Victoria O'Sullivan Is Sugar Really as Sweet as You Think Interview
Consider yourself a healthy eater, but crave for something sweet most afternoons? Think that biscuit or sugary drink is doing you little or no harm? Think again. Leading Sydney-based naturopath Victoria O'Sullivan (www.victoriaosullivan.com.au
) warns that sugar is a health-damaging "anti-nutrient", with addictive properties that make it difficult to consume in small amounts.
"In large amounts, sugar is known to trigger weight gain, destroy the health of our teeth and gums, cause energy slumps, affect our immune system and indirectly lead to diabetes," Victoria says. "Sugar comes in many guises: from slow-energy-releasing complex carbohydrates where most of our sugar intake should come from; to natural fruit sugars, which we should consume in small amounts; to refined sugars that I recommend we all stay away from."
Reports from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reveal that Australians' consumption of sugar (50kg per capita per year) exceeds that of the USA and European countries. "Our excessive intake might be linked to our leading obesity and diabetes statistics," Victoria says. "Understanding the damaging effects of sugar will help demystify why we, as Australians, are vulnerable to lifestyle-related diseases, particularly the growing 'fat phenomenon'." Complex carbohydrates versus refined sugar
Complex carbohydrates are converted into slow-releasing sugars that provide sustained energy. This type of carbohydrate should supply about half the calories in our diets, and can be found in high-fibre foods such as vegetables, and starchy foods like bread and rice.
Refined sugars - such as table sugar and honey - provide only empty calories lacking in both nutrients and minerals. Refined sugar is an instant energy hit, which causes spikes in our insulin levels, making us hungry or low in energy within 1-2 hours.
Victoria says, "To avoid refined sugar, shop on the perimeter of your supermarket and stay away from all the packaged foods in the middle."
"If you fall off the wagon, don't despair. Guide your food choices with the 90/10 rule, where 90 per cent of the diet is focused on high quality nutritionally dense foods and 10 per cent is reserved for treats. This is important, because deprivation and fanatical food rules often lead to binge eating the very foods we are trying to avoid." Five Major Sugar Types
Glucose: Found in carbohydrates is quickly absorbed in the bloodstream, releasing insulin; a fat-storing hormone.
Dextrose: A form of glucose, often used by producers instead of glucose, as this has a bad ring to many people.
Fructose: Natural sugar found in fruit. Is processed by the liver, but if had in big doses the liver can't keep up.
Sucrose: Refined sugar known as table sugar. It's high in calories but has no nutritional value.
HFCS: High-fructose corn syrup is made from a chemical enzymatic process and is often found in packaged foods such as sodas and fruit-flavoured drinks.Top Five Health Damaging Effects of Sugar
Causes weight gain & increases risk of risk of diabetes - Sugar consumption stimulates the release of the fat-storing hormone insulin. "Most body fat results from excessive amounts of sugar and starch - a form of complex sugar - in our diets, that isn't burned off as daily energy output.
Cardiovascular disease - Excess sugar consumption is also likely to lower our HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and increase LDL cholesterol (the bad type), creating the ideal environment for plaque to build up on arterial walls. Clogged arteries not only increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also diabetes, heart attack and stroke."
Sugar causes premature ageing - Constantly raising our blood sugar through the use of sugary foods and drinks can cause a reaction in the body that triggers the production of molecules called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE). It is becoming more commonly understood in the naturopathic industry that elevated levels of AGEs in the body can lead to accelerated aging of your skin as well as vital organs.
Can cause a yeast overgrowth - A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can expose us to an unhealthy yeast overgrowth in our bowels, known as Candida Albicans. A yeast overgrowth can cause bloating, unexplained fatigue and cravings for sugar or carbohydrates. In many cases, a yeast overgrowth causes the liver to work harder to remove its toxic by-products, straining the organ excessively.
Weakened immune function - A sugary intake is likely to suppress our white blood cells (which fight bacteria and viruses), potentially weakening our protection against viruses. "Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, but did you know that sugar can disrupt the body's absorption of this important nutrient?" Victoria says. How Much Sugar is Enough?
Victoria recommends we stick to the following serves daily for healthy, average-weight person. "This level of sugar consumption - as well as a healthy breakfast - will stop or reduce those energy drops in the afternoon".
1-2 serves of carbohydrates (bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes) a day
1-2 pieces of fruit a day
6-7 serves of vegetables a day
Victoria offers a free consultant worth $207 - that's 45 mins long. Below is what is included in the consultation:
Complete health assessment including digestive, immune function and liver
Hormone balance assessment
Weight loss or gain assessment
Health Action Plan
Simple tips to help you feel better
For more information please see www.victoriaosullivan.com.au
or 02 9460 0479.
Interview with Victoria O'Sullivan
Victoria O'Sullivan (B.Bus; B.Sc; Dip Naturopathy) is a leading health expert, specialising in naturopathy, with more than 14 years' experience in the wellness industry. Her Sydney based practice runs programs focussed on weight loss, hormonal balancing and reducing stress. Victoria has also played a pivotal role in the establishment of family owned health-food chain stores - O'Sullivan Health Foods.Question:
What foods contain 'hidden sugars'?Victoria O'Sullivan
: You've got different types of carbohydrates; complex carbohydrates are bread, pasta and grains; sugar naturally occurs in complex carbohydrates for example the rolled oat in the muesli or cereal. Look at the ingredients list on a box of cereal for what the manufacture may add to the cereal including anything that ends in 'ose' such as sucrose and glucose which is added sugar and another sneaky one is Maltodextrin, anything that ends in 'dextrin' is usually a grain sugar such as wheat or starch or corn sugar.
Sugar is hidden in everything including tomato sauce, cans of flavoured tuna and yoghurt. What I say to my clients is "shop on the perimeter and leave all rubbish in the middle" because most of it has some added sugar. Question:
Is dried fruit good for you?Victoria O'Sullivan
: Dried fruit from my perspective is not good at all; you are better off eating fresh fruit. For example a single circle dried apricot is approximately half an apricot and most people will eat quite a few of them which is the same as eating a few pieces of fruit. The volume of dried fruit is misleading. The other thing is the concentration of sugar in the drying and fermentation process isn't very good for the digestive system and can cause a lot of bloating and gas. Question:
Is it best to stay clear of cereals that contain dried fruit?Victoria O'Sullivan
: Yes! If you're being super clean then dried fruit isn't the best option, if you want a cereal you're better off having a bowl of porridge with some fresh berries. Question:
What are the main negatives from consuming too much sugar?Victoria O'Sullivan
: I use the analogy of a fire when describing the effects of a diet high in sugar. If your metabolism is the fire, you need fuel sources to keep the fire burning; sugar (lollies, crackers, bread, pasta) are like paper and twigs - fast burning and inefficient fuel sources because you have to refuel every couple of hours which will cause you to consume a lot of calories to refuel your energy because it will drop very quickly. The other way to fuel the fire is with a burning log which is things like lean protein and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and other green leafy vegetables which keep you sustained and give you energy for longer.
Drops in blood sugar as a result of having a lot of sugar in the diet can really affect your mood, energy and can make you quiet tired, cranky and irritable. Question:
What should we have in the afternoon or when craving a sugary treat?Victoria O'Sullivan
: To overcome that afternoon need for a sugary treat or 3pm slump look back to what you had for breakfast and mid-morning because you haven't eaten enough good fuel source (good, slow burning carbohydrates or protein). A lot of people don't eat enough breakfast; you need to setup with a solid breakfast of poached eggs, spinach and avocado.
For an afternoon snack you could have half a cup of blueberries and some cottage cheese (or unsalted raw nuts such as brazil nuts, macadamias, walnuts or brazil nuts) which matches the sugar (fructose) from the fruit with a little bit of protein. Question:
What is the 90/10 rule? Victoria O'Sullivan
: It's what you do most of the time that matters. Going on a strict program where you cut all sugar out and you restrict yourself by nature you will fall off the wagon because it's too hard and you need to reward yourself. It's what you do 90% of the time that really matters; if you have the odd meal where you have extra carbohydrates or sugar that's okay you just keep going with your next meal.Question:
What healthy dessert suggestions do you have?Victoria O'Sullivan
: Cottage cheese and berries is ideal or natural yoghurt; berries are a really great dessert because the protein in the dairy products will help with the craving and the berries are a natural fruit.
Interview by Brooke Hunter