Sugar – Loved and feared in equal measure, but how much do you really know about it?
From your breakfast cereal to your mid-morning tea and biscuit, to your pre-workout banana and post-workout sushi; sugar is a normal part of an everyday diet; but did you know there are different types of sugar in the foods we eat, which affect the body differently?
Refined sugar comes from extracting the naturally occurring sugars in foods such as cane, beets and corn; and processing them into useable sugar sources such as brown or white sugars and corn syrup. These are then added to breads, cakes, drinks and many processed foods to add sweetness and flavour.
Refined sugars are processed rapidly by the body, causing blood sugar levels to increase. The body tries to counter this by releasing insulin, causing a drop in energy, known as the “sugar crash”; which can leave you feeling hungry again as well as anxious, irritable, tired and with a headache. Too much refined sugar is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, certain types of cancer and other health issues.
Unrefined sugar is what is found in natural sources such as fruit, milk, rice, maple syrup and much more. Whilst it is broken down in much the same way as refined sugar, the natural food sources also contain nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and enzymes which are absorbed by your gut and help to slow down the absorption of sugar, so insulin levels are less likely to spike.
Because of the additional nutritional value of unrefined sources, it is generally better to fuel your body with this type of sugar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to cut out refined sugar; it can still be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Sweeteners, such as those found in diet drinks, are a common alternative to refined sugars and latest research finds they do not have any negative effects on the body if enjoyed in a balanced diet.
Remember; our bodies need sugar to survive and should never be cut out of a diet altogether!