Monday, 22 February 2016

Feature: Why the Sugar Tax is a good thing for our health

On a hot summer’s day in a blistering heat, there’s nothing more refreshing than the taste of a glass of Coca-Cola with ice and a slice. In one 330ml can there is 35g of sugar which according to Coke’s website says it is the equivalent to seven teaspoons. Since sugar in its most common form comes in granules, it’s hard to picture how much 35g is and that’s where it becomes dangerous. 

Most importantly, sugar is one of the most dangerous things to add to our bodies. It’s no one’s fault, we treat ourselves to a slice of cake because its been a long day and we’re after a refreshment on a hot day but when you consider the ingredients in their rawest forms it suddenly makes you less peckish. 

Dr Sarah Wollaston chairs the health committee who have recently proposed a sugar tax duty in order to help fix the problem of sugar health related issues. She endorses the 20 per cent tax upon sugary drinks but Prime Minister David Cameron rules out the levy repeatedly. The tax is being strongly backed by the committee and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has also campaigned with petitions to gain backing to help reduce the availability of unhealthy drinks. 

Obesity and illnesses related to bad diets including excessive consumption of sugary drinks and foods are so high that a quarter of children are obese by the time they leave primary school, and the older they get the higher the consumption and more available these sugar-loaded drinks and foods become.  
Most of us know that we need five fruits and vegetables a day, we should have a balanced diet, consume at least two litres of water a day and make sure to get 30 minutes of exercise in a day. Sometimes what we think is adding to a balanced diet can be more harmful than we realise, choosing a flavoured water because it’s still a water based drink is worse for us with some of them containing more than a can of Coke.

Katharine Jenner, campaign director for Action On Sugar notes how easily we can be fooled into buying products we think are healthier. She said that water is the main ingredient in all soft drinks from Coca-Cola to Ribena so to suggest it is flavoured water is insincere. It’s another way for drinks companies to take advantage of customers and make money in the process. It’s true, the packaging can look so healthy with thriving fruit, and spring water and a clear bottle that you’d believe what you see is exactly what you’re getting. 

For example, Volvic Touch of Fruit contained three teaspoons worth of sugar in only a 250ml serving according to a study by The Telegraph in March last year. With many supermarkets selling these in handy 500ml bottles you’ve nearly drunk the equivalent to a cola drink when your aim would have been to increase water consumption. 

Ellie Cottrell, the communications manager for naturally flavoured drinks company Nuva, commented on the marketing and packaging of natural drinks, she said “when selecting flavoured water, packaging is the shopper’s personal choice The legislature on labelling allows for certain brands to make claims that are misleading to consumers it results in unhealthy product choices, for example when a product with a ’no sugar’ claim contains vast amount of sweeteners which is just a different type of sugar. Cottrell believes more needs to be done to make it known which are the truly healthy options and make it known on the shelves rather than placing it next to water. 

With hidden sugars in products such as cereal, health drinks, ready meals and even sly wording to make items appear sugar-free it’s no surprise that as a country we’re unable to sustain a healthy sugar-free diet. In 2014, the infamous Sugar Puffs have renamed Honey Monster Puffs in a bid to keep children away from the obvious sugar rich choices. The company reduced sugar content by 1/3 and replaced some of the sugar content with honey as a seemingly better alternative. Sugar and honey are processed in the body the same way and create glucose, which creates the same result as a sugar buzz. Honey can create the same insulin rise and also create negative effects such as weight gain. 

The reason why the food and drink companies can create ‘healthier’ alternatives that contain just as much sugar is because they can use fructose, which is a sugar, derived from fruit.  Fructose is just as bad for us as granulated sugar yet the concept and production make consumers believe it must be better to have a spoon in our breakfast cereals rather than a spoon of granulated factory processed sugar. 

Jasmine Logan, 25 who is a guardian to her 13- year-old cousin Holly says she was shocked to see how high the sugar content is in some cereals. Jasmine who is an admin assistant from Bath says “We have a 4:3 diet where Holly is allowed three sugary bowls of cereal in the week spaced out of the week and four days of healthy cereal to make sure it’s a balanced and enjoyable breakfast. I’m very careful in selecting the cereals we have on the table but I was still shocked to see how much some had.” The case with hidden sugars in foods just comes down to both creating higher insulin levels which are the main culprit for increased weight, bad teeth and mineral loss. 

With fizzy drinks being one of the biggest culprits of a sugar overload in the diet it’s no surprise it can become an addiction and something people crave to get through the day. Twenty-five-year-old Becca Pearce a housewife from Buckhurst Hill says she needed it to get through the day. “I did a two-week sugar detox and had the worst withdrawal symptoms, random crying, headaches. It tells me that it must have been so addictive my body couldn’t cope without it, it’s so bad for us. Luckily I made the conscious change with the paleo diet and then cold turkey with the following eight months only limited natural sugars. I felt amazing and I managed to stop because I was pregnant.” 

Ally Ramser, a plant-based nutritionist who works freelance on her website and Youtube channel fully believes sugar can become an addiction in the mind and body just like a caffeine addiction or even drugs, “I feel the diet should focus on whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. For example, natural sugars found in berries are beneficial and helpful for most people. We should avoid added sugars and any type of artificial sugar in our diet.” 

The sugar tax seems like the only option for making the product harder to consume whilst the drinks companies do not reduce the sugar content. The tax brings a tax on poorer families who will find they are unable to buy the drinks as treats on occasion. 

The campaigning group Against Sugar Tax said: “We don’t feel a sugar tax will have any health benefits because, for many people, they will continue to buy fizzy drinks.” Brook Whelan the director for the campaign feels that in reality “A lot of these people will be poorer people which will mean that a sugar tax will leave them with even less money to spend on fruit and veg.”

Andrew Mickel from Diabetes UK says most crucially the charity are keen to make sure that whilst the government’s tax will ‘incentivise people to make healthier choices’ they do not wish to see the duty affect those with diabetes and their families as they rely on high sugar products to treat low blood glucose levels. 

With the tax, education and restrictions would appear necessary to provide more informed choices and provisions for those who rely on sugar to keep their sugar levels balanced. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Three Easy Ways To The Perfect Summer Garden

The gardening season has begun and whilst it may not be you’re first thought, to get the garden perfect for the summer its time to start working! Here’s an easy guide for what needs to be done this season to have your garden ready for the warmer temperatures:
1) The grass is ready to be woken after its sleep during the winter. Nothing sets spring like the smell of cut grass so get pruning ready for making the garden a more attractive place to be. 2) If you’re looking to sew seeds for a vegetable garden then wait until soil reaches at least 6C. Items like salad vegetables and greens can start to be sewn in first just wait for the ground to be at the perfect temperature.

3) Start pruning by removing weeds and overgrowth throughout the garden as sunshine and grass cutting will start to bring the plants back to life, stop them in their tracks by pruning early.

Spring Clean Your Life Now

Still swamped under the junk you promised to get rid of this year? Start spring right by de-cluttering your life. Researchers at Princeton University found that you’re less likely to process information correctly if you’re surrounded by clutter.

SWAP unwanted clothes

De-clutter your wardrobe by getting rid of the old and trade it in for something better, for completely free. Hold your own “Swishing” party by swapping clothes you don’t wear anymore with your friends. An instant wardrobe update without the price tags.

Visit to find ones near you.

SELL anything you don’t want

Ditch the DVDs and auction off albums you haven’t touched since the noughties. Selling online is an easy way of letting go of unnecessary things and earning a little money in return. Start your bids now!

Sell online at

RECYCLE loose paper

When was the last time you read that paper that’s been there on your table since you moved in? With the average person in the UK getting through around 38kg of newspapers per year, why not do the planet and your home some good and recycle any unwanted paper.

Visit to find out more info on recycling.

KEEP empty jars

Not only for holding delicious spreads, but jars are versatile enough to use around the house from your bathroom to your garden. DIY sites like Pinterest are great for ideas!

Check out for inspiration.

GIVE food bags to charity

Stocked with food you’ve barely eaten? Donating food to those who need it most is a great way of doing something good while also helping yourself. Make sure any food you give is unopened and check the use by and best before dates before giving.

Visit to locate food banks near you.

Five Free Apps to help organise your life

As a population we spend most of our time using technology, whether that be using  computers, phones or tablets.

1. Evernote
A workspace which can be accessed across computer, tablet and phone. Use it to write notes on the go, whenever and wherever you need!

Lets the user keep an eye on what tasks they’ve got to do. The best thing about this app is it can be accessed anywhere and can be constantly updated if there are more tasks which need adding.

3. Lastpass
Keep all your passwords for all of your websites, emails safe in one place. There are three different pricings available, but the main one is free to use and is the one most people will need.

4. Microsoft Apps
Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook are all available on a phone or tablet. It makes it much easier to access documents you need on the go when you don’t have your computer/laptop with you.

5. CityMapper
Travelling around London is made easy with this app. It tells the easiest and quickest route to get around. It also gives you the price for your journey.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Surprising Health Benefits of Unhealthy Foods

We constantly hear about different food and drinks that we should be trying to avoid, but it turns out, when had in moderation, some of our vices can actually be quite good for us.

Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate has actually been proven to lower stress levels, and even increase blood flow to the brain. Hot Sauce – Hot Sauce contains a compound called capsaicin, which has been found to lower the level of hunger-causing hormones. Red Wine – Red wine, as well as many dark coloured fruits, contains something called proanthocyanidins, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Popcorn – Popcorn is packed with fibre and polyphenols, which are both antioxidants that scientists have found not only prevent heart disease, but even certain cancers. Olive Oil – People with olive oil rich diets not only tend to have longer life expectancies, but a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes.

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