How can I reduce my sugar intake?

New sugar limits for sweet foods and snacks have been published today, in a bid to get food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of products by 20% over the next 3 years.

Public Health England (PHE) announced new targets for the food industry in face of rising levels of childhood obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.  NHS figures reported last week show a 24% increase in toddler tooth extractions over the past decade, largely due to children eating more and more sugar.

The new sugar reduction proposals suggest 3 ways for manufacturers to meet the targets;

  • Cut sugar levels by 20% across all productsbrooke-lark-203839

  • Promote ‘no added’ or ‘low sugar’ alternatives

  • Cut overall calories or reduce the portion size

These proposals are entirely voluntary and whilst some manufacturers are embracing the changes, well aware of the fact that this cannot be avoided and voluntary measures are likely to be more lenient than legislation will be, others are stalling for time and protesting the moves.

Will the proposals work?

Cutting sugar levels across all products is undoubtedly a strong step in the right direction for improving public health.  But, when you take something away you have to offer a viable alternative: cue the ‘low sugar’ alternative foods.  A potential problem here may be the inclusion of more salt or more processed fats to maintain the texture and satiety of the product.

Sugar, salt and fat are the magic triage of ingredients used in processed foods to achieve maximum levels of taste and ‘feel’ – the ‘bliss effect’ – when eating.  Remove one of the triple and you have to add more of the others to maintain the status quo.

What about artificial sweeteners?

Cutting sugar levels almost certainly means an increased reliance on artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and aesculfame.  These compounds are 200 times sweeter than regular sugar and are currently widely used in many sugar free products like chewing gums and sugar-free soft drinks.

The safety of these chemicals remains highly controversial.  Much of the evidence promoting their safe use is industry funded and frequently conducted on animals – the human digestive process and nervous system differ in many ways to that of animals!

Newer research has shown the negative effect artificial sweeteners have on our beneficial gut bacteria.  Our microbiome comes into direct contact with the breakdown products of sweeteners in the digestive tract, and in the case of aspartame, the main breakdown product is formaldehyde – a recognised carcinogen to humans, and most commonly known as embalming fluid!

A healthy, nourished microbiome plays a major role in regulating immunity and inflammation, as well as influencing nutrient absorption and the production of certain vitamins, namely vitamin K and certain B-vitamins.  Imbalances in gut bacteria are, ironically, linked to disturbed metabolism and obesity – the very health issues we are trying to combat.

Artificial sweeteners also account for a significant amount of food sensitivity reactions in both adults and children.  Pushing more of these chemicals into our food chain puts us at risk of myriad side effects and is certainly not the answer to the obesity problem.

So how do we reduce sugar?

Rather than relying on food manufacturers who have only profits in mind, take your own steps to sugar reduction.  Start slowly, and gradually phase out sugar and artificial sweeteners to allow your taste buds to adjust.

Simple swaps include;

 – Replace standard breakfast cereals with Overnight Oats or homemade granola sweetened with maple syrup.  No time to make your own granola?  Marks & Spencer offer a granola base sweetened with a small amount of apple juice and honey.

 – Replace fruit juice and fizzy drinks with fruit water: add fruit slices (lemon, pomegranate, lime, orange) to filtered water.

 – Replace white bread with wholegrain, or look for bread alternatives such as oatcakes, buckwheat crackers, or nori sheets to make wraps with.

 – Dried fruits are a concentrated source of sugar but their high fibre content helps slow down its absorption into your bloodstream.  Snack on a palmful of dried fruits and mixed nuts, or keep Nak’d bars in your bag / glove box / desk drawer.

 – For an after dinner sweet hit try Pukka Herbs Liquorice & Cinnamon tea: liquorice is up to 50 times sweeter in taste than sugar and the cinnamon supports healthy blood sugar balance.

 – Make sure to combine good quality protein with healthy fats and slow releasing carbohydrates at each meal to support steady, sustained energy levels and reduce sweet cravings.

Struggling to break the sugar habit?  Take a look at the 4 Week Flourish and 8 Week Positive Change Plans to see how we can work together to turn your health around! 

Call 07910 705272 or email at to book in!

Keeping your brain sharp – the Naturopathic Nutritional Way

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Here in the UK there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia.  Because we are an ageing population, this figure is set to grow massively over the next few years, placing a huge strain on our already beleaguered healthcare system.

Last week I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr Dale Bredesen, a Professor of Neurology at the Buck Institute in America.  He is pioneering research into dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (which accounts for 62% of all dementia) and achieving incredible results. 

His protocol combines nutrition, lifestyle, supplement and medications – a truly holistic approach for what is a complex condition.  You can read more about his work here at the Dementia Alliance International website.

The problem with all the new dementia drugs that keep hitting the headlines is they are only focusing on 1 aspect of the problem: the accumulation of protein tangles in the brain.  Stopping these protein tangles will not halt or reverse the progression of dementia in the long term because this is only part of a much broader picture. 

Dr Bredesen likens dementia to a leaky roof that has 36 holes in it.  The drugs plug 1 or 2 of these holes but the roof will still leak!  Taking nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and key nutrients into consideration is crucial in order for the roof to become watertight again.

The causes of dementia vary from person to person, but 3 main areas have been identified:

1.   Inflammation in the brain

2.   Exposure to brain-damaging toxins such as aluminium, mercury – and for some individuals, gluten – and infections

3.   Chronic lack of nutrients needed to maintain brain function

So, if you’re concerned about cognitive decline or simply want to keep your faculties as sharp as possible for as long as possible, what can you do?

Investigate your genes

The presence of the homozygous APOE-4 gene variation causes a 90% increased risk of developing dementia.  This is an increased risk – it’s not a definite destiny!  How your genes are expressed is determined by your diet and lifestyle: you have the power to positively influence your genes. 

For more information on genetic investigations and nutritional support please contact me.

Balance your blood sugars

Alzheimer’s has been termed ‘diabetes in the brain’ because the brain cells lose their ability to respond to insulin and use sugars effectively for fuel.  If your diet is high in refined sugars and processed foods, cut these out.  Switch to wholegrain versions and include a wider variety of naturally gluten-free carbohydrates like buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice.  Include good quality protein with each meal.  Aim to have a mini-fast each night by not eating for 12 hours e.g. 8pm to 8am.

Go for full fat!

When brain cells struggle to utilise sugars properly, they can still use a type of fat called MCT (medium chain triglycerides).  Coconut oil is an excellent source of these fats, and anecdotal evidence demonstrates improvements in dementia symptoms from including 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day. fishoil

Your brain also relies on ample levels of cholesterol: 25% of your body’s cholesterol lives in your brain.  This works alongside omega-3 oils from oily fish, nuts and seeds to keep your brain cells communicating properly.

Check your Vitamin D

Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the brain and low levels of this nutrient are linked with increased inflammation – a key trigger for dementia.

Detox toxins

Reduce your exposure to toxins by switching to natural cleaning products and bodycare products.  Stop smoking (that’s obvious!), avoid aluminium pans and utensils and include plenty of antioxidant foods: coriander, spirulina, chlorella and dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and onions are some of the best sources of powerful antioxidant nutrients.rainbowveggies

Movement and mental stimulation!

Movement of all kinds improves circulation and blood sugar balance.  Including movement each day, whether its walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi or a full on gym workout is vital. 

Keeping your brain stimulated by learning new things is just as important.  Your brain cells grow and restructure themselves each time you learn new information or have to solve problems.  Learning a new language, doing a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle can all help stimulate ‘neuro-plasticity’ – the reshaping and growth of brain cells.


Concerned about your mental wellbeing?

Looking for naturopathic nutritional support for depression, anxiety or poor memory?

Drop me a line at to find out more…