So should I have sugar or should I not?! Let’s break it down! There are all sorts of claims about sugar that make me ask myself “Do I need to be on a sugar free diet?” “Should I avoid sugar at all costs?” “What is processed sugar and why is it so bad for me?” There is a lot of information and misinformation about sugar. So with some handy research and the help of Dr. Samir Patel, we are going to figure ALL of this out!
What is SUGAR?
There are 4 main types of sugar in our diet: Fructose, which is found in fruits and corn syrup; Glucose, which comes from the breakdown of starch and from fruits; Sucrose, which is table sugar and is composed of one fructose and one glucose; and lactose which is found in milk.
One very important distinction is “free sugar” versus “intrinsic sugar”. Free sugar is sugar that is added when a food is manufactured, added when you are cooking, or is in the form of sugary drinks or fruit juices. Intrinsic sugar is the sugar that naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables and dairy. This difference is important and we will talk about it below.
The term “processed sugar” is used A LOT. This is basically sugar extracted from beets or sugar cane and is actually just purified sucrose. Corn syrup is another form of concentrated sugar (fructose), which can be found in a lot of food and drinks.
The simple answer is NO, but like most things it should be consumed in moderation.
In terms of managing weight, there is nothing particularly bad about sugar. If you eat extra calories you are going to gain weight, regardless of whether you eat those calories in the form of fat, protein or sugar.
The problem with sugar is that it is so easy to overeat. It tastes yummy and people often crave it. Concentrated forms (ie. free sugar) like table sugar and corn syrup, aren’t typically very filling. Chocolate or sugary drinks, for example, are packed with sugar and calories — but don’t really fill you up.
Compare that with intrinsic sugars, like those found in fruit. If you eat an apple then you are eating sugar, but you are also getting fibre (we love fibre!). This fibre gives you a sense of fullness (not to mention all those vitamins and other nutrients). Its much more difficult to over-eat sugar in the intrinsic form.
Is one type of sugar worse than the others?
Some people claim that high fructose corn syrup is particularly bad for you and should be avoided at all costs. Others suggest that processed sugars must be eliminated from any healthy diet.
The bottom line though is the exact type of sugar is probably not that important. The differences between the type of sugar you are eating and their different effects on your body is likely pretty minimal. What’s more important is how much of sugar you are consuming and the calories associated with that extra sugar.
So………… Do I avoid sugar?
I do my best to avoid free sugar. Sugary foods and drinks tend to be high in calories, not very filling and lack in nutrients. I try to avoid pop and juices. I also keep away from foods made with lots of added sugar. But I do love dessert and chocolate!!! So I definitely indulge on occasion, but try to do it in moderation.
I do not avoid intrinsic sugars. Fruits, veggies and dairy all contain sugar, but they also come packed with lots of other good stuff including fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So I definitely eat these foods!