These days it seems as if sugar is in everything. It’s incredibly hard to avoid, and it’s widely known that sugar is detrimental to our health. It's hidden in everything from your breakfast sausage and hashbrowns to salad dressings and sauces.
But did you know that not all sugar is created equal?
It is insanely important to be a diligent label reader and to know the difference between the good, the pretty good, and the just plain bad sugars that sneak into just about everything.
The Just Plain Bad Sugar - Refined Sugars
It's no secret that we all love sugar. We crave it after nearly every meal, and we love cereals loaded with sugars every morning. But refined sugars, including cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and brown rice syrup, should be avoided as much as possible.
When manufactured, these refined sugars lose nearly all of their natural vitamins, minerals, nutrients, leaving only glucose and fructose for your body to break down. There is simply nothing in refined sugar that actually nourishes your body.
And in reality, refined sugar is as close to a legalized drug without even realizing it. It is addictive, leading us to crave more sugar and feel irritable without it (I). It also leads to a myriad of health issues such as weakening the immune system to fight disease and can contribute to mental health issues including depression and anxiety, and has been linked to physical diseases such as cancer, liver failure, obesity, and diabetes (I).
It is best to read labels and look for refined sugars in their many forms. If you want to avoid refined sugars, stick to eating minimally processed whole foods. A good general rule is if you know what every ingredient listed you're probably ok.
Best in Moderation - Minimally Processed Sugars
Minimally processed sugars have advantages to your overall health if consumed in moderation. But the key here is moderation. These sugars include honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup.
When minimally processed sugars are produced, heat and filtering are applied to the raw material, which leaves a lot of natural vitamins and minerals intact. With these natural benefits still intact, that means that your body does derive some benefit from these types of sugars.
For example, honey provides antioxidants, improves heart health, and raises blood sugar (II). Pure maple syrup is not only high in antioxidants, but every spoonful offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium (III). Coconut Sugar contains electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals (like vitamin C, potassium, zinc, and calcium), healthy fats, and inulin which keeps your gut healthy (IV).
Though these sugars do have health benefits, it is easy to over-do these sweet ingredients. If consumed too much, minimally processed sugars can be just as damaging to your health as refined sugars. These are wonderful and healthy alternatives to table sugar, but they need to be used cautiously.
Yes, Virginia, Good Sugars Do Exist - Natural Sugars
Natural Sugars are guilt-free, and they are necessary for normal bodily processes. As you might imagine, natural sugars are not processed and only exist in whole foods like milk and fruit.
Natural sugars are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that actually nourish your body (what a concept, right?).
Consuming foods with natural sugars such as fruit actually reduces the chances of developing diseases like cancer and obesity, unlike refined sugars (VI). Fruit, veggies, and milk (dairy and nut milk) can satisfy your sweet tooth while also keeping your body strong and healthy.
Stay in Control of Your Sugar Intake
In the year 2011, the average American consumed 150 pounds of sugar per year. That's right. PER YEAR. In 1915, that number was a measly 15 to 20 pounds of sugar per year (VII). We've grown to consume almost 10 times more sugar per year. That's crazy!
But, we can do something about it. By reading labels and avoiding refined sugars especially, you can be empowered to enjoy sugar without regrets. Safe options exist, so be sure to read labels and watch your servings.
The simple solution is to enjoy real foods that give your body real nutrients, like Bubba's Paleo Foods. So go, enjoy a sweet treat, and nourish your body with good sugar!