Diet & Nutrition

Gemma McCaw: why you should cut down on sugar and how to do it

Because you're sweet enough.

Former Black Sticks captain Gemma McCaw has made a career out of being fit and healthy, so she knows a thing or two about wellness. Each week Gemma shares her tips on how to live healthier, from getting started on your fitness to how to increase your water intake. This week she gives her advice on cutting down on sugar.

Sugar is delicious – there’s absolutely no denying it. It’s also extremely abundant in our lives, more than most of us even realise.

Excess sugar consumption increases the risk of us developing obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it also impacts on our mental health, mood and quality of life.

It’s these health issues – along with the daily struggles of mood swings, skin breakouts, fatigue and depression – that mean we need to drastically curb our sugar intake.

While we often think we’re eating healthily, many foods contain hidden sugars, so it’s worth reading the labels.

The daily recommended intake is just six teaspoons of sugar, the equivalent of what’s in one glass of orange juice! If you can dial back your intake of sugar, you’ll see and feel the amazing benefits.

It’s better for your mental wellbeing

While mental health illnesses cannot be attributed to sugar, studies show that diets high in sugar can impair the body’s ability to cope with stress, therefore making you more susceptible to problems such as depression and anxiety. When blood sugar levels drop, you can feel anxious, moody or depressed.

Try substituting a sugary item for a healthier alternative to satisfy your sweet craving and to feel more balanced throughout the day.

Stable energy levels & mood

When you eat sugar, you create a hormonal response like a rollercoaster. Sugary treats send your blood sugar levels soaring, followed by the inevitable crash that leaves you in a slump, fatigued and craving more sugar. By focusing on healthier foods and stabilising your blood sugar levels throughout the day with less sugar, you will feel more energised and sharper, rather than experiencing peaks and troughs in energy.

Better skin

Cutting back on sugar doesn’t stop the ageing process, but it can help slow it down. Research suggests sugar increases inflammation, breaking down the fibres in collagen and elastin, which are proteins we need for smooth, firm skin. A diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin C will also help boost collagen production, and it can reduce your risk of developing acne too!

Weight control

Reducing sugar can help you maintain a healthy weight. When we consume food and drink that is high in sugar and empty calories, it doesn’t satisfy hunger – rather it leads us to eat more throughout the day. We overeat sugar when we are tired as our bodies are looking for a quick pick-me-up. So drink lots of water, sleep more and look to consume more whole foods that will give you the nutrients you require. Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar at 3pm, keep healthy snacks like nuts or vegetable sticks and hummus at hand.

Swap sweet cereals for porridge

Forget about sugary cereals – kickstart your day with plain cereals or porridge.

Swap one scoop of chocolate ice cream for 3 bliss balls

Goodbye, tubs of ice cream – hello, healthy bliss balls.

Swap sugar for stevia

Hold off on white sugar wherever you can – even in baking. Choose recipes that use honey or stevia instead.

Swap a caramel frappe latte for a trim flat white

Ditch heavy, overly sweet coffee and order one made with low-fat milk and no sugar. Better still, switch to espresso.

Swap coke for sparkling water

Swap juices and fizzy drinks for water, sugar-free soda and juices with no added sugar.

Swap wine for vodka

Wine can really add to your waistline. Lay off the booze or choose something lower in sugar, such as vodka and soda.

Swap biscuits for an orange

Say no to mid-afternoon chocolate biscuits and yes please to fresh fruit.

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