Your Guide to Choosing Good and Bad Sugars
Yes, there is such a thing as good sugar! Sugars come in many forms: from the sugar in fruit to the refined sugar in soda to the artificial sugar in diet products to the sugar in honey or nectar. Sugar can be dangerous if consumed in excess, but some sugars can be good for you. It's all about how much of each type of sugar you consume. Read on to find out more about the good and bad sugars in your diet:
Refined Sugar: BAD
Sugar comes from sugar cane, a plant that is loaded with fiber. However, to make the sugar we eat, the sugar cane is refined. This eliminates all of the fiber and nutrients from the sugar cane, leaving only the sweet goodness. Refined sugar contains almost ZERO nutritional value, but it has a very high glycemic load. This means it is quickly absorbed into our bodies without any fiber to slow down intake. This can lead to high blood sugar levels, not to mention a higher risk of both weight gain and insulin resistance. The majority of sugars used in food is refined sugar, as is all table sugar and cooking sugar. You're better off avoiding this particular type of sugar.
Artificial Sugar: BAD
Artificial sugar may have zero calories, but that doesn't mean it doesn't take a toll on your body. First off, it's filled with chemicals your body is totally unaccustomed to processing, so most of the sugar ends up collected with the other waste products. This can strain your organs and increase the risk of liver or kidney damage. Plus, artificial sugars also raise your blood sugar levels and cause insulin resistance. They may have zero calories, but they're just as likely to cause diabetes as refined sugar.
Unrefined Sugar: GOOD
Unrefined sugar has NOT been treated with chemicals to remove all nutrients. You'll find it in honey, molasses, natural maple syrup, agave nectar, and other natural sweeteners. It's still fairly high in calories and may increase your blood sugar levels, but at least there are other nutrients to make it a more valuable food. Unrefined sugars can be a good option, provided they are consumed in moderation.
Fructose is a form of sugar found in fruits and vegetables. It's what makes oranges, apples, and carrots sweet, and it's a healthy, natural form of sugar. It does provide a lot of extra calories (which your body quickly turns into fat) and can raise your blood sugar if consumed in excess. However, those who eat a serving or two of fruit per day won't have to worry about too-high blood sugar levels. Fructose doesn't cause insulin resistance, so it's not one of the primary contributors to diabetes.
The "How" of Eating Sugar
In the end, there are two things that matter when it comes to eating sugar. First, the quantities and types of sugar. The good sugars above (Fructose and unrefined sugar) are far less likely to cause health problems, especially if eaten in moderation. A serving or two of natural sugar per day is healthy, especially if it comes in the form of fruits or veggies. Second, the timing of your sugar intake. If you consume most of your sugar for the day before and immediately following a workout, your body utilizes it as an immediate energy source. This provides your muscles the nutrients needed to get through the exercise effectively without storing excess energy as fat. Make most of your sugar intake just before and after your training session, and you'll have nothing to worry about.