Slowly but surely more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of excessive sugar and carbohydrate consumption; no longer is it only a concern for older, overweight people. More recently, The Noakes Foundation has been delighted to find that younger generations are taking responsibility for their health, and are recognizing the benefits of following a low carbohydrate, healthy fat lifestyle. Jade Beukes, a Grade 7 student at Midstream College, Gauteng, interviewed Professor Noakes about the effects of sugar on the body, and looked into the contents of our school children’s lunch boxes.
Each year our school curriculum requires learners to do a science expo project that offers us the opportunity to do research on a variety of interesting topics. There are very specific guidelines that must be followed, and a lot of work needs to be done for the project to be successfully presented.
In 2015, the topic prescribed for Grade 6 learners was Energy, Food (Preservation of food, Healthy diet, Influence of certain substances, eg alcohol, caffeine, fat, sugar etc, on the human body). As our family had chosen to drastically reduce our carbohydrates (carbs) intake and cut out sugar by following a banting lifestyle, I wanted to focus on one of the things in life that most kids (and in some cases many adults) love: sugar and the impact that it has on our bodies.
I spent a lot of time researching this topic on the internet. There was loads of information available, especially because Professor Tim Noakes was leading the war against sugar through the banting programme. The findings were very interesting, which led me to ask an important question: What’s hiding in your lunchbox?
In order to understand what type of food was being eaten during the day, I did some research among friends at school. I wanted to see how much sugar they were eating and how it made them feel. I put together a simple questionnaire and interviewed 10 school friends aged 11-14 years. I know that this is really a small sample, but I was staggered by their answers and astonished to find out what was in their lunchbox and how they felt after eating it.
Of my friends, six took sandwiches, wraps or pies to school for a snack at break time. While four had some form of fruit packed in, six took biltong and/or cheese to school and only 2 made sure that some veggies were snacked on while spending time on the school playground.
One of the common problems I found was sweets, crisps, biscuits and energy bars. More than 50% of my friend had a stock of these in their lunch bags! Probably most alarming was that only 3 took water to school – the balance all took care of their hydration with a selection sugary carbonated or energy drinks while some had fruit juice. Most 375ml brands of soda contain an amazing 7.5 teaspoons of sugar in 1 can! Did you know that? There’s even one that contains 8! These lunchboxes were crammed with sugar and carbs!!
Part of the research also included checking what was on their breakfast menu. One of my friends said all she had in the morning was fruit like pineapple or a pear (because she thinks that’s healthy) and coffee. Some had eggs (occasionally with bacon), but the majority had cereal, toast, yogurt, juice, colddrink and one had a protein shake. Having done some online research I noticed that many of them had spoons and spoons of sugar for breakfast – even before their school day had started.
The true impact of their unhealthy habits was revealed when I asked them how they felt after having had sugar. These results were amazing!!!
Three felt fat and bloated, three felt tired, one felt sick, another was left craving more sugar and the other two just felt awful. One thing we all agreed on though was that sugar and carbs definitely also affects our concentration negatively. This totally confirmed my understanding of Professor Noakes’ theory that sugar and carbs are not good for you!
After getting an amazingly helpful e-mail reply from the one and only Professor Noakes, my findings were confirmed. Our bodies don’t need sugar or carbs to function properly. We need to follow a banting lifestyle, which is made up of low carbs (less than 25g per day), no sugars (and all other unhealthy foods), high fats with protein the size of the palm of your hand.
He says that most children want to have energy foods and drinks when doing sport because they think that this will help their performance. It turns out that we really don’t need this! All the stored energy and fat we eat while banting will last us for many, many hours! If you’re looking for a tasty treat, “my recommendation would definitely be a boiled egg and my favourite, pork crackling,” said Professor Noakes.
I’m so grateful that our school tuckshop offers students healthy alternatives such as salads, fruit and water. We also have a range of banting meals available and I particularly like the chicken pie with the cauliflower crust. Students may also not buy any sweets or sugary drinks before break, which also supports the theory that these do nothing more than have a negative effect on concentration and behavior.
So, if you want to improve the way you feel and perform in the classroom or on the sports field, sugar and carbs are a definite no-no. An added bonus is if you’re wanting to get into that new pair of skinny jeans you’ve spotted in your favourite fashion store window – cut the sugar and carbs and you’ll be delighted to be able to close the button and zip!
Why not join thousands of South Africans – young and old – who are experiencing the benefits of a banting lifestyle. You’ll see and feel the difference in a few weeks and you won’t regret saying no to sugar or carbs.
– Jade Beukes