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BEST OF HEALTH: How much sugar is too much?

Lisa King

BEST OF HEALTH: How much sugar is too much?

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Sunday afternoons in Barbados are almost never complete without a purchase from the bread vans that pass through the various communities.
The array of pastries, including jam puffs, turnovers, sweet bread, pone, and rock cakes can almost spike one’s sugar level after a heavy Sunday meal. Unfortunately, many Barbadians are unaware of the health risks posed by consuming too many pastries, cakes and pies, which are high in fat and sugar.  
Nutritionist Carla Wolper of the New York Obesity Research Centre says, “Tasty, yes. But break a doughnut down and you’ll find nothing more than refined sugar and flour, artificial flavours and partially hydrogenated oil that’s loaded with trans fats. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. When it comes to health, the only thing good about them is the hole.”
This raises the question of how much pastry is too much to be included in a diet. The answer will vary from person to person depending on the state of their health and the type of pastry.  
Dietitian Kimberlee Thompson, who is with the Sparman Clinic, explained that the answer depended on the type of pastry itself. “To achieve the texture of the pastry for a croissant, which is a fluffy, flaky pastry, a lot of fat is used to get the pastry fluffy and that can be unhealthy.”
Meanwhile, cheesecake, which is already sweet, is made even more of a health threat because of the additional sugar-based toppings.
Thompson advised that there were no dietary recommendations or specific quotas in terms of how much pastry could be used. However, the amount should definitely be limited. Her advice is to avoid sugars. “Pastries contain both sugar and saturated fats, and the general opinion is that we should try to eat foods that are sugar-free,” Thompson said.
The dietitian warns, that you should avoid coconut based pastries because of the fat content of the coconut itself can affect cholesterol levels. That rules out the turnovers and coconut bread that are local favourites.  
“Doughnuts contain mostly refined sugar and they are also fried, so when you get them you are getting fat and sugar,” Thompson stated.
There are some healthy alternatives for persons who have a sweet tooth. Thompson suggests:
• Use fruits, preferably fresh ones as they contain natural sugars.
• Fruit cocktails in light syrup should be used if fresh fruit is unavailable.
• Use 100 per cent or unsweetened juice.
• Try sugar-free jello.
However, for those who must have cake or pastries, Thompson recommends angel food cake or sponge cake. Angel food cake is similar to sponge cake, with which only the egg whites are used, and that is a simple way to get away from the cholesterol found in egg yolks.