All sugar is sugar
consuming sugar in large quantities has deleterious effects on your health — studies have linked it to obesity, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease, to name a few. Sure, you need carbohydrates, which include both complex and simple sugars, for your body to break down and convert to energy. But it’s the added sugars that sweeten some of your favorite foods and beverages that you need to watch out for.
No matter what type of sugar you consume — whether it’s table sugar or maple syrup chock full of “vitamins” and “minerals” — your blood sugar goes up.
And by “sugar,” we mean a combination of fructose and glucose.
To understand why “sugar is sugar,” one must know what it is in the first place. What we commonly refer to as table sugar is actually sucrose, a compound composed of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Most caloric sweeteners, including the so-called “healthy” ones, contain some ratio of glucose and fructose, which trigger key reactions in your body
when you consume sugar, the metabolic process begins the minute the sugar reaches your mouth. But the majority is ultimately absorbed in the small intestine, where the sugar is metabolized and absorbed into your blood. Enzymes from the stomach then convert the sugar into glucose, your body’s preferred energy source. While it can provide your cells with fuel, something your body and brain need for proper functioning, glucose can cause excess weight gain. It spikes your insulin and blood sugar levels, plus it’s absorbed and used up quickly.
Fructose, or “fruit sugar,” is metabolized differently, since the liver does most of the metabolizing and your insulin levels don’t spike quite as much as when you ingest glucose (this is due to the lower glycemic index of fructose). That can make fructose sound like glucose’s better half, but it’s not true: insulin triggers the hormonal response that tells your brain you’re full. Fructose doesn’t elicit this reaction, so it’s easier to overeat.
While sugar is never “healthy,” you can certainly adopt mindful sugar consumption habits.
The problem with calling sugars “healthy” is the health halo effect, which makes people feel better about eating more of it.
When incorporating sugar into your diet, keep in mind that the World Health Organization recommends that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your calorie intake, while the American Heart Association wants women to consume less than 100 calories and men to consume less than 150 calories of added sugars a day.
So when it comes to trying to decipher between sugars higher in either glucose or fructose, it’s very much a “choose your poison” scenario. You don’t have to cut out added sugar altogether, the bottom line is to limit your sugar intake no matter what the source. And don’t let yourself get too smug for choosing the raw, “all-natural” or “healthy” sugar .