There are many common beliefs and misconceptions about sugar, some of which cause people to be afraid of consuming sweets, snacks, drinks, and sometimes even fruits. Let’s learn more about sugar and assess how we should treat sugar in our diets.
In this article, we will answer the following questions:
- What is sugar?
- What are the differences between natural and added sugars?
- Are there good and bad sugars?
- What are the health effects of sugar?
- What foods contain good sugars?
What is sugar
Sugars are simple short-chain carbohydrates. As a chemical term, “sugar” usually denotes two classes of molecules: monosaccharides and disaccharides.
Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar. They are monomers, meaning they can combine to form longer chains. Monosaccharides are typically composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. As basic carbohydrates, they can’t be broken down by hydrolysis into other sugars. Common monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose.
Disaccharides, or double sugars, consist of two monosaccharides linked together. These include:
- sucrose (glucose + fructose);
- maltose (glucose + glucose);
- lactose (galactose + glucose).
There is a difference in the ways that the monosaccharides and disaccharides are digested and absorbed in our small intestines. Because monosaccharides are sugars in their simplest form, they don’t need to be broken down. Instead, they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Disaccharides must be broken down into monosaccharides by the enzymes in the small intestine. Otherwise, they cannot be absorbed.
Now that we understand what sugars are let’s talk about the difference between natural and added sugars.
Natural and added sugars
If you examine food labels in supermarkets, you will notice that products often contain unfamiliar ingredients. These confusing names frequently hide added sugars, and it is these substances that we should avoid or eliminate from our diet.
The question is, how can we distinguish added sugars from those that occur naturally?
Natural sugars are found in abundance in fruits, some vegetables, and milk.
for your health and
balanced meal plan
As Hippocrates said, you are what you eat. The meaning of this phrase concerns every person, who takes care of his health. The food we eat has a big impact on our vital activity, state of health and quality of life.
Nowadays healthy diet is very popular and everyone knows that he should give up junk food. But not everyone knows what he must eat except for grain, vegetables and protein food.
It's essential to diversify your diet. Every bite of food should provide you with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for good health.
So how can we have a proper nutrition plan?
We prepared a PDF-file to help you. It contains TOP-10 ingredients, which should be added to everyone's diet.
Below is a list of some fruits that contain high amounts of natural sugars:
- Citrus (limes, lemons, oranges, etc.).
- Berries (strawberries, cranberries, etc.).
- Stone fruits (plums, peaches, cherries, etc.).
In contrast, added sugars are introduced to food during its preparation.
Below are some foods containing high amounts of added sugars:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Desserts .
- Snacks like ice cream, pastries, and cookies.
- Sweets like chocolate and gummies.
Consuming a lot of added sugar can lead to several serious health problems, which we will discuss in the following section.
Added sugars and health
As mentioned in the previous section, we should avoid added sugars because they can harm our health.
Added sugars are processed quickly by our bodies by being immediately used for energy or sent directly to the liver for fat storage.
With the added sugars, your blood glucose level rises initially but then drops quickly, leaving you hungry and irritable. Consuming considerable amounts of added sugar can cause numerous complications, including cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic diseases, diabetes, and cancer.
In 2014 research showed that eating high amounts of added sugar could significantly increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. People who consume 17 to 21% of calories from added sugars have a 38% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consume just 8% of calories from added sugars. The relative risk was more than double for those who consumed 21% or more calories from added sugars.
Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
It has been found that people who drink one sugar-sweetened drink daily face a higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those who avoid sugary drinks.
Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction
Daily Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Habit Linked to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Researchers now believe that added sugar alters the gut microbiota, changing the composition of bacteria in our digestive tracts. It increases gut permeability and the symptoms associated with this disorder.
Eliminating added sugars is a crucial part of any effective treatment plan for a leaky gut.
Added sugar is a favorite food for yeast and harmful bacteria that can damage the intestinal wall, leading to chronic inflammation, obesity, and other chronic metabolic diseases.
A 2013 study found that every 150 calories of added sugar consumed by a person per day increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 1.1 %.
The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data
Added sugars increase the risk of oesophageal cancer, and added fructose (e.g., high-fructose corn syrup) increases the risk of cancer in the small intestine.
Other studies suggest a link between a high intake of added sugars and colon cancer.
Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study
Added sugar, glycemic index and load in colon cancer risk
Daily sugar intake
According to a study by the Association for Heart Disease Research, the maximum sugar intake per day for an adult should not exceed 150 calories, which is 37.5 grams or nine teaspoons.
We know that in the modern world, sugar is everywhere, making it virtually impossible to avoid altogether. However, we can still eat foods that contain only small amounts of added sugars and control our daily sugar intake.
The next time you want to add sweetness to your favorite food or drink, try to find a healthier alternative. The five sugar alternatives below can help you cut your intake of common refined sweeteners.
- Raw honey.
- Coconut sugar.
- Maple syrup.
- Topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) syrup.
By replacing some added sugars with these alternatives and reducing the overall intake of sugars, we can significantly lessen the risks associated with excessive sugar consumption, ensuring a healthier lifestyle for ourselves.