We get a lot of questions about the sugar content of our cereals so I thought I’d clarify my thoughts on the impact of sugar on our bodies and our health.
We’ve been taught to think of sugar as bad – sugar rots your teeth, makes you fat and causes diabetes doesn’t it? Well the trouble with this is that sugar is also the gold start fuel for our bodies. Glucose is one of the simple sugars and it is glucose that must be kept at a steady level in our blood to fuel various cells around the body. If blood glucose falls too low you would start to shake, feel disorientated and quite ill before eventually passing out. If levels run too high you won’t necessarily feel anything but the spikes of glucose in your blood do cause damage to blood vessels around the body. So keeping blood glucose in a set range is necessary for optimal health and well-being.
Glucose is a particularly important fuel for the brain so fluctuating blood glucose levels is not good for brain health and mood. When these things are considered we can see why from an evolutionary perspective we might be primed to seek out sources of glucose in food. Innately we like sweet things. Fast forward to today and there is no doubt many people are consuming way too much sugar, and sugar-laden foods certainly contribute to our growing waistlines. However I don’t believe that this means we need to eliminate all sugar from our diet. In fact what the glycaemic index research tells us is that often starchy foods – especially those based on white flour – are much worse for us than foods containing sugar. Starch is just long chains of glucose molecules and these are broken down in the small intestine and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose. Once in the blood stream your body doesn’t know whether that glucose came from sugar or starch – by this stage it’s all just glucose.
High GI foods by definition deliver that glucose to the blood much faster and therefore result in a far higher peak in blood glucose compared to low GI foods – regardless of whether we’re talking about carbohydrate in the form of sugar or starch. So to my mind there is no doubt that the overriding factor concerning carbohydrate-rich foods is the GI. We want to consume food that are digested and absorbed slowly, giving rise to small fluctuations in blood glucose that allow our body to handle the incoming carbohydrates easily. Now that brings us to Goodness Superfoods cereals. Yes the manufacturers add sugars to the cereal in the form of golden syrup and a little honey.
Digestive 1st has the highest sugar level not because more of these ingredients are added, but because this variety also has dried apple and sultanas added – foods with sugars naturally present. Now I have tasted BARLEYmax flakes on their own without sweetening and I can promise you that very few of you would buy these cereals in this form! By adding some sugar to sweeten the product the result is a delicious enjoyable breakfast cereal. I don’t object at all to sugar being used in small quantities to make a nutrition food more palatable. Otherwise very few people would be gaining the enormous benefits of the supergrain BARLEYmax.
I work closely with Goodness Superfoods and naturally I push them towards lowering the amount of sugar added as much as possible, but this has to be done without losing the taste. So rest assured that this is something the company are working on. But in the meantime what to keep in mind is that ALL of the Goodness Superfoods products are low GI and so have gentle effects on your blood glucose levels and you gain all the enormous benefits of the fibre, resistant starch, protein and array of micronutrients in the products. Concentrate instead on reducing foods based on white flour, or where sugars are added to products without a good overall nutritional profile - this is where you truly will get empty kilojoules.