By Sarah Leung, Holistic Nutritionist and Dietitian
Low carb low sugar….It doesn’t look like the buzz of it is going away any time soon…
In the last few years, low carb, low sugar, sugar quitting, fructose and similar terms have been very popular. I must admit, as a conventionally trained dietitian. I was secretly hoping this was a myth and one day the whole low carb thing would be forgotten as soon as another fad appears. Well, it took me some time to realise that what I was taught at uni was not applicable to what’s happening with the obesity epidemic today, and I am grateful for making that decision to be a private practice dietitian to see first hand what’s really going on in the society. Especially with my recent involvement of a research role and my strong interest in integrative medicine. In the last two years, I have definitely changed my way of practice and learnt to be flexible and open minded.
Anything food and nutrition related always strikes my interest, so on the weekend I went to watch That Sugar Film (I couldn’t wait till the DVD comes out).Going into the movie, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I did expect there to be some quite extreme and biased opinions and comments that might make me roll my eyes.
The documentary is about an adventurous guy named Damon Gameau. Damon wanted to experiment how his body would cope with switching from a diet with predominately healthy fats, protein and mostly vegetables as carbohydrates to a diet that was mainly highly processed carbohydrate based foods (with both diets containing similar amount of calories). These highly processed and packed full of hidden sugars foods are normally perceived as ‘healthy options’ such as low fat flavoured yoghurt, breakfast cereals, cereal drinks, fruit juice and muesli bars etc…
In 60 days, his liver enzyme was elevated which could lead to insulin resistance which is the first sign of diabetes, his cholesterol (especially triglyceride, the type of cholesterol that makes your blood sticky) was also elevated. His waist line increased, weight increased and more importantly, his mood was also altered. Well, as a nutritionist I know this is not a surprising result and it is expected. A film like this is a great way to open people’s eyes, just something new for people to get a new prospective about their diet. And, it is quite entertaining too. Having said that, nutrition consults are irreplaceable because everyone is different, our body is different, our needs and medical history is also very different.
The film demonstrated how much hidden sugar is in our food supply chain and how quickly our body can adapt and survive a way of eating in a very short period of time. Yes, bad habits can build up very quickly and vice versa, if we have a strong enough ‘why’ to change our eating habit for the better, it shows that we can definitely do it too!
As a dietitian and nutritionist, I continue to support, inspire and educate people to take one step further to living a healthy life. Here’s a few tips and takeaways for you to think about:
- hidden sugars are everywhere in our food supply chain: muesli bars, cereal, sauces, juice, sweets, crackers etc…
- look beyond any health claims as they often don’t reflect on the real nutrition value of a product
- look behind marketing tactics e.g. low fat, fat free, reduced fats, salt and sugar….
- reduce overall refined carbohydrates like white bread, crackers and sweet snacks from your diet
- A low fat diet isn’t always the healthiest. If there’s a yoghurt that’s made with full cream milk and culture only versus low fat milk, sugar, preservatives and additives, I will pick full fat all the way.
- chose mostly whole and unprocessed foods
- always have healthy fats like nuts and avocado and high quality protein (from animal and plants) and plenty of vegetables to make a meals nutritious and FILLING!
- incorporate a small portion of whole grains as carbohydrates and eat whole fresh fruits where possible