By Shanna Patel
My eyes widen in mild horror when somebody tells me they’re ‘not really a dessert person’. I suppose life would be a lot simpler if I did not like sticky toffee pudding and couldn’t bear the thought of cheesecake. But I love dessert. In a restaurant, I inevitably find myself looking at the sweets before the starters, to decipher between starters or pudding. Desserts and cakes are made up of two key components: sugar and fat. Instinctively, I would have thought that the fat is more culpable, more damaging to my health. Dating back to the 1980s, we’ve been brainwashed about the dangers of saturated fats, how they lead to clogged arteries, high cholesterol, and heart disease. In the 1990s, we heard about the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, rather than saturated fats like butter. And while people made significant changes, replacing butter with low fat spreads, full-fat milk with skimmed, cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer of men and women in the UK.
There’s no doubt that one explanatory factor for this is that we live much more sedentary lifestyles. Indeed, nothing can replace exercise and activity when it comes to overall health. But there’s another aspect that needs addressing, sugar. As many of you know, I have long argued, and there’s an increasingly popular school of thought that considers sugar to be the real danger.
The predominant reason for this is that our bodies are perfectly capable of producing sugar on their own, so we don’t need to consume it at all. When we consume carbohydrates, they inevitably converted into sugar. So why are we consuming more?
One reason, I believe, has been the well intended ‘5 a day’ campaign; it made us think that by drinking litres of orange juice, we were doing well. I’m not surprised when I hear that a 350ml can of Coca Cola contains the equivalent of 10tsp of sugar. But I shudder to think that the same amount of apple juice contains the same if not more. The reason for consuming fruit is being lost in the haze of health and wellness. We require the fibre and nutrients from these fruits, which juice cannot offer.
Some would argue that sugar should be labelled as a drug and while it sounds extreme, I do agree it is addictive. I believe we have become far too used to sweet foods. Cakes and chocolate bars used to be a weekly indulgence, but everyday drinks like coffee have metamorphosed into white chocolate mochas and gingerbread lattes, and are equal to a dessert on their own. Adverts present us with sugars in fruit yogurts with levels of sugar comparable to a piece of cake, I’m seriously not joking.
I’m certainly not advocating cutting sugar out of our diets entirely. Moderation and balance are key, but I do think rethinking sugar consumption is worthwhile. Eating an apple is infinitely more nutritious (and filling) than a glass of apple juice. I think it’s time to go back to our roots, to the unrefined, the unprocessed. And if we do go back to how humans used to eat, and indeed how active humans used to be, we’d be far healthier for it.
Shanna Patel is a UK born food blogger currently living in the USA.
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Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.