Small change, BIG difference — Orit Laskov

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Cut down on the sweet stuff

What small change can make a big impact on one’s health? There are many options. Stop smoking. Exercise more. Sleep more. Shrink your waistline. Meditate. Drink less coffee. Wait, maybe its drink more coffee. Eat more vegetables. Vaccinate. Get medical check-ups regularly. Worry less.

The answer depends on the health professional asked and the circumstances of the person asking. It can be overwhelming to prioritise and make sense of all the advice and recommendations out there. I’ve elected to focus on only one small thing that can make a big difference and is quite simple to do. Eat less sugar.

Recent studies show that a diet high in sugar increases the risk of dying of heart disease even in the absence of being overweight and this risk is not reduced if the diet is loaded with healthy foods such as vegetables. Eating all your greens doesn’t cancel the high risk created by eating sugar-laden foods.

Added sugar contains a lot of calories but no nutrients. It’s bad for your teeth. Large quantities, along with inactivity, can result in liver damage. and it causes resistance to insulin, which fuels the onset of obesity, diabetes, as well as some other diseases. Nasty stuff, right? Scientists aren’t sure if people become physically addicted to sugar although it is known that ingesting it causes the release of a ‘feel good’ chemical in the brain, which can trigger addiction in some people.

Many find it difficult to cut down or stop eating sweet foods. We associate sweetness with goodness, even in our wishes of ‘Shana tova umetuka!’ Reducing your daily sugar intake could massively impact your quality of life and longevity. Try to stick to naturally occurring sugars which are found in whole grains, fruit, and milk. Avoid or reduce added sugars where possible. Every little bit counts, so even a teaspoon less here and there will add up.

So after you’ve dipped your apple in a (small) dollop of honey this Rosh Hashanah, try to say farewell to added sugars and have a healthy, happy and maybe slightly-less-sweet year.

Dr Orit Laskov is a General Practitioner based in Sea Point. Her approach has always been warm, caring and thorough, treating patients ranging from newborns to the elderly, and addressing each patient’s specific and individual needs.

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