The other day I was at school teaching a senior child care class when one of the students asked me if I wanted a cookie she had baked. I replied nicely ‘no thanks I prefer not to eat sugar’. All the girls in the class gasped, stopped what they were doing and turned eyes blazing at me. ‘You don’t eat sugar, so what do you have, like just bread and milk!’ Exclaimed one of the girls. I chuckled to myself and replied ‘No, actually most bread has plentiful amounts of added sugar in it and if you want to get technical milk contains lactose which is also a sugar’
Note that it is essential for life to consume such saccharides found in raw food forms the way nature intended, in this article i am referring only to sucrose i.e. table sugar, when relating to ‘sugar’
Now the girls were totally confused and thought I was crazy as I explained to them that I ate plentiful amounts of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, nuts, avocados, cacao, oats, grass fed meat and poultry, seafood, bean and legumes, yoghurt, wholemeal wraps. ‘But sugar isn’t that bad for you is it miss?’…..
Most educated people are aware that sugar is potentially harmful to our systems if consumed in copious amounts. However the major concern is, do you know how prevalent sugar is in our food? Keep reading!
Sugar is far more prevalent in food than you think. Almost everything that is made by humans has sugar in it, even thing that are marketed as health foods like yoghurts, muesli bars, dried fruit, sports drinks, fruit juices, even baby food! Sugar is everywhere and food companies use it because its addictive, it helps preserve food and is more palatable to our little buds taste! But nature already provided us with copious amounts of sugar to sustain life and blood sugar levels. We know them as fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy.
Science of sugar molecules (Skip this if you hate science :P)
There are three main forms of simple sugar molecules; fructose, glucose and galactose. Galactose is found in dairy products. Glucose is found in any food you probably consider a carbohydrate e.g. Bread,cereals, pastries, rice, pasta, cane sugar, beer, potatoes, carrots ( yes even vegetables contain glucose) e.t.c and fructose is found in all natural fruits, dried fruit, honey or sweeteners, cane sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup e.t.c.
Most sugars though are a combination of simple sugars, for example cane sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, lactose is a combination of glucose and galactose and beer I.e. Maltose is two molecules of glucose joined together in an unusual way.
But what effect does sugar have on you? Here are my top 5 reasons why sugar is not so sweet.
1. Sugar drives fat storage
Sugar increases your blood sugar levels which drives insulin levels to draws glucose out of the blood into the muscles for work or storage. High blood glucose results in high insulin levels, if there is already enough glucose stored in the muscles or as glycogen it is converted to fat.
2. Sugar makes us tired
Blood sugar surges also result in blood sugar crashes. What goes up must come down! It is the surging of insulin which makes us get tired about an hour after sugar is eaten as our blood sugar levels go from very high to very low. It is this constant change in blood sugar which also disturbs sleep patterns.
In response to the sugar crash, your adrenal glands also release stress hormones such as cortisol, your ‘fight or flight’ response causing an increased heart rate, quickening your breathing and alerting the brain it’s ready for action (all this when you’re meant to be resting).
3. Sugar makes you Ill
Promotes free radicals to enter the system which stunts immune system functioning, growth and repair. Ultimately this can make us sick and inhibit our ability to repair our body. You can imagine how this could effect training for athletes.
4. Sugar is linked to breast cancer and colorectal cancer growth.
Cancerous cells consume more glucose than normal cells, therefore the presence of high blood-glucose levels assist in the accelerated growth of cancers. Not to say it is the direct cause of the cancer as there are numerous potential causes, but consistently consuming sugar could potentially enhance its growth.
5. Sugar is addictive!
Dopamine is released in the brain when a person consumes sugar ( the exact same response as the administration of illicit drugs) producing a “high”. It is the flood of dopamine which creates the euphoric feeling upon eating sugar and has us craving more and more in need of reaching the same effect as a smaller dose would have previously done. Sugar also doesn’t trigger our satiety proportion of our Brian so our body doesn’t get told we’re eating something and feel full.
So next time someone asks you is sugar that bad? Ask them is cancer bad? How about having disrupted sleep, food cravings, getting sick, being tired, enhanced fat storage?
So be cautious of the sugar in so called “Health Foods”, however sugar is not the devil. Don’t be frightened by it, don’t have exclusive rules that you are never allowed to look at sugar or don’t cry yourself to sleep if you consume it.
Nutrients are wonderful, we need them to live. You never know what was in a food your body may have been missing.