Sugar: The Good And The Bad

For reasons of your health, you should really avoid sodas, energy drinks, and other beverages with added sugars. Coffee drinkers should only add non-GMO or organic sugar to your coffee, avoid processed sugars. On average, 10% of our caloric intake is added sugars. However, 1 in 10 (that’s 10% of the population) get as much as 25% of their caloric intake from added sugars. We are all aware of the dangers of too much sugar, specifically added sugars, which include:

  • Increased risk of:
    • Heart Disease
    • Type 2 Diabetes
    • Cancer
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Inflammation

However, sugar alone is not the cause of this increased risk. The increased risk is largely due to a higher caloric intake alongside the high sugar diet. For example, people rarely eat two to three apples, one right after the other. However, they will eat food in addition to a 16oz soft drink which has the same amount of sugar as three apples, but without the fiber.

This could be because added sugars make us hungrier, or it could be the lack of nutrients. Nutrients which we would also be getting from that apple, making a second or third feel like a bit much to eat one right after the other. In most cases, a higher energy output will require the higher energy input. This is why athletes may have an easier time with higher sugar diets and no weight gain or increased risk of diseases. The extra energy the body is receiving from their diet is being used (or burned) during exercise and training.

Cutting out as much added sugars is crucial for your overall health. Scientists suggest that, once the body breaks down the sugars, natural or added appear the same to the body. However, consuming natural sugars (such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking fruit juices or smoothies, etc) you are also getting fiber. The fiber controls how much fructose gets into the liver for absorption how quickly. And added sugars largely have a higher percentage of fructose to glucose, whereas natural sugars have an equal ratio of fructose to glucose. Foods and beverages that use added sugars as the preferred sweetener, also lack in fiber. So the entire amount of fructose is hitting your liver and being turned into fat at the same time.

Whereas the body does use fat as fuel, we all know what happens when our body produces fat faster than it needs the fuel from fat – we gain unwanted weight. Individuals who consume primarily fruit beverages over sodas and energy drinks, or fruits instead of unhealthy snacks, are largely thinner because the fiber in the fruits are controlling the speed at which the fructose makes it to the liver. Which, in turn, slows down the production of fat; so fuel from fat is available as needed, not in excess.

Unfortunately, more than 80% of our foods contain added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup. So it’s almost impossible to cut added sugars completely out of your diet. Especially on a budget. But you can control how much added sugars you consume by going for healthier alternatives and shying away from soft drinks. Soda drinkers trying to break the habit may opt to mix fruit juice in seltzer water as an alternative.

Sugar is being demonized because it’s a pleasure. Sugary foods and drinks taste good, and many prefer a sugary snack over a healthy alternative. But demonizing it leads to two results:

  1. We may attempt to cut out sugar entirely from our diet.
  2. We will want more of it, and may find it hard to resist.

By completely removing sugar from our diet, we are opening ourselves up to a world of health issues and lack of energy. Our bodies need sugar to function. And our brains use sugar as well, specifically glucose. Glucose is used by every cell in the body to generate energy, and helps fuel the brain. A little bit of sugar, if it’s the right kind, can help your brain perform to its best ability.

Ditching sugar can:

  • destroy metabolism
  • lead to a weakened immune system,
  • lead to poor digestion,
  • impaired sexual/reproductive function,
  • accelerated aging.

Through the inability to resist sweets, we are now risking giving the body too much sugar, which will wind up becoming stored fat and LDL Cholesterol.

Sugar alone isn’t bad. But too much is. A proper diet, consisting primarily of naturally occurring sugars, will provide the body with the right amount of sugars. Each individuals body requires different amounts, based on their lifestyle. The more active the lifestyle, the more sugars will be required by the body for fuel.

Aside from focusing on consuming natural sugars and avoiding added and processed sugars, you also want to include carbohydrates in your diet. Your body should only get roughly 25-30% of it’s sugar (glucose) from straight sugars. The rest comes from carbohydrates, which break down to glucose.

Our bodies are actually smarter than we give them credit for. They warn us when something is wrong (pain and inflammation) and they tell us what we need to be fully functional (cravings). All those diets and reports that suggest sugar is the villain and needs to be avoided, are wrong. If your body is craving sugar, it’s because it needs more glucose to operate correctly. Listen to your body. But rather than going for a cupcake or donut, choose a fruit instead. As explained above, the fruit contains the much needed glucose, but it also contains fiber and other nutrients the body needs as well, and will regulate how much sugar is used when so less is unnecessarily stored as fat.

Every minute of every day, including while we’re sleeping, our body is using energy and converting nutrients into energy. The preferred energy source is actually glucose.

We need to stop demonizing sugar, or any one thing, but rather demonize poor diets. Before sugar was the bad guy, it was fats. What will it be next? The real demon to our health is a poor overall diet. And it’s time we begin to vilify a poor diet as the real culprit to poor health.

To get, and stay, healthy, we should focus on a diet full of real foods, not processed foods. Rather than cutting out fats, carbohydrates, or sugars from our diet, we should be cutting out processed foods and additives. A diet consisting of real foods, preferably non-GMO and organic, and a properly formulated multi-vitamin & mineral to fill in any nutritional gaps, our bodies will let us know what it needs, when it needs it.

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