The word sugar is not so sweet to hear and scares people with obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes and cholesterol. Individuals often feel that it is better to stay away from fruits, especially fruits such as mangoes, chikoos, bananas and jackfruits, because of all the sugar content in them. When so much is the misconception regarding nutrition, people’s obvious choice would be to avoid all sugars (both natural and processed) as they all would finally enter the bloodstream and affect health. But what exactly is the truth? Are natural and processed sugars different from each other?
Attributes that are Common to both: In simple terms, sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is broken down into energy whatever form it might take. Just like how fruits contain sugar that is made up of fructose and glucose so do processed sugars. It is only the percentage that varies. Generally, fruits contain 40-55% fructose (the percentage depends on the kind of fruit-cranberries contain 20% fructose while apples contain 65% fructose) and table sugar contains an equal portion of both (50-50).
Fructose is processed in the liver and never triggers an insulin response, whereas glucose starts processing in the stomach and releases insulin into bloodstream so that it can be metabolized quickly. Neither glucose nor fructose are better than the other when compared individually and their impact on health depends on their varying composition in each food.
Attributes that make them different: Every type of sugar has a different effect on your health. Natural sugar present in fruits contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water and other nutrients that help you add nutrition and stay healthy. Milk and cheese are other foods that contain natural sugar in the form of lactose. Refined sugar, on the other hand, is obtained from cane sugar or sugar beets and is a combination of glucose and fructose (sucrose).
Processed sugar can provide the body with only energy (empty calories) but not nutrients. In fact, it harms the body when consumed in high quantities resulting in inflammation, disease, weight gain and obesity. Eating foods made of refined sugar makes you crave for more sugar and makes your body experience extreme energy levels (high and low). This is because, processed sugar has no fiber that slows down digestion and releases a dash of energy to the body that causes the body to release insulin instantly resulting in sugar crash. Natural sugar never results in such sugar crashes as fiber slows down the digestion process. But, remember that fruit juice contains no fiber and it does not provide the same energy levels as whole fruit. It does supply nutrients, but it is better to restrict consumption to defer blood sugar rise and weight gain.
To Eat or Not to Eat?
To enjoy the benefits of a wholesome diet, it is recommended to restrict added sugars consumption to less than 100 calories. This does not happen as most individuals consume above the recommended levels. People should take an effort to consciously reduce eating sugars to avoid weight gain and choose naturally sweet foods such as desserts made with fruits. There are plenty of healthy dessert options that contain natural sugars and know them, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Always look at the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to know the presence of added sugars. While purchasing some sweet food, if you don’t find familiar words such as sugar or honey mentioned, it does not mean that there is no sugar added. It is a sweet dish and the sugar must be hiding behind some unknown names such as cane sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, crystal dextrose, fructose sweetener, malt syrup, pancake syrup, molasses, white sugar, evaporated cane juice and much more.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.