“Hey doc. How bad are sugars?” It’s a question I get asked very often.It is perhaps the question I get asked most often. Of course, you cannot judge nutrientsfor being what they are. They do nothing more than simply provide the building blocksof our foods. We are the ones who make our choices (sometimes deliberately, but often onautopilot) and those choices can - depending on the context - be better or worse.
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“Hey doc. How bad are sugars?” It’s a question I get asked very often.
It is perhaps the question I get asked most often. Of course, you cannot judge nutrients
for being what they are. They do nothing more than simply provide the building blocks
of our foods. We are the ones who make our choices (sometimes deliberately, but often on
autopilot) and those choices can - depending on the context - be better or worse.
Small and big sugars
I’m going to get a little technical now, but it’s worth it to understand how sugar works in the
body! Sugar molecules are also known as carbohydrates or even saccharides. There are two
kinds of sugars, small ones and large ones. Small sugars consist of one or two sugar molecules, whereas large sugars consist of many (up to thousands of) sugar molecules linked together. Glucose, for instance, is such a small sugar molecule found in our blood where it is referred to as blood sugar. The higher your level of blood sugar, the more glucose molecules are floating around in your bloodstream. Starch, found in substantial amounts in potato or rice is a larger sugar and also capable of increasing your blood sugar level, although the large sugars have to be split into small sugars first, to be taken up by the intestine.
Fructose is derived from the Latin word fructus meaning ‘fruit’
Fruit and sugars
Fructose - derived from the Latin word fructus meaning ‘fruit’ - is monosaccharide found in
fruit, so it is, unsurprisingly, also known as fruit sugar. Fructose is also found in honey and in nectars, such as agave or maple syrup. Rather like the way saturated and unsaturated fats occur in combination, also with sugar the total amount of sugar in a product is also a blend of, for instance, of fructose and glucose. Honey, for example, is a disaccharide that consists of 40% fructose and 30% glucose; the remaining 30% is mostly water, pollen and minerals. Table sugar is also a disaccharide but, as a refined product, it is purer, comprising half fructose and half glucose.
Now, you may think of the sugar in fruit as bad, but food that is natural in origin is full of vitamins and fiber. Yes, of course, fruit contains fructose, but please do not forget that when you eat fruit you are absorbing far more than the sugars inside the fruit. The fact that you associate fruit with sugar is not surprising. Fructose has been shown in a bad light in recent years because it is commonly found in processed foods. Sugar is often used as a sweetener in soft drinks. Fructose is sweeter than table sugar (which is a combination of glucose and fructose), it enhances other flavors and even increases the sweetening effect of other sugars. For this reason HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), a chemically manufactured fructose syrup, has been developed to sweeten soft drinks.
Too many sugars will certainly make you too fat!
Too much of a small thing
The problem with the combination of small sugars and processed foods - which we eat so much of nowadays - is that you can easily consume too much of them. Especially when it concerns something like soft drinks, for instance. The sugars in these drinks easily pass through your stomach into the small intestine where they will be rapidly absorbed. Imagine drinking a glass of Coke. At first, it may give you some sensation of fullness, but it doesn’t really fill you up, and by the time you’ve emptied your second glass, the amount of sugars from the first glass has already passed through the gut barrier into your bloodstream.
A fuel that is pumped into your body at such speed quickly forms a surplus: so at that moment, you are taking in more energy than the body actually needs. The sedentary lifestyle that we collectively live nowadays does not help either. The result: everything that is superfluous and can’t be used at that time will be stored. First as glycogen (stored sugars in your body, especially in your liver and muscles), but because that storage capacity is very limited, the excess sugars are quickly converted into an energy source which has a more or less unlimited storage capacity: fat. Too many sugars will certainly make you too fat!
Stay tuned for part 2. If you can't wait, go a head and keep reading!
For now, go get another piece of fruit and enjoy health!