Anti-sugar seems to be the trend at the moment. The media, celebrities and even everyday people are shunning sugar in the search for health and the ‘perfect’ body. But is sugar making you fat? Here is my view as a dietitan.
Is sugar necessary?
Sugar itself is not an essential nutrient. The body can get sugar from complex carbohydrates, and even from protein or fat if there is insufficient carbohydrate being consumed. But natural foods that contain sugar do have essential nutrients in them. Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and antioxidants are commonly found alongside natural sources of sugar.
Are all sugars the same?
No! Although they might be structured similarly on a chemical level, there is a big difference between natural sugar and processed sugar. Processed sugar is refined and will spike your blood sugar levels. This fluctuation can lead to a drop in energy and more cravings a few hours afterwards.
On the other natural, natural sugars tend to be lower GI and have a less extreme effect on blood sugars. Instead, it feeds slowly into the blood, giving you steady energy for longer. This is particularly true for sugar that is found in high fibre foods such as berries.
When I talk to my clients about reducing their sugar intake, I look at their processed sugar intake. The good news is, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to your favourite sweet treats!
Are sugars and carbs the same?
Technically speaking, sugar is a form of carbohydrate – a simple one. What we often think of as carbohydrate is the complex carbs such as those found in grains.
Because sugars are simple carbohydrates, they require less digestion before we absorb them. This means they enter the bloodstream quicker. On the other hand, a wholegrain such as brown rice takes much longer to break down, so will give you energy over a longer period of time.
When I talk about reducing sugar, I am not talking about complex carbohydrates. These can be a healthy addition to the diet for most people.
Will I lose weight if I cut out sugar?
The answer here is ‘it depends’. If you are consuming a lot of excess calories in the form of sugar and you cut it out, you will probably experience some weight loss. That’s why programs that cut out sugar work in the short-term.
But if you’re consuming healthier forms of sugar such as fruit and you aren’t consuming more than your required calories, cutting that fruit out probably won’t make much of a difference. If anything, you will be missing out on the vitamins and antioxidants that is found in fruit.
What should I do about sugar?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality of the food you’re eating. Make sure that the majority of sugar that you do consume is naturally occurring. Keep the processed sugars for special occasions. If you consume mostly wholefoods, you’re on the right track.
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