There are a lot of questions I get asked all the time about different foods but one that is asked more frequently that others is about sugar. How bad is it? Can you have just a bit? Is it the ‘poison’ that people say it is? The problem is that it tastes so nice and it’s in a lot of foods, some of which you don’t realise. This blog separates the fact from the fiction so you can make a more informed decision about how much sugar to consume:
Is all sugar ‘bad’ sugar?
All of the food we eat is broken down into glucose (sugar) molecules and absorbed by our bodies and used as fuel. Without glucose we would not survive so we need this form of sugar in our lives. However, I believe what most people are meaning is additional added sugar in the diet that is causing the problem and the bad press about sugar.
Added sugar is different than the sugar that occurs naturally in some foods, like fruit or milk. For one, natural sugar comes with a package of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help offset some of the negative aspects of the sugar content.
Should I cut out all sugar from my diet?
You don’t need to cut added sugar out of your life completely. Different health organizations have different recommendations for the amount of sugar you should limit yourself per day. But they all agree that there’s room for a little bit of sugar in a healthy diet. For example, if you consume about 2,000 calories per day, aim for up to 5% of this per day.
It’s impossible to avoid sugar!
A lot of food has sugar in it that you wouldn’t necessarily think does. For example, most breads have quite a lot of sugar in, to make them taste better but to ensure they don’t go stale as quickly. A lot of flavoured yoghurts, cereal and even tomato sauce has a larger amount of sugar that you would expect as well. The best thing to do is make yourself aware; take a look at labels on packaged foods and note what percentage of your daily intake it suggests. You can also use a tracker to ensure you have more accurate knowledge of what you are consuming per day. Knowledge is key to ensuring you are choosing the right things to fuel your body with.
Is sugar going to make me sick?
There are a lot of discussion points and comments about sugar being the main cause of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. When you look at the balance of studies, a small amount of sugar per day isn’t going to be harmful, but having too much can put you at risk of gaining weight. This can, in turn, lead to obesity, excess strain on your body and the chances of more chronic diseases. It’s more important that you find an overall balance of different types of food that don’t exceed your daily calorie intake.
Is sugar a form of drug?
It is a little extreme to describe sugar as a ‘drug’ but understanding what it does to your system may be more helpful. When you eat sugar and it hits your system, it causes your blood sugar to spike but then quickly drop. Very short term this creates a pleasing effect but it will quickly drop again and then can cause tiredness and headaches. This creates a cycle of wanting more sugar to keep your blood sugar levels propped up to help you feel better. Unfortunately it’s a continuous cycle which longer term won’t help you.
Should I have sweeteners instead?
There are a number of foods and soft drinks that are very low calorie and use sweeteners to create the desired sweet taste. However, consumption of sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are actually linked to weight gain, not weight loss, according to an analysis of a number of studies globally. What’s more, they were tied to a higher risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart attacks, and stroke.
In summary, I am not going to sit here and tell you that you can go ahead and eat that whole chocolate bar you want, but a small amount per day is acceptable. The more important point to focus on is trying to create a balanced diet with a mixture of all the macros you need to function efficiently and maintain a healthy system.