HEALTH MYTHS BUSTED – V
It’s a statement many well-meaning persons have told, when we talk about weight-loss and sugar cravings: Natural sugars are better for you than refined sugars.
Today, it’s super hard to find a food product with little or no added sugars (the same thing as ‘refined’ or ‘free’ sugars) in the market. So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the matter, let’s first find out, WHAT IS SUGAR? And why is it getting such a bad rep?!!!
When we talk about sugar, most of us think about sucrose, or what is known as cane or table sugar. This is made by processing sugar-cane or sugar-beets, so being refined or added sugars.
However, sugar is actually a group of molecules that share a similar structure. We can really term them in the plural – sugars.
This group includes lots of members such as:
- sucrose, aka table sugar (which is glucose + fructose)
- maltose (which is glucose + glucose)
- lactose (galactose + glucose, found in dairy)
And so on…
Natural sugars are found in fruits (like fructose) and dairy (like lactose).
Sugars mainly come under the huge umbrella of ‘carbohydrates’, and if we remember from school, “Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, but all carbohydrates are not sugars”.
Most carbohydrates are broken down into simpler sugars, after they get digested.
How our body metabolises the natural sugar in fruits and milk, differs vastly from how we break down the refined sugars in different processed foods. And that, my friend, is where the crux of the matter lies.
The body breaks down the refined sugars rapidly, causing our insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Because refined sugars are digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating either.
At the same time, fibre in fruits slows down the metabolism, even if the natural sugars too get digested soon. The caveat here is that, once the sugars go past the stomach & reach the small intestine, it doesn’t matter whether it came from an apple or a soft drink!!!
How much sugar is already in your blood will determine how the body uses the sugar.
If your body has a lot of sugar storage, then these sugars (be it natural or refined), will be digested and stored as fat/ glycogen (now, this is the top storage form of glucose, used for quick energy).
Let’s get back to the basics, sugar is a fundamental molecule in biology and we need sugar to fuel us, to power ourselves, in short… to live.
And so the bottom line, that almost all nutritionists and dieticians would cite would be: Making healthy food choices and maintaining a healthy weight, that is age-appropriate for you!
The punch line of this article would be: Sugars are important for our health, it’s the moderation that matters, because be it refined/ natural, Sugar is Sugar, and excess of anything is bad… 😉
So, before we conclude this topic (it’s still controversial and pretty vast to cover), let’s get an idea of how would we know whether we are consuming too much of sugar or not.
The following list of 12 signs might mean that you’re taking in too much sugar.
- Increased hunger & weight gain:- Sugar is no wonder called an “empty nutrient”, when taken in excess. Sugar may damage our fat hormones, including leptin, that inhibits hunger.
- Irritability:- Eating too much of sugars can promote inflammation, worsen mood and even lead to symptoms of depression.
- Fatigue & low energy:- Large swings in blood sugar levels can also cause our energy levels to plummet.
- Foods don’t taste sweet enough:- This is a no-brainer. Even switching to artificial sweeteners are a fad. Most of them are even sweeter than sugar & tricks our brains into expecting this insane level of sweetness.
- Craving for sweets:- Eating sugar increases dopamine (the so-called “happy hormone”), this rise itself can increase our cravings for sugar, thus completing a vicious cycle.
- High Blood Pressure:- A direct-cause-and-effect relationship is yet to be established. But high levels of blood sugar can damage our blood vessel linings, making it easier for lipids to stick on.
- Acne & wrinkles:- Glycemic control, along with glycation end products (which means, basic sugar control and the end products formed in our blood after the transformation of sugar) – both, encourages acne & skin aging.
- Joint pain:- Too much sugar can lead to systemic inflammation, which may lead to joint pain.
- Sleep issues:- Poor sleep quality has been linked with high consumptions of added sugars.
- Digestive issues:- Too much of sugar is a confirmed gut irritant. Constipation too, is a common companion.
- Brain fog:- Problems with cognition, clarity, focus, concentration and memory, all could be a result of high blood glucose levels.
- Dental cavities:- The bacteria in our mouths feast on simple sugars, any cavities or gum disease, we now know who’s to be blamed.
To sum up, whether sugars are bad or good, let’s see what science says so far.
- Sugar is not a health food, but sugar alone doesn’t necessarily cause most chronic health problems.
- Sugar is energy dense, which means, if eaten in excess (like any other food) can cause weight/fat gain.
- We eat more sugars than we realise, as it’s hidden in so many food products.
- The main aim would be to maintain a healthy weight, be aware of what’s in your food, mindful of overall eating habits & patterns.
- Keep it in perspective (everyone would vouch for a “healthy lifestyle” here), and keep your “treats” in moderation. 😊