One of the most misunderstood ingredients- today, we're breaking it down and ending the stigma!
Glucose is the preferred source of energy for our cells and our brain- this comes from carbohydrates which we need to consume in moderation every single day.
As with anything, too much of a good thing can be a really bad thing. But so can not enough!
Carbohydrate/glucose intake too low can lead to: hypoglycemia, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, mood shifts, dizziness, confusion, hunger, elevated heart rate, and more.
Carbohydrate/glucose intake too high can lead to: hyperglycemia, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, mood shifts, type 2 diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, weakness, confusion, fruity smelling breath, coma, and more.
Keeping blood sugar levels regulated and within normal range is essential to preventing disease.
Also read- eliminating sugar entirely is not the answer.
Studies show that moderate amounts of sugar actually help regulate blood glucose and lower your risk of insulin resistance.
Think about it like a muscle. If you work the muscle safely and slowly, the muscle maintains its strength or even grows stronger. Let's take a look at some facts...
Sugar itself is not an agent of inflammation. It's often paired with inflammatory saturated fats and can increase the negative effect of them.
Eliminating sugar can make it a "foreign substance" to your body, thus making it harder for your body to regulate when you do have it.
The American Heart Association recommends minimizing sugar intake to 25g/day for women and 28g/day for men.
Almost ALL sugar sources come from plant sources- table sugar is made from sugar cane, a plant that grows straight from the ground. Reminder that no group of foods, even plants, are "good" or "bad" for you...
Glucose is a byproduct of some cellular reactions- it is NOT inherently "bad".
Types of sugar:
Monosaccharides- fructose, glucose, galactose
Disaccharides- sucrose, maltose, lactose, trehalose
Oligosaccharides- raffinose, stachyose, verbascose, inulin, fructo and galacto-oligosaccahrides
Polysaccharides- starch, non-starchy polysaccharides
Where do those sugars come from? Things like...
Honey, fruit, milk, pasta, molasses, mushrooms, beer, seaweed, table sugar, agave, red meat, bread, beans, yogurt, potatoes, leafy greens...shall I go on?
Friend- there is some type of sugar in virtually every food you eat. You can't avoid it completely, and you shouldn't! As previously mentioned- small amounts can be a great tool for your body to learn how to properly use sugar.
How to reduce the negative impact of sugar on the body:
Include fiber at every meal to reduce the glycemic load on the body
Cycle your sugars- get them from all sources including table sugar, honey, beans, fruits, vegetables, pasta, and grains! Let your body learn to process them all.
Stick to serving sizes (or smaller). If you have one slice of cake and really, REALLY want another, and you've already had a balanced meal, have another piece! But...
Try to make high sugar items a special treat. Restriction doesn't work, but we know that consistent intake of large amounts of sugar can lead to chronic disease. Challenge yourself to limit dessert to 2 or 3 nights per week to get started!
Another note- honey is not healthier than sugar, nor is maple syrup, agave, brown
sugar, or any other sweetener. Used in moderation, all of them can be a part of a healthy diet! But one should not be avoided and substituted 100% of the time with another.
Truthfully, this is what it looks like on paper...
Table sugar: 12.6g sugar per tablespoon
Honey: 17g sugar per tablespoon
Maple syrup: 14g sugar per tablespoon
Brown sugar: 13.5g sugar per tablespoon
Agave: 14.1g sugar per tablespoon
It's all a balancing act.
Enjoy sweets AND veggies.
Enjoy fruits AND grains.
Enjoy dessert AND nights without it.
Enjoy the cookie AND choosing to skip it sometimes if you've had a high sugar day.
All of these sugars are natural options. The most important thing to remember is that food is meant to be enjoyed, and you have a whole bunch of options to add flavor while still focusing on your health.
Low or zero calorie sweeteners are a WHOLE different article. They're classified as sugar alcohols, and not processed in the same manner as natural sugars.
Want to learn more about it? Leave us a comment below and we'll get right on it!
CD, L. Kathleen Mahan, MS, RD, CDE and Janice L Raymond, MS, R. Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier Health Sciences (US). [Purdue University Global Bookshelf].
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