A Bit About Sugar

When most people think of “sugar,” they usually think of the sweet, white crystals in your kitchen cupboard. A lot of people tell me, “I don”t use sugar at all!” when what they mean is, “I don’t add sugar to my coffee or cereal.” When they start checking the nutritional information of the foods they eat, they are surprised to see how pervasive sugar is.

“Sugar” is actually the common collective term for simple carbohydrates, which include sucrose (the white crystals in your kitchen), fructose (found in honey and fruit), and lactose (found in milk). Both simple and complex carbohydrates (found in grains, potatoes, and veggies) are broken down in your body into glucose, the simplest sugar. Simple carbs are broken down into glucose at a faster rate than complex carbs, which is why sugar elevates blood levels quickly.

If you ever want a little motivation on cutting back on sugar, do a Google search on something like “bad sugar“. Sugar has been linked to inflammation (pain, chronic disease, degeneration), insulin resistance (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity), compromised immune system, increased appetite and cravings, and exacerbating mental disorders. Wow!!! And we feed this stuff to our kids! How is it even legal? How are we to protect ourselves?

The fact is, your brain runs exclusively on glucose. Sugar can save a diabetic’s life. Sugar can release serotonins (feel-good hormones). If you are active, you should know that sugar can increase athletic performance. Sugar depletion (aka “bonking“) during an endurance race really, really sucks. Plus, when your body runs out of sugar, you start breaking down your muscles. So, I have a hard time buying into the black-and-white “sugar is evil” camp.

On the other hand, there is plenty of research and science to convince me that the EXCESS of sugar is indeed very harmful. I suspect that sugar is something like caffeine or alcohol… may be consumed in small to moderate amounts, especially if your overall health is good, but things get ugly when your overindulge or rely on them to handle stress. What, then, is a “moderate” amount?

The answer turned out to be complicated to research, so I think I’ll save this topic for another post. In the meantime, try increasing awareness of your sugar consumption by checking the nutritional label and looking up common foods for sugars. Remember that there are about 4-5 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, then ask yourself if you really want to eat that many teaspoons of sugar. A 12-oz can of soda typically has 10 teaspoons of sugar. A banana has about 3 teaspoons. Surprisingly, a cup of plain, UNSWEETENED, NO-FRUIT, nonfat yogurt also has 3 teaspoons of sugar. When you know how much you are consuming, you have a baseline to make adjustments.

Stay tuned for more about sugar! Kthxbai for now!