There is so much debate about this product, whether it is healthy, unhealthy, addictive, even cancer causing? I am going to give you a little bit more information on sugar, and if it is really that bad for you.
What is sugar?
Sugar ultimately falls under a carbohydrate, whether white, brown or raw. Sugar is contained in many foods, those that have a high sugar content are lollies, chocolate, pastries, fruit, soft drinks, sauces, and cereals, to name a few (HealthAliciousNess 2016).
Sugar is found naturally in whole foods and is often added to processed foods to sweeten them and increase flavour. Your tongue can’t quite distinguish between these sugars when you are eating them, but your body can. All sugars, whether natural or artificial, all provide the same amount of energy per gram, which is 4calories, but are processed and used differently throughout the body.
There are different types of sugars; let’s look at the “simple sugars” – sucrose, glucose and fructose. These are known as important carbohydrates.
Glucose – Most of the sugars/carbohydrates that you eat is processed into glucose, either to be straight away used for energy or for later use by it being stored in muscle cells or the liver as ‘glycogen’; this is the body’s preferred energy source. The cells of our brain and the rest of the human nervous system almost depend only on glucose for energy (Debruyne et al. 2016).
Glucose can spike your blood sugar quickly, hence the reason many sportsmen have sugary drinks in the middle of a game, or a big bowl of pasta beforehand.
Fructose – Fructose is the sweetest of sugars (Debruyne et al. 2016). It is found naturally in many fruits, honey too, and is also found in table sugar (Debruyne et al. 2016). Fructose is added to many drinks (such as soft drinks and fruit juices), to make the taste sweeter through the addition of ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup (Debruyne et al. 2016). However, fructose is very different from other sugars because it is metabolised differently by the body, it is not the preferred energy source for our muscles or brain (Healthy Eating n.d.). Fructose is also more lipogenic, or fat-producing, than glucose. Fructose cannot be used directly by the body for fuel. It must first go to the liver and be converted to glucose. However, if the liver is already full of glycogen (the storage form of glucose as mentioned above), it will not convert fructose into glucose; instead, it will convert it into fat (Healthy Eating n.d.) .
Sucrose – Sucrose actually a combination of glucose and fructose together (Debruyne et al. 2016). It is naturally found in fruits and veggies, but is also commonly known as table sugar, and is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beets to make all the sugar you see when in the supermarket, or when baking; brown sugar, white sugar and icing sugar. When sucrose is consumed, an enzyme separates sucrose into its individual sugar units of glucose and fructose, then they are digested accordingly (Debruyne et al. 2016). The body responds to the glucose content of the meal in the way it usually would, by using it as the body’s main energy source; however, the excess energy from fructose, if not needed by the body, will be poured into fat synthesis, which is stimulated by the insulin released in response to glucose (Healthy Eating n.d.).
Now that we know a little bit more about sugar, let me share some interesting and concerning, information I found.
Did you know that sugar is addictive?
When sugar is consumed in excess, it may be associated with an individual’s body fat content increasing (Debruyne et al. 2016). It may be easier for one to consume too much sugar, especially when they are consuming sugar in the form of drinks such as fruit juices and soft drinks, since it is not very often that an individual will be satisfied off only a drink, they will often accompany it with a meal.
As you will see in supermarkets and advertisements, many people are encouraged to drink soft drinks due to how easy they are to get, the flavour, and how cheap they are. This can often lead to overconsumption.
It is also often that foods containing sugar such as cakes and pastries, don’t contain any nutrients, proteins, healthy fats, or enzymes; all they are, are just empty and quickly digested calories that spike your energy levels, and pull minerals from your body during digestion (Healthy Eating n.d.). When comparing other foods such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits, there are often starches and fibre contained, which helps with digestion but also provides vitamins, minerals and protein (Debruyne et al. 2016). If you weigh them up, which one seems better?
Not only does sugar contribute to dental caries (Debruyne et al. 2016), it is also addictive (Avena et al. n.d.). It’s actually like a drug; in fact, with the consumption of sugar, the hormone ghrelin is released, which actually makes us hungrier (Healthy Eating n.d.). Once we have a little taste of sugar, we crave more. Our brains literally light up when we have sugar. Too much is unhealthy, and has been linked to many health issues and diseases, including obesity and diabetes (see here).
There is no need to fully quit sugar, because if you think about that quite literally, it’s almost impossible, but also because here at Laughing Our Way Fit, we are about leading a fun and happy healthy lifestyle. Of course it is so okay to have a cake when it’s someone’s birthday, to eat some of that apple pie your grandma made, or to even try out a recipe with some form of sugar in it, because that is what makes life fun. Do though, make an effort to substitute table sugar with other ingredients, and try omit sugar whenever you can. Here are my two favourite sweeteners which you could substitute instead of regular sugar:
- Raw honey: this is in fact sugar, but I want to add it in because there can be so many benefits of it. This is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation, including as many antioxidants as spinach (see here)! Of course with this, its important to eat in moderation, but it is great.
- Stevia: this is my all-time favourite sweetener, because the taste of it is delicious and it has close to no calories (Authority Nutrition n.d.). Stevia actually comes from a plant, so is not artificial, infact, it has many benefits, read more about those here. Stevia can come in many forms; in granules, sachets, pills, and even flavoured liquid drops. It is sweeter than sugar, and looks pretty much identical, so if you wanting to replace this in recipes it would be so easy. It is also easy to buy; Safeway, Coles, and IGA all stock Stevia, and health food stores have the flavoured drops. Stevia is amazing, and I would totally recommend!
Another thing you can do to broaden your knowledge is to watch the documentary “That Sugar Film” whenever you have spare time – there is so much to learn from this, and it is so interesting too. I have tried to put in as much info as I can in this post, so you will learn lots of information but also hold onto it in your memory.
I am so glad that there is so much amazing information on the Internet, and that I am able to share it and gather some of it together for you to read. Hopefully your learnt a little bit more about sugar, and why it may be best to stay away from it when you can. I really hope that this post has helped you and that you gained a little bit of knowledge from me. I would love to get to know you, so comment below.
Until next time!
Lots of Love,
Authority Nutrition n.d., 4 Natural Sweeteners That Are Good For Your Health, Authority Nutrition, viewed 12 September 2016, https://authoritynutrition.com/4-healthy-natural-sweeteners/
Avena, N M, Rada, P, Hoebel, B G, ‘Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake’, US National Library of Medicine.
DeBruyne, L K, Pinna, K, Whitney, E, 2016, Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 9th edn, Cengage Learning, Boston, MA.
HealthAliciousNess 2016, Top 10 Foods Highest in Sugar (To Limit or Avoid), HealthAliciousNess, viewed 12 September 2016, <https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-sugar-foods.php>
Healthy Eating n.d., What is the difference between Sucrose, Glucose & Fructose?, SF Gate, viewed 11 September 2016, < http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/difference-between-sucrose-glucose-fructose-8704.html>