What is sugar and why all the talk about how bad it is for us? Isn’t it natural, after all?
Here is the scoop, Barb’s Fit U style:
1. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. There are two types of sugars – monosaccharides, which include glucose, fructose and galactose, are made of one sugar molecule, and disaccharides are made of two sugar molecules linked together. Disaccharides are formed when monosaccharides combine – for example, when glucose and fructose are combined, they form sucrose, also known as table sugar. Other disaccharides include maltose (the sugar in beer), dextrose and lactose. When many sugar molecules are linked together, they form a complex carbohydrate, also known as a starch.
2. Trying to save money, food companies introduced High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) into the food market in the 1970s. Sweetening manufactured foods this way is profitable, because it is less expensive and much sweeter than sugar, yet easy to transport because of its liquid state. Today HFCS is found in a variety of foods from soda pop to ketchup, fruit drinks to salad dressings, cereals, breads, flavored yogurt, and sauces. Fructose is sometimes called “fruit sugar” because it is naturally found in fruits. Fructose is also found in honey, and is a component of table sugar (sucrose), which is a disaccharide composed of fructose and glucose.
3. When we eat most carbohydrate foods, the blood sugar level increases and insulin is secreted to transport the sugar into the body’s cells. Besides helping to transport blood sugar, insulin also triggers the release of a hormone called leptin. Leptin helps control hunger by signaling the brain that the body is full and therefore to stop eating. The interesting fact about fructose and HFCS is that they are metabolized in a totally different way than other carbohydrates. They do not stimulate or require insulin for transportation to the cells. Since there is no need for insulin release, there is also no secretion of leptin. Therefore the feeling of satiety is altered—you continue to eat and possible overeat.
4. Fructose should not be eliminated from your diet. It is primarily found in fruits, which provide a wealth of nutritional benefits to the body. Fructose found in fruits is fine! However, are we setting up our bodies for damage by constantly feeding it foods that have been filled with sucrose (fructose and glucose) and heavily loaded with HFCS, which is approximately one-half fructose? A few studies have demonstrated that participants who consumed soda sweetened with HFCS did not reduce their total caloric intake to compensate for excess calories consumed as HFCS, suggesting that HFCS does not provide the body with a sense of fullness. Another recent study conducted by the University of Cincinnati provided additional information: mice freely consumed either water, fructose-sweetened water, or soft drinks. The researchers found increased body fat in the mice that drank the fructose-sweetened water and soft drinks—even though these animals decreased the amount of calories they ate from solid foods.
BOTTOM LINE: Sugar is not the enemy, but it is important to choose your sugar wisely. Stay completely away from high fructose corn syrup, and replace all refined sugar with its less refined option, like raw or brown sugar. Try to stay away from artificial sweetener as much as you can.