Sugar is a confusing concept. We all need it, some are addicted to it, most of us try to stay away from it.
I hear this a lot, "I'm cutting out all sugars!"
Really, is that possible? If you're cutting out all sugars, you will be eliminating all plant foods because sugars, starches and fibers, as we know are naturally occurring carbohydrates in plants.
What we need to clarify is, what are sugars really?
Remember all the words that end in "ose"s? Glucose, fructose, lactose, sucrose and dextrose? They are sugars, or carbohydrates that are made up of chains of sugar molecules, from a single molecule like glucose (blood sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) to two molecules like sucrose (table sugar) to hundreds of them (like a vegetable).
Every bite of carbohydrates, whether it’s rice, bagels, cupcakes, fruits or vegetables will eventually be broken down by our digestive system from more complex chains to simple sugar units. They all end up as glucose in the blood either after direct secretion from the small intestine or after a little visit to the liver for glucose conversion or storage.
We cannot cut them out from our diet because they provide a vital energy source for our body cells.
So what are the "bad" sugars?
The sugars that are processed, refined and concentrated - when whole grains are turned into flour products, sugar cane is turned into white sugar and fruits are turned into dried fruits. In other words, instead of letting our body's digestive system to do the work, complex chains of sugars are artificially broken down and concentrated during the refining process, causing rapid glucose absorption into the blood stream, blood sugar spikes, stress on insulin production and creating chaos in our body!
Bread and pasta made from whole grains are healthy, right?
Yes and no. Whole grains consist of minerals, vitamins, fiber, fats and protein that refined grains do not have. But every time a grain is pulverized (white or brown) and turned into flour to make flour products like bread and pasta, the sugars in them still enter rapidly into the bloodstream causing sugar spikes.
Maybe just stay away from "added sugars" then?
Not that easy! Unless you scrutinize every label or cut out all foods that come in packagings, chances are some amounts of added sugar will be sneaked into the food products. Watch out for seemingly healthy foods like breads, soups, salad dressings, crackers, cereals, yogurts, sauces, energy bars and sports drinks.
How about using natural sweeteners or the non-caloric, sugar-free stuff?
Honey, maple syrup and blackstrap molasses contain more nutrients than white sugar, but they are still concentrated sugars. Non-caloric sweeteners, whether it's Sweet n' Low or Stevia, are often sweeter than real sugar. They perpetuate our cravings for sugar by sending a sweet taste to the brain but never delivering any real energy. They hijack our taste buds and dull our senses to make real food taste really bland. Natural or artificial, caloric or non-caloric, use in moderation.
Here is a more sensible approach to eat sugar:
Eat naturally occurring and unprocessed sugars that are high in fiber and low in glycemic index- vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
Cut down on processed sugars that are low in fiber and high in glycemic index- flour products like bread and pasta, concentrated sugars like juices and all sweeteners, and most of all, junk foods.