Truth about sugar: Is sugar bad for you?

July 30, 2020

When it comes to sugars there are two things we know – it tastes great and is wildly misunderstood. There are a lot of concerns around sugar being bad for us, with some diet fads suggesting cutting out the food group altogether. Although there is some truth in the harmful impact of sugar on our health, it can also be good for us. Like everything the key is balance. This TREK guide will uncover the truth about sugar so that you can enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Is sugar bad for you?

Sugar has been getting a bad rap in the media for years. But is sugar really bad for you? The answer depends on how much you consume, and how much of it is added to your diet compared with natural sources of sugar.

The NHS recommends that adults should have a maximum of 30g of free sugars a day. This includes sugars that are found naturally in foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as refined sugars which are added to products. Free sugars are the type of sugar that we often have too much of in our diet as it is present in a lot of food and drinks. This can lead to a number of health issues such as diabetes, weight gain and tooth decay.

However, you shouldn’t cut out sugar from your diet! Sugar is an important source of energy that our bodies need in order to function. It’s especially important after exercise to help restore energy levels! The key is to find foods low in sugar and high in other nutrients. For example, our TREK Protein Nut Bars contain less than 5g of sugar and are made using the finest natural ingredients.

But first, you need to understand the different types of sugars and why they may fall on the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’ side of the coin.

What is natural sugar?

The natural sugars in food are fructose and glucose. These are the type of sugars you should be looking to add into your diet. Fructose is found in fruits and vegetables, while glucose can be found in honey, maple syrup and other foods. Natural sugars are also known as complex carbohydrates because they don’t cause a big spike in blood sugar levels for the body to deal with.

Some vegan sources of natural sugar include apples, bananas, peas and carrots, as well as grains and other legumes. However, you can also find natural sugars in milk and other dairy products like cheese and yoghurt. These foods, particularly the fruit and veg, contain other vital vitamins and nutrients like calcium and protein, which make them an important part of your diet.

What is refined sugar?

Refined sugar is a carbohydrate that’s been processed to extract the natural solids from it, leaving behind a highly refined substance that has had most of its natural nutrients removed. It’s added to foods as an inexpensive sweetener, and it’s also used in making many processed foods such as chocolate bars, baked goods, condiments and soft drinks.

Having too much refined sugar in your diet can be a major contributing factor to weight gain and the development of blood sugar disorders such as diabetes and insulin sensitivity. They are considered a form of ‘empty calories’ because they are very high in calories, but low in any nutritional value. Therefore, refined sugars are the type of the sugar to avoid, and the one that contributes most to sugars’ bad reputation.

Should I consider a sugar free diet?

The simple answer is no. Sugar is an important part of any balanced diet because it provides energy and nutrients like calcium, iron and magnesium. It should be enjoyed in moderation, with a good mix of fructose, glucose and sucrose (the types of sugars). You should also look to eat foods that contain natural sugars (good), over foods that are high in refined sugars (bad).

Some delicious, vegan snack ideas that do not contain refined sugars include:

• Mange tout, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber batons
• Black bean hummus dip and raw vegetable crudités, or carrot sticks
• A handful of raw almonds with a pear
• Thin rice cakes topped with mashed avocado, almond butter, and sliced tomato
• Vegetable soup, mixed bean soups and salads
• A mix of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
• A good old TREK Bar that is full of protein and natural ingredients.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE SUGAR CRAVINGS?

Sugar cravings are a real thing! They can be caused by low blood sugar levels, stress, or your body sending a signal that you need more fuel. We often curb these cravings with refined sugar like a chocolate bar to have that instant feeling of satisfaction. However, this can cause weight gain over time due to the high calories, as well lead to a sugar addiction because your body is getting used to the positive feeling of satisfying cravings.

A cause of sugar cravings could be a low protein intake. Protein and fats slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, so 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. Therefore, if you add more protein into your diet than you can reduce the feeling of craving sugar to prevent unhealthy snacking habits from developing. Checkout our list of high protein snacks to eat instead!

Summary: Is sugar good or bad for you?

Now we have learned everything there is to know about sugar there is only one thing left to do – answer the question, ‘is sugar bad for you?’. The answer is no in moderation. As long as you eat natural sugar and avoid refined sugar, and stick to the daily recommendation of less than 30g of sugar a day, then it’s not ‘bad’. In fact, our bodies actually need sugar for energy and fuel, especially to aid your workouts. It’s only when we have an excessive amount of sugar, and eat calorific foods that it can lead to serious problems. So always remember that a balanced diet is key!

For more helpful guides on all things nutrition checkout our TREK blog for articles like TREK’s Guide to Muscle Recovery Foods and Are Flapjacks Healthy?

Don’t forget to pick up one of our tasty TREK Bars today for the ultimate protein snack.