Saturday, October 29, 2011

Food That Will Kill You Slowly - Part 3

After having enough of Part 1 and Part 2. I sure hope your diet and choices of food has changed to accommodate better food and help make more informed choices. In today's Part 3, the quest to educate and raise awareness continues. Today, i will talk extensively about the number one enemy of Malaysian food.
Malaysian have sweet tooth. The amount of sugar used in the food preparation daily is enormous. It is estimated by Food & Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO), the consumption of sugar annually in Malaysia has increased from 1976 at 372,000 metric tonne to 1,031,000 metric tonne in 1995. At the rate it is going, It will not be a surprise if the consumption of sugar in Malaysia runs into at least 2 Million tonne now in 2011.
Taken from FAO report here
Sugar exist in everything we eat - including that spicy sambal belacan that you just had for lunch. Even in "flavoured" water marketed by certain mineral water producer. The list is long and as long as they are sweet, chances are, sugar lingers.
In a study conducted by Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia or Malaysia Diabetes Association in 2007, up to 8.3% of adults aged 30 and above has diabetes. While some can argue that it's "inherited", more often than not, disease such as these are attributed to lifestyle and what we eat.
How well do you know your sugar?
To start with, not all sugar are created equal. Here is a rough guideline to what sugar there are in the market and what they are actually.
1. Ordinary Table Sugar - the usual sugar you buy off the rack to be used at home. Found in all food requiring sugar.
2. Castor sugar - superfine sugar made from ordinary table sugar. Used mostly in cake recipe.
3. Cube sugar - usual sugar, only that they are pressed into mold and then dried. Used as it gives a sense of "proportion" when you use i.e. "one sugar cube or two"?
4. Icing sugar - contain corn starch to prevent the fine sugar from caking up. Corn starch in sugar? Your donut was delicious isn't it?
5. Brown sugar - otherwise known as sugar with the molasses still intact.
Item 1 to 4 is highly refined cane sugar that has stripped off all nutrients available in sugar cane leaving simple carbohydrates that can be utilised by the body as energy instantly. It gives what is known as "sugar high", which can contribute to hyperactive child or provide instantaneous energy to a tired sports person.
This "sugar high" will not last long and once the fuel (sugar) is depleted, you will feel more tired/lose more energy than you should.
"Sugar high" will spike insulin level in your body and will make your body immune to insulin. This will lead to more complication (health wise) in the near future. Insulin regulates the sugar content in your blood. Every time you take something sweet, insulin will be released to send signal to the body cells to "absorb" up these excess to be used as energy.
If you constantly takes sugary meal/drinks, what will happen is that your body will be immune to this insulin spike resulting in your bloodstream rich with sugar.
When your body has a lot of sugar in the system, you will have a lot of insulin floating around as well. Insulin promotes fat storage. Excess insulin will reduce magnesium, which is essential to keep blood vessels soft and supple.Your body sodium will also increase, which will lead to higher water retention and will cause high blood pressure. As insulin will promote cell growth, it can potentially cause cancer via a sugar rich diet.
This will ultimately leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
It is no wonder that an obese person will show symptoms, or already suffering from the disease above.
This notion applies to "processed" honey as well. Most honey we get commercially has been processed, diluted and with sugar added. Expensive honey or unrefined honey is hard to obtain and do not have the commercial appeal due to the residue (of bee wax, bees etc) in them. Buy your honey carefully and look at the ingredient (yes, you be surprised that they even have preservatives despite being honey!)
I left out item 5. Brown Sugar. With specific wording that the molasses remain on the sugar. What is molasses? Molasses is a by product during the processing of sugar cane into the white sugar we are used to seeing. Molasses puts the "brown" into brown sugar. The higher the content of molasses, the darker your brown sugar will be.
Molasses has high content of chelated mineral that can be utilised straight away by the body and can be used by the cell. Unlike "added" nutrient such as "iron", "magnesium", "potassium" of which are metal origin, chelated mineral is small in size and occurs naturally in whole food.
Molasses is produced through the process of sugar refining. The first molasses is dark and bitter and usually the third molasses are used for commercial purposes.
You can get molasses from organic stores and they are very low in GI, which makes them very ideal sweetener for diabetic patients and generally used as a good sugar substitute. It is cheaper compared to the more expensive Agave Syrup by at least two fold.
I have used molasses and agave syrup extensively in my homemade energy gel that has powered me through 17hours of Ironman races in 2008-2010.
I have made pledges to reduce sugar intake and my first commitment is to stop buying the high-sugared Cola drink no matter how delicious it will be on a hot sunny afternoon.
So, if you must sweeten your meal or drinks, consider using brown sugar as a substitute. If budget permits, consider molasses or agave syrup.
Make the informed choice the next time you put in another spoon of sugar into your coffee, tea or drinks!
Healthier Substitution : Brown Sugar, Molasses, Agave Syrup, Pure Honey.


  1. macam mana nak tahu pure honey atau tak?

    1. This one many school of thoughts Ajeep. But if the money cost you RM20/kg, chances are they are processed with mainly sugar added.

      Careful of those honey sold by peddlers claiming to be "wild honey", as the truth could not be more strange with them being purely sugar.

      Many steps are available such as dissloving test, candle test and staining test. Maybe I should write about it?

  2. You can search youtube for the "bitter truth"and "fructose 2.0" lectures by Professor Robert Lustig. He will explain in excruciating detail why any kind of sugar containing fructose is bad. The sugars you listed as healthier are misleading. The only healthy alternative is glucose, corn syrup{not the high fructose type} and maltose ............. and if you investigate deeper are all eventually glucose without any fructose in combination. Fructose is only broken down by the liver which means that to humans, it is a poison.