Sugar—no doubt it’s on the list of foods you should try to avoid on a clean eating plan or when trying to lose weight. But can you satisfy your sweet tooth and still eat healthy?
Well, maybe a little. But let’s be clear, eating sweets on a regular basis is not the best approach to a healthy diet. For some folks, sugar is rather addictive. And it’s sneaky, too, coming in many forms and bearing many names. So first, let’s get our facts (and myths) about sugar straight.
1. Fiction: Your body does not need sugar.
Actually, your body does needs sugar (simple carbohydrates) in the form of glucose, which fuels all your cells–but chief among those needs is to feed your brain, the most glucose-demanding organ. However, there is truth in what they say about “too much of a good thing” when it comes to sugar and body functions. For instance, long-term diabetes patients can experience “brain aging” over time, as high blood glucose levels can affect the brain’s functional connectivity.
2. Fact: Not all sugar is created equal.
You have your complex sugars (carbohydrates) like those found in whole grains and vegetables, and your simple sugars like those found in candy. Sucrose, a simple sugar, is found in white cane sugar, while fructose is the sugar found in fruit, often attached to fiber content, which matters to how your body breaks them down. But ultimately, your body will break down all carbs and sugars into glucose which is easily stored for instant energy.
3. Fiction: Calories are calories, whether from carbs, fat or elsewhere.
Yes, all calories can all be counted as fuel for your body, but there is a difference in how your body handles those calories once ingested. Refined table sugar is digested at a different rate than the sugars in a complex carbohydrate like cauliflower. Plus, granulated sugar offers no nutrients, making the calories “empty,” while complex carbs, protein and fat break down slower and deliver nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals and more.
4. Fact: Sugar can contribute to illness.
The fact that glucose is cell energy translates into some negative effects such as causing inflammation and altering metabolism and suppressing the immune system. Sucrose inhibits responses from bacteria fighting cells for a few hours after ingestion. Frequent sugar consumption can also lead to chronic low-grade inflammation which is indicated as a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
Can I Have Sugar, Ever?
So, is a no-sugar diet necessary to achieve great health? Not exactly—instead, consider a “no sugar ADDED” diet as a smart approach. That means not adding sugar, refined or natural, to your daily eating plan in the form of empty calories, sweets, sugary sodas, and simple refined carbs like pancakes with maple syrup.
Look to Part 2 of this article in our next edition for more on a No Sugar Added approach to your diet, and a recipe for a natural chocolate dessert that is low in sugars but big on flavor and perfect for the next time you want a treat!