The sweet taste of sugar… it’s something we have all come to experience. There are many forms such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, and lactose (to name a few). Each of our bodies processes these sugars differently. We can either use it for energy or it could be converted into fat. But what all these forms have in common is the “ose” at the end. When you see this in an ingredient list, guess what it is? SUGAR! There is good sugar and then there is bad sugar. Let’s discuss the differences with good sugar vs bad sugar.
Structurally, a sugar molecule is the simplest form of carbohydrate. While many people say all sugar is bad, that’s not always exactly the case. Let’s look at fruit for example. Fruit contains fructose. Is it a sugar? Absolutely. Fructose is naturally occurring and is sweet. Yet, fruit also contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Those who utilize a Paleo Diet are more than aware of how to utilize fruit to sustain energy levels and also take in the many vital micronutrients that they possess. Vegetables are the same way. While there may be some natural sugar found in vegetables like carrots, for example, the health risks are minimized due to how the body breaks it down and utilizes it, not to mention all of the micronutrients it possesses to improve health and bodily functions. Nuts and whole grains also contain simple sugars – some of you might not have realized that and it’s why I’m talking about it in this article. The benefit to these is that they also contain fiber which doesn’t spike insulin levels the same way as other foods that contain sugar do. Fiber slows down digestion and in turn the absorption of sugar. Another benefit of consuming these “good sugars” is that many fruits such as blueberries also contain free-radical fighting antioxidants. These protect our cells from being damaged, mutilated, mutated, or killed. When any of those things happen, we have a greater risk of becoming sick and even getting certain types of cancer. So, if you wanted to toss some good sugar into your diet, make sure you are taking in various (whole food) forms of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Sugar is highly addictive and should almost be categorized as a drug (even though you might think that’s a little extreme). Sugar is one of the leading factors to the obesity epidemic we face here in America. There are way too many items we consume from the grocery store that contains hidden sugars that you normally wouldn’t assume are in a product (generally a pre-packaged good). Our brain loves and feeds off of sugar. In fact, once it has some, it wants more and more and more. You also get the yo-yo effect of energy levels after consuming it. When someone is coming down from a sugar high what do they normally do? Consume more sugar to reach that high again (understand how it’s similar to a drug?). There is one very important piece that needs to be said and understood about sugar from a negative standpoint. I think it’s obvious that even from a young age we understand that sugar is bad for us and that it can cause tooth decay and increase the risk of diabetes. Drinking soda and eating candy is “no-no’s.” We get it. However, one thing that many people don’t know is that cancer cells feed off of sugar. When sugar is present in the system, cancer cells utilize it to grow and spread rapidly. While not a sure way to prevent cancer itself, it’s advised to limit the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis. While it’s difficult to exclude it completely, refrain from consuming pre-packaged products with sugar whenever possible. When you look at a label, you may see the word “sugar” in the ingredient list and not think much of it. But as you keep scrolling through you may see things like dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and sucrose (or many others). Brands spread out these sugars to make the product appear “healthier” since they aren’t putting sugar as the main ingredient, instead they utilize three or more sugar sources so they can spread them out on the ingredient list by prominence as required. Is this deceptive? Indeed. And it’s for that reason you should be reading the entire ingredient list before purchasing a product. As a general rule of thumb, if you want to cut back on the “bad sugar” in your diet, try to not purchase or consume products that are processed and obviously stay away from candy and regular soda. Also, be aware of “healthy” foods that contain unhealthy sugar sources. You can look at yogurt as an example. Plain nonfat Greek yogurt contains minimal amounts of natural sugars (lactose from the milk) with nothing extra added. When you take the same nonfat Greek yogurt but get it in any of their flavors, it shoots the sugar content up due to adding a sweetener to it and improving the taste. If you want to ensure you are taking the necessary steps to maintain your health, you’re going to need to be proactive. Unfortunately, once we lose our health, it’s extremely difficult to get it back. Put forth the effort upfront to maximize health and longevity.
Matt Weik, owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. His work has been featured all over the globe as well as having published numerous books. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. Find out more at www.weikfitness.com or on social media @weikfitness.