Sugar is one of the leading contributions for obesity amongst Canadians. Sugar can be found in things like chocolate, baked goods (such as cookies, cakes and pastries), carbonated beverages (such as soft drinks), as well as other processed foods (such as salad dressings, marinades, and even infant formula.) As part of Nutrition Month, Dr. Ali Ghahary not only wants to inform readers about the healthy choices they could be making when it comes to their diet, but also warn them about the potential risks associated with things like too much salt, fat and sugar.

People often don’t give sugar a second thought – but what is it, exactly? Well, for starters, it’s considered a carbohydrate…but there’s much more to it than that. Sugar is a molecule that is composed of the following: 22 atoms of hydrogen, 12 atoms of carbon, and 11 atoms of oxygen. It’s commonly found in sugar beets or sugarcane, hence how it got its name. Sugar is a staple in many Canadian households, especially during breakfast – a few teaspoons will sweeten up a bitter tasting cup of coffee, while a dash or two might add some extra flavour to a bowl of oatmeal. While it’s often said that certain things are acceptable when used in moderation, sugar is something that if used over a prolonged period of time or in excess, can lead to serious complications with your health. Things like obesity, the risk of diabetes (or complications if you already suffer from diabetes), and it can even cause tooth decay, which is one of the biggest reasons why dentists recommend brushing and flossing each day to make sure your teeth and gums are as clean as possible and to reduce the risk of cavities. Sugar is also high in fructose. If the liver becomes overloaded with fructose, the risk of developing liver disease also increases. Consumption of sugar can also cause insulin resistance, which can then turn into Type II diabetes, and it can also promote the growth and multiplication of cancer cells.

So what can you do to prevent yourself from developing any of the aforementioned problems above? Cut sugar from your diet. If you’re someone who has consumed a lot of sugar in their diet over several years, stopping cold turkey might not be the easiest as you could have withdrawals. Signs of sugar withdrawal include cravings, headaches, body aches and pains, and mood swings. If that’s the case, you’ll want to cut back slowly. For example, if you’re used to buying yourself a vanilla latte every morning, see if there’s a sugar-free option available – most coffee shops have them (and some will even sell them to the customer if you’d like to have some at home), it’s just a matter of speaking to a barista. Once you have been switched to that sugar-free option, remove the flavour from your latte all-together. Yes, that cup of coffee might not have that sweetness that you’re so used to tasting, but remember it’s much better for your health in the long-run. Alternatively, the same thing goes if you’re eating sweets. Instead of grabbing that chocolate bar or slice of cake, eat fresh fruit. It will not only give you that sweetness you’ve been craving, but also packs a hard punch of nutritional value, and most fruits are also rich in anti-oxidants. Things like strawberries, apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are all great examples.