week 1: Sugar

For 10 weeks, I highlight a topic that has to do with lifestyle

This week: Sugar.
There is so much to be said about sugar: types, natural & added, functions, risks, alternatives....

The 'problem' is, sugar is added in so many products, things we often love to eat!
Me included. 
Being more aware of the functions and effects may change your choice of food.
I have never been that sugar addicted, luckily, but sometimes I just like to ignore the information I know about the bad things of sugar... 
I love my chocolate. And I still eat it so now and then. Super dark ones, though. And enjoy it to the max. And that is ok. As long as you do not eat it excessively.

Since my study about nutrition I became more aware of fact and the function of sugar.

Fact is: Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.
It can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases.

But why? not all sugar is bad, right!? 
Sugar from any source supplies the glucose your body loves to use for energy, but sugar added to sweets and beverages has a different impact on your health than the same sugar supplied by a piece of fruit.

So what is sugar?
Carbohydrates are sugars that break down into glucose.

They provide calories and have a protein sparing effect: proteins are the main building blocks of your body.  When you eat enough carbs, then carbs are used for energy instead of protein.  The essential job of protein is to build muscle tissues and manufacture hormones.

The simplest form of sugars  are monosaccharides:  glucose, fructose and galactose.
Then you have sucrose, lactose en maltose (when you combine 2 molecules of monosaccharides), still bit of a simple form.
Starch and fiber are complex carbohydrates because they’re made from three to hundreds of sugar molecules. 

All bad sugar is simple sugar, but not all simple sugar is bad. It depends on the source.

Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains contain simple sugars. When simple sugars are naturally found in whole food, they come with vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals and fiber.  Simple sugars are found in fruits, honey, sweets, honey, candies, white bread, white rice and soft drinks, and complex carbs are basically all the starchy plant-based foods like beans, lentils, potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat etc.

When any type of sugar is added to foods during processing, cooking or at the table, you consume calories without any nutrients or fiber,  and for that it is called 'bad sugar'.

So how does it work, in short:
During digestion, simple sugars and complex starches break down into single molecules of glucose. Since they contain more molecules of sugar, starches take longer to digest, so they enter the bloodstream slowly.
Simple sugars gain quick access and cause a peak in blood sugar.

Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a whole bunch of calories with NO essential nutrients. For this reason, they are called “empty” calories. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar… just pure energy.

Health concern.
These empty calories quickly add up to potential weight gain. When sugar enters your bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin, which enables sugar to move into cells. Cells sometimes become resistant to insulin. When that happens, sugar stays in your blood, and that increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Extra sugar also causes an increase in triglycerides, which contributes to cardiovascular disease.

So what to do?
For this week to get more insight in your sugar consumption:
-check how often and how much sugar you add in your food & drinks.
- check how often you eat processed food which likely is full added sugar and therefor empty calories
-work with a Glycemic Index!
This is an index with a relative ranking of carbohydrates in food, according to how they affect blood glucose levels.

Main rule: eat carbohydrates which are low on the GI scale, (55 or less). they get more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized.  Therefore cause  a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and less insulin needs to be released to combat the rise in the blood sugar. .
These are mainly vegetables.  (yes, I know!! but the more you eat low GI veggies, you can balance a bit with a piece of chocolate or your glass of wine :-) ) 

Carbohydrates with GI value (70 and more) will be absorbed quickly and causing a faster rise of the blood sugar. And therefore more insulin will need to be released.

And if you really have to add sugar, or you think you have to, instead of 'white sugar you can try to use: Stevia, honey, coconut sugar, raw cane or browns sugar or agave.
Still researchers do not agree with each other if sweeters like Aspartame and Splenda are good alternatives for sugar or poison and worse than sugar.


If you find you have problems with your weight or sugar, like gravings, and wish to have personal guidance, feel free to contact me.