“Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from cigarettes to bread.” – William Dufty, author of Sugar Blues
Sugar. Such a simple word, yet the mere mention of it can make your head spin. Is it good for you? Is it killing us? What is the real deal with sugar anyway? This article will help to sort out the information once and for all. It may not necessarily be able to provide concrete answers to every question out there, but it WILL give you the facts so that you can arm yourself with knowledge and make educated decisions from here on out.
So, what is sugar anyway? According to Wikipedia, “Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose characterized by a sweet flavor. In food, sugar almost exclusively refers to sucrose, which primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet. Other sugars are used in industrial food preparation, but are usually known by more specific names – glucose, fructose or fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.”
It is very important to distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and processed sugar, as the effects of the two can be quite different. Naturally occurring sugar is not something you sprinkle onto your food, it is already in the food. Anything added to food has gone through some form of processing to varying degrees. For easier reading, the term ‘sugar’ in this article is used to mean ‘processed sugar’ (table sugar, brown sugar, etc), anything that might be sprinkled onto food to enhance its’ sweetness. Naturally occurring sugars and artificial sweeteners are referenced clearly.
Naturally occurring sugar can be found in grains, beans, vegetables and fruits and because it has not been processed, still contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins. When properly cooked, chewed and digested, the natural sugars in foods are broken down and enter the bloodstream to provide energy. However, once sugar goes through processing (which is the case with refined table sugar) it is stripped of all vitamins, minerals and fiber. As a result, extra effort is required to digest the sugar, and the body must use its own stores in order to break it down, leaving the body depleted of essential nutrients. Rather than providing nutrition, sugar instead causes deficiencies. It is because of this speed at which sugars can be digested, and the resulting depletion of nutrients that leads to the infamous sugar high, followed by the notorious sugar crash.
In truth, sugar can affect ones health in many different ways. As seen in the list below, many are not direct results of the sugar itself, but rather a result of our addiction to sugar. For example, if you drink soda, you will not necessarily become obese right away. In fact, you may not become obese in a year…or even two! However, the sugar in the soda will decrease your body’s ability to recognize when it is full, leading you to eat larger and larger meals. In addition, the sugar in the soda will train your body to crave super sweet foods, leaving you feeling unsatisfied with healthier alternatives. The end result is a lifetime of weight gain and decreased health.