Sugar is just a form of carbohydrate and ultimately all carbohydrates are broken down into sugar eventually, just at different speeds. A jacket potato with baked beans is a much, much slower to digest than jelly sweets. I’m still going to refuse to use the words ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ though. If you were half way round running a marathon and your energy levels were dropping you need sugar in your system quickly – glucose sports drinks, energy gels, even sweets themselves can be used. But how often are you running a marathon (an actual 26 mile run, not what feels like a marathon picking up after your kids!)? Is sugar (and what type) appropriate is a better question. If you’re experiencing energy highs and lows and cravings for sweet things, you likely need to reduce sugar in your diet.
People’s tolerance of sugar (or indeed all carbohydrates) appears to vary, regardless of the Glycaemic Index of the food, fat content or fibre content. Research is still being done but it appears genetics, epigenetics (how the genes you have behave), fitness levels and other factors all play a part, with some people being able to eat more sugar and carbohydrates than others. But everyone has their own limit and exceeding this will lead to negative outcomes like the aforementioned energy and craving rollercoaster and even pave the way for more sinister conditions like insulin resistance and diabetes.
Your pancreas pumps out insulin every time you eat (more so with carbohydrate/sugary foods) so the more you eat (again sugary foods in particular) the harder your pancreas has to work. It can and will oblige, but only to a point, and this is why the body becomes ‘resistant’ to insulin’s presence in people who are overweight and/or too much sugar. Insulin then stops doing its job of removing sugar from the bloodstream, blood sugar remains high, and this wreaks havoc on the body causing permanent damage to parts of the body such as the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels.
Watch ==> How To Stop Craving Chocolate
I’m no doctor and diabetes is a complicated condition, but incidences of diabetes in the UK have increased from 800,000 just before by the ‘eat low fat but high carb’ dietary recommendations were introduced in 1983 rising to 1,600,000 just before the end of the last century. Just Saying.
“Marketing companies rarely actually call sugar, sugar!”
The confusing thing is that sugar comes under so many names, partly because it does come in different forms and partly manufacturers know we’re wise to the word sugar. Anything that ends ‘ose’, so sucrose, dextrose, maltose, ribose, glucose, fructose and galactose are all forms of sugar. Some types (namely unprocessed) are better than others, and not all sugar is added as an ingredient, for example galactose combines with glucose to make lactose, the sugar found naturally in milk. Here’s a list of some of the more common one’s you may come across, and what I think of them:
There are also non-calories sweeteners that give the taste of sweetness without any (or very few) calories. Artificial ones commonly used include Acesulfame, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose. These are highly controversial. They have been classifies as perfectly safe when consumed in normal quantities (i.e. so long as you’re not consuming 30 cans of diet soda a day or something similarly unrealistic), yet critics link artificial sweeteners from everything from IBS to cancer. My personal view is like with any food substance, unless you know from experience it causes you problems then the occasional consumption won’t hurt so long as you’re eating natural foods most of the time and an overall healthy diet.
“There are now sweeteners that are the best of both worlds, which when used occasionally, can allow you to satisfy your sweet craving.”
The following three natural sweeteners are naturally low calorie and are our favourite choices as you’ll get your sweet hit without having such a dramatic effect on insulin levels (though it does have a small effect, so they shouldn’t be used in unlimited amounts). Some people report that artificial sweeteners increase cravings for sweet foods overall and it’s not clear why this is, though it may be due to encouraging a sweet tooth and a preference for sweet foods. See how you feel, if using sugar alternatives doesn’t curb your desire for high calorie junk food sweet treats then maybe you’re better off weaning yourself off most sweet foods and sticking to fruit for sweetness most of the time. For most of us these alternatives (in moderation) are a healthier way to get the occasional sweet fix without consequence.
Erythritol, which also occurs naturally in fruit, is a sugar alcohol that is also a prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in our gut and so benefiting digestion and nutrient absorption. Use 2 teaspoons of Erythritol in place of 1 tablespoon of sugar. As a sugar alcohol, it can cause digestive upset in some people or when consumed in excess.
Xylitol powder is a sugar alcohol that looks and tastes like sugar and can be a substitute for the same amount of sugar. Xylitol is actually made in the human body as well as birch tree bark and sweetcorn cobs. It slows digestion, making you feel full for longer, as well as protecting against tooth decay, and for this reason (as well as the cool after taste you get) is why it’s the most commonly used sweetener in chewing gum and breath mints. As another sugar alcohol it doesn’t agree with everyone’s digestive system.
Stevia, a South American plant that is dried and ground to a sugar (or liquid extract) consistency, is becoming more popular for these reasons. It does not affect fat storing hormones and may even have health benefits such as being antiviral. Stevia is extremely sweet; a tiny bit goes a long way, though many commercial brands are bulked up.
What you want to be doing long term is to train your taste buds to be more sensitive to a sweet taste and be satisfied with just the natural sweetness from fruit. But for the occasional treat or when you fancy something sweet, you don’t have to always miss out if you choose wisely.