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With all the information out there about sugars, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused. When is it ok to consume and when is it best avoided? Today we will go through different types of sugars and try to untangle any confusion you may have!
What is ‘sugar’?
When we talk about sugar we are usually referring to sucrose. Sucrose is naturally occurring and can be refined to form table sugar. However, there are many different forms of sugar with all sorts of sneaky names which may catch us out on food labels. Essentially anything ending in -ose is a form of sugar as well as any syrups, honey and agave nectar. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in the body.All types of sugar will be broken down into the same thing when they are digested (glucose). So, long story short, sugar is sugar and it doesn’t particularly matter which form you are consuming.
So is sugar always bad?
Absolutely not! We need sugar to survive and our brains can only function using sugar! Where things become a bit more complicated is that the ‘vessel’ in which we consume sugar has a big impact on the amount and rate at which we eat and digest it.For example: Sugars found naturally occurring inside fruit is package in with many other nutrients and fair bit of fibre. The higher the fibre content of a food, the longer it will take us to digest. This means the sugar is released at a slower and less harmful rate and allows us to feel fuller for longer. A similar effect is true when eating sugar/carbs alongside protein.Sugars in this form are known as ‘intrinsic’ as they are naturally occurring in that food and have not been added.‘Extrinsic’ sugars however, are sugars which have been added to a food or have been released from a food. If you can spot sugar in any of its forms on the ingredient list of a food then it is added or 'extrinsic’ sugar. Added sugars are best avoided or only eaten in small infrequent quantities. These include foods such as energy bars, fizzy drinks and biscuits.Similarly, fruit smoothies where the food has been blended will contain free sugar. This is because the blending process releases the sugar from the fruit. This will cause a similar spike in blood sugar as say a chocolate bar may and will leave us feeling much less satisfied than if we had eaten the fruits whole.
When people use the term empty calories they are referring to foods which are high in energy without much nutritional benefit or ability to fill you up. So, when you get that 4pm sugar craving, try reaching for an apple or some berries instead of sweets or a fizzy drink as this will still kick your craving whilst providing you with key nutrients and leaving you satisfied for longer.
So what does this all mean for me?
To summarise, sugar is not always bad, but it is good to be wary of HOW you are consuming it. When the sugar cravings hit remember these 3 tips:- Try to avoid or reduce consumption of foods which have any sugars in the ingredients list- Cut down on any sugar you may be adding to your food or drinks (or ideally stop all together!)- Try and stick to whole fruits rather than smoothies For more information on sugar and how much we should be consuming follow this NHS link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/