Sugar's link to heart disease
Sugar, a food commodity, is present in many foods. All carbohydrate foods contain sugars. Natural foods like fruits and vegetables, dairy and whole grains contain sugars. Natural sugars in these foods are ok. These food items contain fibres, protein, minerals and vitamins. Foods high in fibre and protein are digested slower, thus the sugars in them provide a steady supply to the body.
It is the added sugars that we are concerned about. These added sugars are usually found in processed foods like cookies or in processed meats like luncheon. They provide no nutritional value and cause health issues if taken in access.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), Singaporeans are consuming an average of 12 teaspoons of sugar daily, that's about 60g. More than half of the intake comes from sweetened beverages.
The American heart association recommends that women should limit their sugar intake to no more than 24g (6tsp), and men no more than 36g (9tsp).
What's the link?
It has been studied that people who consumed 17% to 21% of added sugars out of their total diet had 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Direct link between added sugars and heart disease are still not fully understood, but it is more of the indirect links that are causing the damage. Here is what excess sugars do:
Increased risk of obesity, which is a risk factor of diabetes. In turn increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke
Spiking blood sugars (and insulin levels), in turn increasing risk of obesity and heart disease
Stops triglycerides from breaking down.
Lowers levels of HDL, increasing levels of LDL
Increase blood pressure by increasing sodium accumulation in the body
May lead to fatty liver, which is linked to heart problems like valvular heart disease and cardiac arrhythmia.
Where are natural sugars found?
Sugars are found in a variety of foods. They are:
Fruits: All fruits
Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, rutabagas, carrots, tomatoes, beets, onions, peas, sweet corn
Dairy: Milk, cheese, yoghurt
Grains: Brown rice, bulgar, oats, buckwheat, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, barley
Where are the added/hidden sugars?
What should we do?
Now we know that excess sugars have an effect on your health, it's time to take some simple action to reduce consumption. Here are some tips:
Wean off your table sugar, syrups or honey when you drink coffee or tea, have breakfast cereals or pancakes. Start with reducing half the portion.
Drink water or fruit infused water instead of soda or canned drinks.
Eat fresh fruit instead of canned or dried ones.
Instead of adding honey or syrup to your cereals, add fresh fruit instead.
Have plain yogurt instead of fruit infused ones
Make your own sauce instead of using commercial ones (example tomato sauce)
Always ask for no sauce or less sauce
Eat whole foods instead of processed ones (example fresh meats instead of cured)
Ultimately, there are many ways to swap out the sugars. Most importantly, make good choices by always reading food labels.
Taking care of your health is important. Have your health checked routinely/annually. If you have not, contact us here.
Read on into our next post on food of the month: Leafy greens to find out what benefits they have for chronic diseases.