At this point, I don’t think that repeating how detrimental sugar is to your health, wellbeing, and weight loss goals is necessary. We all know that sugar is not good for us.
Instead, I want to talk about the following:
- Different types of sugar
- How sugar works in our body
- Where does fruit fit in
- How do we incorporate sugar into an overall supportive nutrition plan
Types of Sugar
All sugars are NOT created equal. Below is a basic overview of popular sugars.
- Dextrose, fructose, and glucose are all monosaccharides, known as simple sugars. The primary difference between them is how your body metabolizes them. Glucose and dextrose are essentially the same sugar. However, food manufacturers usually use dextrose in their ingredient list.
- Simple sugars can combine to form more complex sugars, like the disaccharide sucrose (table sugar), which is half glucose and half fructose. High fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
- Ethanol (drinking alcohol) is not a sugar, although beer and wine contain residual sugars and starches, in addition to alcohol.
- Sugar alcohols like xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly more popular. They are absorbed from your intestine; therefore, they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas.
- Sucralose (Splenda) is NOT a sugar but instead a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin and can result in negative health consequences.
- Agave syrup is HIGHLY processed and is usually 80% fructose.
- Honey is about 53% fructose but is completely natural in its raw form and can have many health benefits when used in moderation.
- Stevia is a highly sweet herb, which is safe if in its natural form. The problem is food manufacturers use fillers in many stevia products. Opt for a natural brand such as NuNaturals or Sweet Leaf.
How Sugar is Processed in Our Bodies
It’s not that fructose itself is bad (fruit contains fructose); rather, it is the HUGE quantities in which it is consumed that is the issue. The two main reasons that fructose is so damaging to our bodies are: 1) your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way from glucose, and 2) the HUGE quantities in which fructose is consumed makes the negative effects that much more damaging. The burden of processing fructose falls solely on your liver. Your liver only breaks down about 20% of glucose, and since nearly every cell in your body uses glucose, it is normally “burned up” after consumption.
So where does all the fructose go once you consume it? You guessed it, right onto your thighs—it is turned into FAT, which means more fat deposits throughout your body.
What about Fruit?
Fruits also contain fructose, but whole fruits also contain vitamins and other beneficial antioxidants that reduce the hazardous effects of fructose. Juice, on the other hand, is a different story and is as damaging as soda. A glass of juice is full of fructose and lacks the antioxidants and fiber. We need to just be mindful of our fruit consumption and match it with our activity level and health and fitness goals.
Does Sugar Fit into a Supportive Nutrition Plan?
Yes Even though sugar, in particular fructose, is very detrimental to our bodies, I don’t think it is realistic to expect to NEVER eat sugar again. However, I do feel through education, preparing your own food, and conscious and mindful eating, you can DRASTICALLY cut down on your sugar consumption.
Below are three tips for cutting down on sugar:
- Cut sugar out of your diet for at least 3 weeks completely. Your body can become “sensitized” to sugar and its effects. After you completely cut it out for several weeks, your body will be less reactive to it.
- Make your own “treats.” This way, you can control how much sugar you add. More than likely, you can cut the sugar in a recipe in half, and it will still be sweet enough for you.
- Consume natural forms of sugar such as fruit and raw honey, and completely avoid processed packaged foods that contain high fructose corn syrup as well as other forms of sugar.