by Catherine Middleton (Nutritionist)
Did you know there are over 60 names of sugar, but four main types of sugar are:
- Fructose (fruit)
- Sucrose (table sugar)
- Lactose (dairy sugar)
Glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel or energy. Glucose requires the least amount of effort for the body to break down before being absorbed. All carbohydrates contain sugar, it is fair to say that a bowl of vegetables, a piece of fruit, and wholegrains, would be a balanced supply of glucose that the body can utilise.
The digestive system breaks down food, and the glucose enters directly into the bloodstream. At the same time the pancreas automatically releases insulin so the glucose can be released from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.
While all cells are capable of using glucose to create energy, some even rely exclusively upon it.
It is the ONLY source of fuel for the brain, which requires a constant supply.
It is the ONLY source of fuel for red blood cells.
It is the primary source of fuel for the muscles.
Parts of our eyes and kidneys rely exclusively upon it.
The pancreas releases insulin, which moves glucose from the blood into the cells of the body for energy and storage. BUT if someone is consuming an excess of simple sugars, the insulin will eventually stop paying attention. This means the glucose will stay in the blood at higher levels than needed.
Eating sugar gives your brain a surge of the feel-good chemical- dopamine, which is why you are always wanting more. Fruit and vegetables unfortunately don’t release the same amount of dopamine, which is why the brain wants more chocolate!
The occasional cookie can give you a quick burst of energy by raising the blood sugar levels quickly. When the levels drop and you hit that slump, it’s hard not to keep the cycle going, this is why you want to reach for another cookie. High sugar intake has a greater risk of depression in adults.
Sugar worsens joint pain because of the inflammation they cause in the body. Sugar consumption can also increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Another side of inflammation is that it ages your skin- NOOOOOO!!!!
Excess sugar attaches to proteins in your bloodstream and creates harmful molecules. They have been known to damage collagen, elastin, and protein fibres that keep your skin firm and youthful.
Refined sugar and high- fructose corn syrup causes a fatty build-up that can eventually lead to liver disease. Studies show that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you are not overweight.
Insulin in your bloodstream affects your arteries all over your body. It causes their walls to get inflamed, grow thicker than normal and more stiff, this stresses your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, like heart failure, attacks, and strokes.
Kidneys filter your blood, once blood sugar levels reach a certain amount the kidneys start to release excess sugar into your urine. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can damage the kidneys, which will prevent them from doing their job in filtering out waste. This can lead to failure.
The bottom line is:
- Always prioritize natural sugars (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains)
- Stay away from processed food
- Be aware of food labels and what is in your food, the smaller the ingredient list the better- fresh is best!
- When it comes to healthier sugar options for example honey and coconut sugar, these choices may have a slight nutritional advantage to table sugar but that doesn’t mean you should start adding them into your diet. They can be a good swap in baking and other recipes.