by Shana Daniel, RHN

While sugar and spice make everything nice, after 31 days of December indulgence, it’s most likely the last ingredient we want to think about in our New Year. When it comes to sugar, we have mixed notions of whether it’s okay in moderation, downright poisonous or acceptably sweet as a chemical alternative.

Natural sugars exist in virtually all you consume. Fruits and vegetables, starches, both solids and liquids contain it. The question is where the nutrient density lies in the choices made to incorporate it into your daily regimen.

Your body breaks down proteins and fats to obtain the energy it needs. It’s specifically glucose derived from the digestion of carbohydrates, which your body desires most. It is the main source of energy of every single cell and the preferred energy type from brain cells. All carbohydrates (with the exception of fibre) wind up as glucose. How this process occurs, varies on what we ingest.

Types of starches are in fact extremely healthy. To date, the lone potato, an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C has been shunned by those who’ve ‘monsterized’ the styles of eating which once included healthy consumption of starchy foods. Among this category include bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, squashes, beets, taro, cassava and the list goes on. We have now identified that not only do these foods contain essential nutrients and energy, but include a fibre content which negates the immediate elevation of blood sugar which is essential for energy and insulin balance.

In this new year, try to limit your added sugars in juices, soups, seasonings, dressings of all varieties and sweets. To date, Statistics Canada states that 1 in every 5 calories we consume is sugar. Estimated sugar consumption daily by the average Canadian is approximately 51-53 grams per day. Equating to 12-13 teaspoons.

If your palate prefers something sweeter, experiment with small changes here and there. Ask for your favourite winter hot beverages as ‘half sweet’ instead of adding chemical sweeteners, eventually building a tolerance for none at all. Purchase boxed cereals for hectic mornings with a low sugar content and add fresh fruit like banana and cinnamon which is naturally a wonderful blood sugar regulator. If you’re a pop drinker, experiment with a favourite fruit juice splashed into sparkling water. Opt for fruit juice sweetened jam and remember that sometimes fat-free isn’t as blood sugar digestive friendly as something sweet twinned with a little bit of fat. Chocolate perhaps? How about a nice creme brûlée or apple pie made with the real thing. Begin incorporating what your body knows into your everyday choices. Yes, fruit still contains sugar, although chock full of fibre which you now know is significant in digestion.

In my practice, we build on foundations of understanding with new information like this, shaping new ideas of wellness in today’s confusing world of nutrition bombarded with mistruths. And if you’re a proud Canadian like me, there’s just no escaping pure maple syrup. Just make sure you’re pairing it with something delicious enough to close your eyes and say it was worth every bite.