I find myself joining the sugar debate quite a bit these days. I sat next to a nutritionist at dinner this week, and the first thing I asked her was what she her thoughts were on the white stuff.
I think its power to infiltrate and detriment whole societies and cultures really hit me during the four weeks I spent in Mexico last year, where in the poorer parts, I regularly witnessed babies being fed Coca-Cola instead of milk or water. I was surprised at just how uncomfortable this made me; it’s an incredibly jarring image.
Out of the more populas nations (so, excluding the little Pacific islands that even manage to surpass US and Mexico when it comes to inches around the waist), Mexico is now the fattest country on the planet.
They’ve overtaken the Americans, with a whopping seventy percent being overweight, and almost one-third registering as obese. In the poor districts, there are obese parents and malnourished children. And it doesn’t help that in Mexico, the fizzy pop is cheaper than a bottle of water or milk.
And then when I returned to the UK from my eight months of travel, I watched Jamie Oliver visit Mexico in Jamie’s Sugar Rush, a programme he presented that investigated sugar’s contribution to global health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. He discovered that in 2014, Mexico introduced a 10 per cent tax on sugar sweetened beverages, in a bid to reverse the trends which helped it take the accolade of being the most obese country in the world.
And just in January this year, the British Medical Journal reported that Mexico’s sugar tax has resulted in a 12% drop in sales of sugary drinks, and an increase in sales of bottled water. Which can only be a good thing.
So good old Jamie put his balls on the line, and decided to take this same idea to the UK Government, to prevent the UK going the same way as the USA and Mexico. After months of campaigning, he finally succeeded – the UK Government announced that a sugary drinks tax will be introduced in the UK in 2018.
Why am I ranting about all this? I’m not anti-sugar, not in the slightest.
There is always a place for sugar. In sweet treats – cakes, biscuits, chocolate. And who doesn’t love a dessert after dinner? We go to these things because we fancy that sweet hit. And they should be treated as just that – treats. The occasional reward we give ourselves because we’ve earnt it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My main problem with sugar, is when it appears in places it just doesn’t need to be. Like pasta sauces, daily drinks, and a real gripe of mine, cereals. Especially the ones that try to market themselves as ‘healthy’ – *rage*.
Turns out my good pal Jamie Oliver has the same bugbear.
Jamie mentions in his ace book Everyday Super Food, that he and his wife get particularly frustrated over how most breakfast cereals are full of added sugar, and nutritionally aren’t the best start to the day. So with his nutrition team, he developed this epic megamix of great ingredients – oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. There are also a couple of pages covering the number of ways you can use this magic granola dust.
Unless I’m out of the country or in a restaurant for breakfast, this is the stuff I start every morning with, throughout the year.
In the winter, I heat it up on the stove with milk and make porridge, and maybe throw on a sliced banana if I’m feeling fancy. It tastes so much better than standard porridge, because the toasting means the natural sugars present have begun to caramelise, adding a whole new flavour dimension. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to un-toasted oats when it comes to porridge. Plus, it’s gloriously nutty. In the summer, I blitz up the powder with milk, fresh fruit and cinnamon, for a gorgeous morning smoothie.
The Food Revolution is all about making positive, meaningful change and through a simple breakfast like this, you can do just that, taking control of what goes in to your own body, and making the choice for yourself about how much of the sweet stuff you want. Share your breakfast recipes with us using #foodrevolution.