There are two types of sugar - added sugar, which includes the familiar white granulated “table sugar” (sucrose), as well as concentrated sources like fruit juice, and then there are naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, vegetables, full fat dairy, honey and unrefined carbohydrates.
The sugar you’ll get from a candy bar or a slice of cake is essentially the same sugar naturally found in whole foods. Your body breaks down all forms of sugar into its simplest form - glucose. Glucose is what your body loves to use for quick energy, but sugar added to sweets and beverages has a different impact on your health than the same sugar supplied by a piece of fruit.
What are natural sugars?
Foods such as:
- Whole grains
...are all examples of good sugars. These naturally occurring sugars are valid energy sources, and along with the other nutrients in these foods, important for nourishing a healthy body.
When simple sugars are naturally found in whole foods, they come with vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals and fiber. The presence of fiber makes a significant difference because it slows down the absorption of sugar, which slows its impact on blood sugar. Natural sugar in whole food is so-called “good sugar.”
What is processed sugar?
When any type of sugar that is added to foods during processing, cooking or at the table, you consume calories without any nutrients or fiber. This type of sugar, called added sugar, is considered “bad sugar.” In its most processed and refined form (think the white powdery stuff we stir into coffee, or high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and packaged foods), sugar has absolutely no nutritional value. Void of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and enzymes, it’s a source of energy but not nutrition. Simple sugars gain quick access and cause a spike in blood sugar.
What we know for sure is that excess added sugar in the diet is harmful to the body over time. Too much sugar speeds up the aging process, damages teeth and gums and puts pressure on the liver the same way alcohol does! Excessive sugar consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.
"Too much of a good thing..."
The truth is that anything in excess is bad for you. You know the saying, too much of a good thing? Yes, even water in copious amounts is bad for you! What matters is your overall diet, which requires a balance of proteins, carbs and fats. You should certainly avoid loading up on Twinkies and soda pop, but eliminating all types of sugar from your diet completely is totally unnecessary.
Sugar found in whole foods, such as fruit provides essential nutrients our bodies need for proper nutrition. So, the next time you pass up that papaya or mango because you are trying to “cut back on sugar,” think again – there’s plenty of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber to name a few, and even trace amounts of protein and iron!
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