Are You Confused About Sugar?

Are You Confused About Sugar?

Speaking to my friends and clients I see that there is a lot of confusion about the issue of sugar.  The questions frequently asked are – should be eat it? should we avoid it? and what type of sugar should we eat?

The modern western diet is often very high in refined sugars resulting in inflammation in the body which undermines all levels of health – physical, emotional and mental.  In recent times there has been a move towards sugar free diets which, although beneficial as a cleanse or detox or for cancer sufferers, in the long term can be extreme.   Small amounts of essential sugar is necessary to our wellbeing in the same way we need good fats and proteins to support the functions of the body.

There is a whole science on the study of sugar called glyconutrients which is complex, but this article will discuss the ‘common’ types of sugars of which people are aware and the better choices we can make in regards to sweetened food.

Sugar is (basically) needed by the body for:

  • Supporting brain function
  • Producing energy for muscle function
  • Metabolising fats instead of breaking down protein for energy

The commonly known types of sugars are:

Fructose – the principal sugar contained in fruit.

Glucose – the sugar in blood.

Dextrose – glucose produced from corn (biochemically the same a glucose).

Sucrose – a double sugar of bound 50% glucose/50% fructose.  In the intestine these are split into single sugars and absorbed. * *Commercially it is refined with sulphuric acid into white granulated sugar.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – is made from corn starch and also contains approximately the same amounts of glucose and fructose.


Fructose occurs naturally in fresh fruits and in this form has a minimal impact on blood glucose levels (low GI) and raises no health issues because it is accompanied by nutrients and fibre. However it is very sweet and a little goes a long way.   As it is considered natural many people think of it as a healthy option but unfortunately the current Western style diet, which includes large amounts of processed foods, contains very high amounts of fructose.

In concentrated amounts fructose avoids the intestinal tract and impacts immediately  on the liver creating a high toxic load.  Fructose consumed in junk foods and soft drinks overloads the liver and is converted into fat.  High levels of fructose can lead to:

  • Increased levels of triglycerides resulting in high cholesterol & heart disease.
  • Liver disease such as cirrhosis of/and fatty liver.
  • Abdominal fat, Metabolic Syndrome and obesity.
  • Reduced antioxidant status resulting in cellular ageing.
  • Dementia.


  • Eat fresh fruit – but not in large amounts – such as berries, bananas, cherries, grapes and pears.
  • Avoid consuming high or concentrated fructose such as – refined white sugar, agave syrup (97%) and foods containing HFCS.



This is the sugar in blood which is obtained from starches, which, when consumed is converted to glucose, the main fuel source for the cells.  It raises blood sugar levels and creates energy:

In order to return blood sugar levels to normal, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin which binds to the glucose molecule and transports it to the cells that need it.  If there is an over abundance the glucose will be stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles.  If glycogen levels get too high glucose will be converted to and stored as fat until it is needed.  Cells that need glucose have insulin receptors to encourage efficient absorption.  When glucose levels are continuously high, the pancreas becomes exhausted and insulin is no longer efficiently released.  This results in glucose no longer being delivered to the cells that utilise it resulting in hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels).  High blood sugar levels can lead to:

  • Diabetes
  • Raised uric acid and Kidney Failure
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity
  • Fatty liver and elevated triglycerides which can translate to heart disease
  • Sugar addiction
  • Nerve damage
  • Poor wound healing.


  • Eliminate highly processed and refined foods including white rice, white flour and white sugar from your diet. These all contain simple starches which spike blood sugar levels which then drop dramatically after a short period of time resulting in reduced energy levels.
  • Obtain glucose from complex carbohydrate foods such as all vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains.

What Can We Use as An ‘Alternative’ to Sugar?

When we want to sweeten our foods in a healthier way, we can consider the following:

  • Honey  has a fructose level of approximately 45% it is considered a whole food. It contains trace minerals such as magnesium and calcium and are well metabolised by the body. Raw and unprocessed it is well known for its healing properties and its ability to stimulate the immune system.
  • Molasses – like honey has a high fructose level but is also high in trace mineral and iron.  The unsulphured variety is made from sugar cane that has ripened naturally.
  • Fresh fruit –  contains vitamins, antioxidants and fibre.
  • Dried fruit – such as dates, figs, sultanas or apricots.  These contain concentrated sugars and are best eaten in very small amounts.
  • Stevia – a sweet herb which  is not classified as a sugar and is suitable for use by diabetics. Ensure that you buy whole-leaf extract.
  • Sugar Alcohols – such as xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They have a small effect on raising blood sugar levels.  However they are incompletely absorbed from your small intestine, for the most part, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause problems with bloating, diarrhoea, and flatulence.
  • Rice Malt Syrup – is made from fermented cooked rice.  It is a blend of carbohydrates, maltose and glucose and contains no fructose.
  • Coconut Flour Nectar – an unprocessed syrup that is actually sap that is produced from the coconut blossom when the coconut tree is tapped. The sap contains the minerals potassium, magnesium zinc and iron, 17 amino acids, Vitamin C and Vitamin B1,2,3 and 6 and some short-chain fatty acids.  It also contains a fibre known as inulin which makes it less inflammatory for the gut.
  • Rapadura or Sucanat – an minimally refined dried sugar cane juice which contains all of its natural minerals. It can be utilised by the body.
  • Organic Maple Syrup – a naturally sweet sap obtained from the maple tree which contains 90% glucose and 10% fructose and sucrose.  It is important if you want to use it to buy only organic as processed varieties contain formaldehyde.


Artificial Sugar Substitutes

With good intention many people try to reduce their sugar intake by using artificial sweeteners.  These include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfane and neotame.  In addition, processed foods are often advertised as being sugar free and the sugar content is replaced by these substitutes because they are low in calories.  Sugar substitutes come with their own health risks because they are made from chemicals which are neurotoxic and can also be carcinogenic.  Artificial sweeteners should be completely avoided.



It is important  to remind ourselves that healthy nutrition should always be about a balance of varied and naturally sourced nutrients. The sugars we consume in our diet need to be obtained from natural and unrefined sources, rather than from processed and packaged products containing over-refined constituents.  It is also necessary for our health not to eat an excess of sugar – not only is it bad for our health, but is highly addictive (Lets Talk About Sugar Cravings).  We need to combine our intake of ‘whole food’ carbohydrates with vegetables, protein and healthy fats. In this way we will give our bodies the perfect fuel as well as a variety of nutrients that they require for healthy functioning.

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Pesky Parasites: Blastocystitis hominis & Dientamoeba fragilis

Pesky Parasites: Blastocystitis hominis & Dientamoeba fragilis

Chances are you may have heard of the parasites called Blastocystitis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis.  Recently there has been a prevalence of clients presenting with these conditions in my clinic. Blastocystis is a little parasite with a very hard shell, allowing it to survive outside the intestinal tract or other nurturing environments even though it is spread via water.  Dientamoeba, on the other hand, is a nonflagellate trichomonad which is commonly found in the human gastrointestinal tract.  It is believed to be spread through poor sanitary conditions or accidental transmissions such as swallowing food or water infected with the parasite.  They often both respond in the same way to treatment.

Symptoms can include:

Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe and include:


Constipation or loose stools

Abdominal pain that comes and goes.

Excessive gas

Slimy stools, and

Fatigue and brain fog.


Infection needs to be diagnosed through a stool sample, although I usually recommend more than one to be more accurate, as stool tests often fail to diagnose parasites.  I also recommend that clients are re-screened at least 6 weeks after treatment as re-occurrence commonly occurs.


There is a general line of thought that parasites are easily eradicated through antibiotic therapy (in some cases the medical treatment is antibiotic Triple Therapy) or through herbal antiparasitic herbs such as oregano oil and garlic which people commonly take.  However I have found that these treatments can be harsh for some people and do not always work for everyone.  Staying true to natural therapy, I believe it is essential to look at the individual’s immune and gut health before deciding on a course of treatment.

In many cases there will be other factors that will affect a client’s recovery or they may have more resistant parasites and considerations I look at for treatment are:

How is their gut health?

They may have any existing digestive conditions such as IBS, Coeliac Disease, SIBO  or other inflammatory bowel diseases.

Do they eat a whole food  or junk food diet.

Are they or were they taking medications.

How strong is their immune system and overall vitality.

In some cases food intolerances and food allergies may also need attention.

With many clients I find it is essential to begin treatment by strengthening a person’s gut integrity and microbiota to support their immune health before going on to use natural anti-parasitics.  They just may not have a strong enough gut ecology to initially support these treatments.  These parasites are often resistant to herbs used to fight them and treatments may also need to be pulsed on and off to be more efficacious. Some herbs work better than others and there is good research on other beautiful herbs such as pomegranate in treatment of Blastocystis, not to mention specific strains of probiotics that can be beneficial.

Overall what I do recommend:

See a naturopath

Watch Your Diet

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of Blastocystis or Dientomeba infection – an important step is to ensure your diet is not creating a parasite friendly environment. This will support any treatment protocol you may be undertaking.  Parasites colonise the large intestine and when ‘challenged’ can result in symptoms of discomfort.  People need to be informed of this fact so making changes gently is often necessary.
  • Alkalinise your diet if it is high in acid forming foods such as red meat, dairy, refined sugar and grains.
  • Increase your intake of vegetables, especially the green leafy variety with particular mention of broccoli and spinach. They support a healthy microbiota
  • Reduce carbohydrates in general as the parasites feed off these.  Increase your intake of easily digestible protein.
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeinated drinks – teas, coffee and carbonated drinks.
  • However – include green tea as these parasites don’t like it!
  • Include wonderful parasite fighting herbs and spices such as – cinnamon, clove, fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, oregano and thyme.
  • Include fermented foods in your diet to support your body’s production of probiotics.

 Prevent Infection/Reinfection?

  • Ensure good hygiene is applied – always washing hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • This also applies to those who do not have these parasites but someone else in the household does!
  • Carefully washing and peeling raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Avoid contaminated water or foods that may have not been stored well.

In summary, what is essential is to ensure that our gut health and subsequently our immune system are as healthy and strong, as well as keeping our toxin levels down.  The world is becoming increasing populated and polluted and our exposure to parasites (and other microbes) is continually increasing.  So if you are diagnosed with these parasites I highly recommend seeing a natural health practitioner.  In addition we need to go back to health basics:  eat well, keep our gut microbiota strong and healthy, support detoxification and rest and relax.


Marianne Harold

October 28, 2017

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Healing Vegetable Red Curry

Healing Vegetable Red Curry is delicious and power packed with goodness – perfect comfort food for the winter evenings. It’s a yummy vegetarian based curry that I love to make.  It’s loaded with goodness and packed with vegetables and anti-inflammatory spices that are slowly simmered until tender. It is served with roasted cashew nuts sprinkled on top with accompaniments such as organic yoghurt, cucmber and lime. This is a perfect dish for using up leftover vegetables you may have on hand and can be enjoyed on a meat-free Monday or over the weekend.  Find recipe here

What’s Nourishing About It:

Rich in fibre and enzymes due to its vegetable content, this curry also contains wonderful healing spices.  Turmeric is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in manganese, zinc, B group vitamins and iron. Ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which support immune function and combat cellular damage. Garlic is highly antimicrobial and also supports immune function.  Cauliflower is a good source of the cancer-fighting agents known as glucosinolates. Cauliflower is also rich in sulphur that works as an anti-inflammatory. It also supports healthy digestion.


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Avocado – A True Wonder Food

Avocado – a true wonder food!  What’s not to love?! Not only is it so easy to eat in all sorts of ways – straight out of the skin with a sprinkle of sea salt, on toast with your other favourites, blended into creamy dips and sauces, chopped into salads and mixed up into raw deserts – but avocado and its oil are wonderfully nourishing for your skin.

They are loaded with Vitamin E that is so necessary for healthy skin. It prevents free radical damage from oxidising fats in your skin cells that lead to ageing. The carotenoids protect your skin from environmental damage and avocado’s fatty acids also help keep the skin moisturised and hydrated.

Avocados are rich in mono-unsaturated fats that have compounds to protect against, inflammation and cancer. Not only do they contain high levels of Vitamin E, but also the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene which promote blood sugar reduction and support cardiovascular, digestive and eye health.

Avocado oil which can be drizzled over salads as well as used in cooking – great for medium heat cooking.
Did you know that you can also eat the avocado seed? Avocado seeds are loaded with antioxidants and are a great source soluble fibre to support digestive and cardiovascular health. Avocado seed has 70% of the antioxidants found in the whole avocado

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Apple Walnut & Date Loaf

Apple Walnut & Date Loaf is a delicious and moist sugar, gluten and dairy free option for casual ‘get togethers’ or to have on hand for lunchboxes and afternoon snacks.

What’s great about it?

Apples are high in fibre as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre which is great for your digestive system. The soluble fibre is known as pectin and the beauty of it is that it has the power to help lower cholesterol and regulate your blood sugar levels.

Walnuts contain Omega 3 which helps reduce inflammation in the body and support heart and skin health.

Coconut yoghurt although higher in fat than normal yoghurt does contain medium chain triglycerides which are a great source of energy and also stimulate metabolism.  It contains probiotics and is a good alternative for those with dairy intolerances or for vegans.

See recipe here

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Village Pie with Buckwheat Pastry

Village Pie with is one of those comfort dishes which is perfect for the cooler weather.  This recipe using nutritious, and totally delicious, black rice and buckwheat pastry is based on the one my mum used to make which was wrapped up in fillo pastry.  The recipe is made with goat’s cheese which can be replaced by macadamia nut fetta for a vegan option.

Black Rice or forbidden rice, contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than most other foods, as well as higher amounts of plant protein and dietary fibre than other rice varieties.  It is a very good source of iron which is beneficial for vegetarians and vegans.

Buckwheat actually derives from the same family as the rhubarb and is completely gluten free. It is a good source of low GI carbohydrates, protein, magnesium, iron, and B group vitamins. Buckwheat also contains a flavonoid called ‘rutin’ which acts as an antioxidant and helps to reduce high blood pressure, prevent clotting and lower bad cholesterol levels. The insoluble fibre content in buckwheat stabilises blood glucose levels and maintains a healthy digestive system.

See recipe here

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Turmeric – Changing Gene Expression

Turmeric can change gene expression and is a perfect example of Food As Medicine. We are all becoming aware of the many benefits of curcumin, a constituent of turmeric, from its ability to reduce depression to its anti-inflammatory effects which help with osteoarthritis and diabetes. It also has the ability to protect the liver and assists with detoxification as well as encouraging weight loss due to its thermogenic effects.

A recent study conducted over 6 weeks by University College London & Dr Michael Mosley determined that when added to food on a daily basis,  turmeric can regulate our DNA Methylation thereby reducing our genetic susceptibility to inflammatory diseases such as asthma and some cancers.

Turmeric can easily be added into our diet through food and the traditional Ayurvedic turmeric milk.  In fact turmeric lattes are becoming increasingly popular in the Australian cafe scene.

Note:   turmeric MUST be consumed with a little healthy fat  and black pepper as this increases activates absorption and bioavailability by up to 100%.

Drink or eat up!

Posted in Digestive Health, Health Article, Immune Health, Marianne Harold Naturopath, Naturopath Brisbane West, Turmeric | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Turmeric – Changing Gene Expression

Coping with Christmas Stress

As Christmas and New Year approach,  many of us experience increased stress levels which can be due to varying reasons such as a lack of time, financial obligations, relationship stress, worrying about our health or what presents to buy.

Usually most of the stress we experience is the stress we place on ourselves!  We need to retain the focus that spending time with loved ones and the message of peace is the real gift of the season.

To find out how read article here.

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Raw Kelp Noodle Salad with Tamarind Dressing

Raw Kelp Noodle Salad with Tamarind Dressing


Raw Kelp Noodle Salad with Tamarind Dressing is a colourful and vibrant salad which is a perfect example of the naturopathic principle of ‘eating a rainbow’ to ensure that you consume a range of vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants through your diet.    This super salad is full of wonderful nourishment and only takes a few minutes to throw together! For full recipe click here.

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Simple Strategies to Boost Immunity


There are simple strategies to boost immunity at the end of winter when we might be getting over winter germs or  getting complacent as spring approaches.  These can include such things such as eating immune boosting foods such as mushrooms, garlic and pepita seeds, getting more sleep, staying hydrated to flush out toxins or getting 15 minutes of sunlight per day to give us a shot of Vitamin D and fresh air.

Continue reading

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