Is Sugar Bad For You?

If you’ve ever tried to research how to improve your Nutrition, you’ve probably found yourself down the Sugar rabbit hole. With so many sugar-free options on the market, it’s hard not to question how sugar fits into our diets.

Everywhere you look, there seem to be different opinions about what sugars are, how they work in the human body, and whether they’re good or bad for you. 
Keep reading: I‘ll break down the truth about sugars so that you can make informed decisions about your health. I’ll discuss what sugars are, how they’re metabolized, and why some people believe that they’re harmful. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of what you need to know about sugars and how they’re impacting your body! Let’s get into it…

1. What are Sugars and what do they do to your Body?

Simply put, Sugars are a type of carbohydrate that the body uses for energy. There are two main types of sugar: simple sugars and complex sugars.
Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, including glucose, fructose, and galactose. Complex sugars, also called polysaccharides, including starches and fibres.
Most foods that contain sugar also contain other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
For ease from here on in, I will talk about them in terms of simple and complex sugars. Both types of sugars are an important part of a healthy diet and provide the body with energy.
The body breaks down all of these sugars into glucose, which is used by cells for energy. This is our most basic form of sugar and it is known as blood sugar.
Too much sugar can cause weight gain IF you overconsume on your daily caloric needs. If you eat a lot of either as a mix of both simple and complex or by just having lots of one form and don’t overeat your caloric needs then that sugar isn’t turned to fat.
When you think of sugar, you probably think of the white granules that you add to your coffee or bake into cookies. However, sugar comes in many different forms, both natural and processed.
Natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetables, and they also occur naturally in milk and honey. These sugars are generally a mix of both simple and complex. Processed sugars, on the other hand, are made from sugar cane or sugar beets and have been refined to create a more concentrated sweetener. These tend to be more often simple sugars.

Examples of Processed Sugars

  • Brown sugar: made by adding molasses to refined white sugar
  • Cane sugar: made from sugar cane
  • Confectioner’s sugar: made by grinding refined white sugar into a powder
  • Corn syrup: made from corn starch
  • High-fructose corn syrup: made from corn syrup that has been treated with enzymes to convert some of the glucose into fructose

Examples of Natural Sugars

  • Fructose: found in fruits and honey
  • Glucose: found in fruits and vegetables
  • Lactose: found in milk
  • Maltose: found in beer and malt products

While both types of natural and processed sugar can have negative health effects if consumed in excess, natural sugars are generally considered to be healthier because they contain vitamins, minerals, and fibre. 
In contrast, processed sugars are often “empty” calories that can contribute to overeating your calories for the day.

2. How are Sugars Metabolized?

Both types of sugar are metabolized differently by the body. Complex sugars are broken down into individual glucose molecules by enzymes in the small intestine. These glucose molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy by the cells.
Simple sugars, on the other hand, do not need to be broken down by enzymes because they are already in a form that can be absorbed by the intestines. Once in the bloodstream, they are used for energy or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.
Regardless of their form, all sugars are eventually broken down and used for energy by the cells.

3. Why do some people believe that sugars are harmful

One of the main reasons people believe that simple sugars are harmful to fat loss is because they contain empty calories. This means that they provide no nutritional value and can actually lead to weight gain through overconsuming your calories for the day.
Studies have shown that foods high in simple sugar are often high in calories (high simple sugar, high fat and high sodium foods) as well, and this can contribute to obesity.
Another reason why simple sugars are thought to be harmful to fat loss is that they can cause blood sugar spikes. When these sugar spikes aren’t able to be dropped at an appropriate time there will be small damage done to blood vessels and over time leads to higher blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
The drop in blood sugar between foods can cause cravings and contribute to overeating.
Finally, there is actually no strong evidence that simple sugars are addictive by themselves. You don’t see people eating simple sugar by themselves. You or your friends don’t eat the white sugar grains by the spoonful. What we do see is people overeating foods that tend to be high fat, high simple sugar and high sodium. A complex mix that the brain rewards with floods of dopamine.
While there is some debate on the matter, many experts believe that simple sugars should be limited when trying to lose weight.

4. How to reduce your intake of sugars

Reduction of simple sugar intake can be difficult because sugar is added to so many foods that we eat on a daily basis. Processed foods, drinks, and even some fruits and vegetables contain high levels of simple sugar.
However, there are ways to reduce the amount of simple sugar you consume every day. Here are a few tips:
  • Read food labels carefully and avoid processed foods that contain high levels of simple sugars or added sugars.
  •  Make your own meals at home using whole, unprocessed ingredients.
  •  Limit your intake of sweetened beverages like soda, juice, and energy drinks or choose artificially sweetened options
  •  Aim to increase your meal size to limit the want for snacks between meals
  •  Choose snacks like nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit instead of candy or cake.
By following these tips, you can easily reduce your simple sugar intake and improve your overall health.

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