Understanding Sugar: Differentiating Between Natural and Added Sugars for Better Health

by Frederick Akinola
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5 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Sugar Food Drinks

Many people associate the word “sugar” with negative health effects. From childhood, we are often warned about the perils of consuming too much sugar and the potential damage it can cause to our bodies. However, it is important to understand that not all sugar is created equal, and our bodies do need a certain amount of sugar to function optimally.

To clarify, when we talk about sugar, we are referring to both naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, as well as added sugars found in processed foods and beverages. Our bodies require sugar, specifically glucose, as it is the primary source of energy that fuels our brain and muscles. Glucose is obtained through the breakdown of carbohydrates, which are found in various foods we consume daily.

It is essential to differentiate between natural sugars and added sugars because they have different effects on our body. Natural sugars are accompanied by fiber, water, and other beneficial nutrients, which help slow down the absorption of glucose into our bloodstream. This means that when we consume fruits or vegetables, the sugars are released gradually, providing a steady source of energy without causing major spikes in blood sugar levels.

On the other hand, added sugars are typically found in processed foods such as sodas, candy bars, cakes, and cookies. These sugars are often stripped of any beneficial nutrients and are quickly absorbed into our bloodstream, leading to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. This sudden spike in glucose can be problematic as it puts stress on our pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. If this cycle of spiking and crashing blood sugar levels becomes chronic, it can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calorie intake. For an average adult consuming around 2000 calories per day, this equates to approximately 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of added sugar. However, most people today far surpass this limit, with studies showing that the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
So, while our bodies need some sugar to function, it is crucial to focus on obtaining it from healthier sources such as whole fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. These natural sources provide us with essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber along with their natural sugars, making them a healthier choice. Additionally, the fiber in these foods helps slow down the absorption of glucose, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels.
However, it is important to note that not everyone’s sugar needs are the same. Athletes or individuals with high energy requirements may benefit from incorporating some added sugars to replenish their glycogen stores after intense workouts. Natural sugars found in honey, maple syrup, and fruit juices can be used moderately in such cases. It is crucial to find the right balance and consult with a nutritionist or healthcare professional to determine the appropriate amount of added sugar for each individual.
In conclusion, our bodies do need some sugar, specifically glucose, as it is the primary source of energy for our brain and muscles. However, it is essential to differentiate between natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and added sugars found in processed foods. It is best to obtain sugar from whole foods that come with additional benefits such as fiber and nutrients. Monitoring and limiting the intake of added sugars is crucial to maintaining good overall health and preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

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