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan

Fat Chance by Dr Robert Lustig

Sweet, White & Deadly by John Yudkin

 

Further reading on the sugar tax:

Sugar taxes: A briefing – Institute of Economic Affairs

The Sugar Levy: A briefing – Institute of Economic Affairs

The answers to your sugar questions – Jamie Oliver (jamieoliver.com)

Sugar Shift: Six Ideas for a Healthier and Fairer Food System – Dr Ben Richardson, University of Warwick, published by Food Research Collaboration

Should the UK be concerned about sugar? – Victoria Schoen and Tim Lang, published by Food Research Collaboration

Sugar Tax Debate – UK Parliament (30th November 2015) Briefing for MPs– Obesity Action Scotland

Finally, I’ll finish with some guiding principles on sugar consumption from the fabulous ‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollan:

  • No 4. Avoid high fructose corn syrup
  • No 5. Avoid foods which have sugar or sweetener in the top 3 ingredients
  • No 9. Avoid ‘low fat’ products
  • No 35. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature (as they will be packaged with fibre) – don’t drink your sweets
  • No 39. Eat all the junk food you want but cook/prepare it yourself
  • No 60. Treat treats as treats – try the ‘s’ policy – no snacks, seconds or sweets unless on days beginning with ‘s’
  • No 64. – Break the rules once in a while “all things in moderation, including moderation”

This event couldn’t have happened without the generosity of the following – many thanks to you all:

Janice Clyne and her daughter Jenna @NourishedbyN

Susan and the team at Hula Juice Bar @HulaJuiceBar

Lewis and the team at Grams @GramsEdinburgh

Photos by Octoabi’

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