I have been thinking this week about sugar.

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Yes, I know this is a strange thing to think about, but it was provoked by a fascinating video that I was sent by someone much wiser than me. “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” gives a very clear factual presentation on this ‘poison’. I use the words that Dr. Lustig uses because his arguments are very compelling. If you ever felt the need to drink even one can of cola, then this video will make you re-think immediately. Just watch the first 12 minutes to understand what it does to your body. I think I am instead going to play with my wonderful sodastream Christmas present, which to date I have simply used to make sparkling water, but there must be so much more that I can do to make wonderful naturally tasty, sweet drinks without all the hidden extras that come in the canned stuff.

Mind you, it is not only the drinks that we are in danger of misunderstanding – it is the diet stuff too. As we all embark on the obligatory January denial many of us will turn to low fat products believing that fat is the issue. I refer to Dr. Lustig’s video once more which shows that this is simply not true, and also my own very basic knowledge that we need some fat in our bodies to simply have an efficient metabolism. Low fat products are not only anathema but full of sugars to compensate for the lack of flavour coming through the fat. Read the labels. Look at low fat mayo compared to normal mayo and see what I mean.

Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil comes in all sorts of varieties

Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil comes in all sorts of varieties

So what can we do this year? Well the first thing is to just eat good simple food, prepared fresh in our own kitchens rather than the processed stuff which is full of the scary stuff. Keep it balanced with a palm sized piece of protein, good wholegrain carbs and lots of fresh veggies. Think about the good fats: omega 3 in oily fish or rapeseed oil rather than olive or vegetable oils, as rapeseed oil has about half the saturated fat found in olive oil and a fraction of that in palm oil. It’s a wonderful British product too.

And in terms of sugar, consider the alternatives. Honey is a wonderful thing and has so much more flavour and sweetness, as well as being incredibly trendy right now. There are a ton of fabulous honey products probably made in your very own region or from a rooftop or park near you, so search it out and experiment with it. Or, for my vegan friends (you know who you are) I want to make special mention of agave syrup which I first heard of through you when we looked for granola ingredients. Now it is in a supermarket near you and a lovely thing it is too. Don’t be put off by the fact it is made from the same plant that tequila is made. Instead embrace this wondrous product which is even sweeter than honey, full of flavour and originating back to the Aztecs. Those guys knew what they were doing.

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I am also experimenting with getting sweetness and flavour from fruit as these are wonderful natural alternatives, with apples, apple juice, prunes and many variations of citrus adding new dimensions into dishes as well as giving good fibre if you use the whole thing. My morning porridge is perfect with a handful of blueberries that I add before putting in the microwave so that they burst into the dish to make a juicy blueberry syrup in every mouthful without the need for any added sugar.

Finally, special mention should go to Stevia, which once again originates from South America. This is made from the leaves of the Stevia plant and is 25 times sweeter than sugar, but with no carbs and no calories. Why wouldn’t you? especially if you are using those horrid sweeteners that we now know are so bad for you. Just like agave syrup, this is widely available in all supermarkets so switch today. You know you should.

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