My family has been beset with substance abuse! Not of the narcotic or the alcohol variety but one that’s in every kitchen – it’s sugar! It’s a silent killer. It’s within reach of your children. And it can be bought over the counter! We know its effect on the waistline because we can see it. However, the real underlying danger of sugar is its effect to our health.

I lost my brother to a massive heart attack when his sugar suddenly went up to 460. It was his first and his last – he was gone in under 15 minutes. His lifestyle and poor eating habits gave him an early death. But a lot of it was also because of lack of knowledge and proper guidance on the food that we ate.

When he was diagnosed as diabetic 10 years prior to his death, he did what most patients of the same condition do. He slowly made changes – he stopped taking sugar with his coffee, intermittently cut down on soda, cakes and pastries. He jogged and biked when he had time. But what we did not really understand, was that sugar – often in high concentrations – is in a lot of food, processed and natural.

I’m not advocating a sugar-free existence. It’s impossible. But as with most things in life, it is best that we consume sugar in moderation. By that, I don’t just mean taking my coffee with a half teaspoon of sugar instead of one, eating one macaron instead of three, or turning my head away from a dessert buffet. There is sugar in so many of the foods in the market. Often, we don’t realise it because not all of these foods taste ‘sweet’.

So how do we combat this menace?

Get a grip on yourself, and your health. Employ discipline and make the commitment to make the necessary changes. The fault lies, not in the stars, but in us. We put the food into our mouths. We’re not being force-fed! If we can wrap our heads around taking full responsibility over our food intake and taking on a fitness program, then we have a chance at managing our health.

Sugar is sweet but it’s not as nice to our bodies as the feeling we get when we get our sugar fix. Sugar takes on many forms and not just in the white (or brown!) powder form that we find on the counter top nor in sweets like candies, cake, and soda. Sugar refers to all types of carbohydrates. These include glucose (found in grains and vegetables), fructose (in fruit and honey – also the sweetest tasting sugar), lactose (the carbohydrate in dairy products), and sucrose (cane or table sugar).

Read the label. Avoid the ‘bad’ sugars such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. These are found in many – if not most, highly processed commercial foods such as jams, cereals, baked goods, confectionery, soft drinks, ice cream and even what is considered a health food – processed yogurt.

Know however that fructose comes in two forms – refined and unrefined. Refined fructose is a baddie and must be avoided. Unrefined fructose are naturally occurring sugars in fruits and sweet tasting vegetables. Before the age of food processing, the average intake of unrefined fructose amounted to only about 15 grams or 3 teaspoons of sugar per day. Today, you can consume more than double that in single glass of processed fruit juice!

Don’t skip on the fiber. You will find that where there is natural fructose, there is fibre. When you consume sugar with fibre, it’s slowly released into the body and the blood stream. This will leave you feeling satisfied for longer – and prevents you from craving or going on a food binge.

Lastly, watch your portions. Today everything is supersized, especially soft drinks, which can be so tempting during the warmer months. You might not drink your way to a stupor like you would with alcohol, but a diabetic stroke is not a better option either. So eat to satisfy your hunger but not necessarily your appetite.

You can always choose to eat fresh fruit instead of a processed version of the same. You can drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice instead of the canned ones. Better yet, drink water! Add a dash of lemon or lime juice if you like. Sauces made from scratch don’t take long to prepare and they taste better. Income is not an issue either. Good food costs less than bad food.

You might say it’s easier said than done and you would be right. But most of the best things in life are not achieved the easy way. That fabulous beach body didn’t just happen, it took a lot of effort and time. But achieving a healthy diet and lifestyle need not be difficult either. If you read about centenarians and their secret to longevity, almost always the answer is the same – they eat healthily. And they don’t look like they hated their food!

If you ask me, it’s the convenience that will be the death of us all. Processed food are mostly laden with sugar (and salt), mainly because it helps prolong their shelf-life. Unfortunately for us, sugar in processed food shortens ours!

This article, The Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry, is definitely worth reading!

What’s your experience? Do you ever stop to read a label before you put something in your shopping trolley?