Understanding sugar? 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 healthy 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
Not all sugars are created equal. Below is a basic overview of common 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 combine to form more complex sugars, like the disaccharide sucrose (table sugar – half glucose and half fructose).
High fructose corn syrup is a synthetic chemical that consists of highly processed corn syrups combined with enzymes that increase the fructose content, which is then blended with 100% glucose. The final result could range from 55% to 95% fructose.
Ethanol (drinking alcohol) is not a sugar, although beer and wine contain residual sugars and starches, in addition to alcohol.
Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol are neither sugars nor alcohols but popular sweeteners, especially in “healthy” products where a person might look at the total grams of sugar.
- Sugar alcohols are absorbed in the intestines. They provide fewer calories than sugar but are often associated with bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Sucralose (Splenda) is not a sugar but a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin. Like the others in this category, it can result in adverse health consequences.
Agave (nectar) syrup is HIGHLY processed and is usually 90% fructose. It is often thought of as natural and therefore healthy. However, in the processing, all health-promoting properties of the agave plant, including its healthy fructans fiber and nutrients, are broken down until only fructose remains. Therefore, its Glycemic Index Rank also lies between 20 and 30.
Honey is about 53% fructose but is entirely 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. Personally, I experience the same reactions from stevia as others from sugar alcohols, which do not have adverse effects for me.
How is Sugar Processed within Our Bodies
Two of the “simple sugars” mentioned above (dextrose and glucose) are absorbed straight from the bloodstream and can therefore provide quick bursts of energy. Nearly every cell in the human body utilizes glucose for energy, making this beneficial and often even essential.
Of course, we know that too much is where sugars become a problem. Your body can store on average 15g per kilogram of bodyweight. Once the body’s storage is full, every other gram is processed towards energy storage, better known as your body fat.
I have to also say here that activity uses stored glycogen. Exercising is a great way to empty those carbohydrate stores so that your next meal doesn’t go straight to your thighs, stomach, hips, or wherever your predisposition lies.
Unlike dextrose and glucose, fructose can only process into glucose through the liver. If we limited our fructose consumption to natural forms (such as fruits), this wouldn’t be a problem at all.
However, fructose has become the sugar of choice in today’s Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). Particularly through the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, our body can be bombarded with fructose all day/every day. The burden of processing all fructose we consume falls solely on your liver.
Virtually unknown before 1980, “nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” now affects up to 30% of adults in the United States and other developed countries.
Early on, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is reversible. At some point, though, the liver can become inflamed. If the inflammation becomes severe, it can lead to cirrhosis – an accumulation of scar tissue and the subsequent degeneration of liver function.
In addition to this nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the liver produces more triglycerides and LDL that adversely affect the arteries and heart.
As I hope you’re recognizing, the “sugar dilemma” is so much greater than just simply causing weight gain but truly impacting the health of millions.
What about Fruit?
Yes, fruits contain fructose, but whole fruits also contain vitamins, beneficial antioxidants, and fiber, reducing hazardous effects. 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 benefits of whole fruit.
Does Sugar Fit into a Supportive Nutrition Plan?
Yes 🙂 Even though sugar, particularly fructose, is very detrimental to our bodies, I don’t think it is realistic to expect NEVER to eat sugar again. However, you can DRASTICALLY cut down on your sugar consumption through education, preparing your food, and conscious and mindful eating. The United States is doing better with sugar consumption, but we are still a long way from becoming healthy. Particularly children need their parents to become more mindful of what they are eating. High fructose corn syrup is within nearly everything designed for kids! At the rate they are consuming fructose, they could develop scarred livers while still in their teens and need a new liver by their 30s or 40s. So, be mindful if you’re a parent.
Below are three tips for cutting down on sugar:
- Try eliminating sugar from your diet for 21-30 days. Your body can become “sensitized” to sugar and its effects. After you completely cut it out for a few 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 whole fruit and raw honey, and altogether avoid processed packaged foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar.
I hope this article has helped your understanding and provides you with enough knowledge to make informed choices. My goal is to, at the very least, spark an interest. There are so many more detailed books and articles you can find on so very many specifics on this topic. If you’d like to work with me in changing your health, fitness, body composition, or achieve any related goal, please use our form from the home page. Please tell me more about you and what you want to achieve, and we’ll schedule a video or phone call to start things off. I hope to hear from you soon!
Information sourced from Fructose: This Addictive Commonly Used Food Feeds Cancer Cells, Triggers Weight Gain, and Promotes Premature Aging, Dr. Mercola.