When it comes to sugars there are two things we know. Number one, it tastes great and number two, there are serious misconceptions about the sweet carb. It is present in many day-to-day diets however it is constantly confused by changing opinions especially within the media. Many questions arise such as, are some sugars healthier than others? Will cutting sugars out of your diet really help you lose weight? And will less sugar in your diet help your mental health? The truth to these questions may surprise you. Read on as we tackle whether sugar really is damaging, and whether it can form part of a healthy diet.
Sugar is in fact a broad term which holds an array of natural and refined foods under its category. Some sugars are found naturally in foods including fruit and vegetables such as watermelon and mangoes having a relatively high sugar content. There are also other sugars that are used during processing and cooking. Here at Natural Balance Foods we are crazy about “natural food” and we’re always looking to gain our nutrients through foods of natural sources in equal, necessary amounts. The question is where do we find natural forms of sugar?
Sugar is naturally present in foods such as fruits where it is found in the form of fructose and also in the likes of milk and cheese where it is found as lactose. Sugar is also present in grain and legumes…actually mostly the whole plant kingdom in a molecular form! Sugar doesn’t exist in its own entity, or in terms which could be constituted as unbound or “free”. It’s this element which sprouts the confusion among many wondering if sugar is actually healthy.
In its natural presence, sugar is integrated with a wide amount of plant nutrients and fibres which give it incredible nourishing and energising qualities. On the other hand, sugars which have been refined and extracted from natural “base foods” to be placed in man-made foods like biscuits, sweets and cakes has the potential to be harmful. These sugars differ from fruit sugars as they undergo processing and are usually overused as additives in foods.
Refined sugars and carbohydrates in excessive proportions are a major contributing factor to weight gain and development of blood sugar disorders such as diabetes and insulin sensitivity. The issue arises in the fact that refined sugars are found in a variety of foods, making it particularly challenging to avoid. These foods including sweet snacks including muffins, cookies and brownies along with ready-made meals and other processed foods.
These sugars and carbohydrates are presented in a refined form of sucrose which is a mix of glucose and fructose. When sugars are processed in such a way, this leaves little nutritional value within the sugars, therefore making them calorific and unhealthy. Packaged foods are regarded as a significant cause for disease epidemics in the modern day such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. This is a view agreed between doctors, scientists and health practitioners alike.
Now that we have defined the good sugars and the bad, it is important to realise that sugar in its healthy form is definitely important for your diet.
These sugars can come in the form of fruit sugars that are not connected to amplified risks of disease, instead finding its qualities to be protective and helpful in regulating blood sugar levels “Fruit sugar” is often likened to the same ‘bad’ sugar present in processed foods, where in fact they are pumped full of slow releasing fibrous structures which are released into the bloodstream steadily rather than sugars which cause peppered spikes in blood sugar.
Including a mix of fructose, glucose and sucrose in small doses is in fact good for you. As this is mixed with great amounts of fibre and potassium, fruits can actually help you to feel fuller for longer. This means excluding fruit from you diet is incredibly unnecessary and not recommended by nutritionists – what a relief!
Although generally it is best to stay away from processed foods with large amounts of sucrose sugar, indulging in this every once in a while is not going to ruin your balanced diet. Instead, take these sugars in small doses and instead use fruit sugars or add in a little honey instead for the more natural sugars that your body can break down more easily.
It’s important to bear in mind that humans have the capability to withstand and enjoy the sweetness of sugar in their diet. We even have taste buds to identify sweet tastes so sugar is a perfectly normal and expected part of the diet. However, craving sugar is considered incredibly abnormal and is usually triggered as a response to consuming too much of the ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ sugars. One dietary culprit could low protein intake. As protein and fats slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, if you do not consume enough then your blood sugar can rise and fall at an irregular rate leading to your body craving quick energy from sugar.
The extracted and refined form is an addictive substance which can stir and change chemicals in the brain, not too dissimilar to people who develop more dangerous addictions. Sugar withholds the ability to trigger opioid chemicals in the brain bringing on a euphoric rush, the desire to revisit this rush is what causes cravings. Huge consumption can then scatter the balance in the blood sugar with a mixture of ‘hits’ developing ‘highs’ followed by ‘lows’ as a reaction. Simply put, it is best to avoid refined sugar as much as possible to dispel any chances of cravings developing.
Top hint is to avoid any refined sugar no matter what form or guise! This means detaching yourself from the main sources which are found in cakes, biscuits, canned drinks, cereals, pastries and sweets. Always scan over the ingredients to identify any refined sugars.
If you do have sugar, make sure it’s consumed from its natural form in fruits and vegetables. You have to teach yourself how to taste the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables, you’ll find it works best for the likes of sugar snap peas, baked squash, raw carrots, ripe red peppers and ripened tomatoes.
If you do have a sugar craving, then start implementing natural fat-based or protein-based food in your diet such as nuts, avocado or hummus which make for perfect snacking material. As the start to your day is incredibly important, it’s best to spruce it up with a bowl of fresh fruits topped with nuts, berries or even try out chia porridge which is created with almond milk rather than going for a sugary cereal or muffin in the morning.