Nowadays, sugar is one of the most widespread products. It is consumed all over the world, and every day nearly each person eats it as a part of some dish or drink. There are two main types of it: the first is made of sugarcane and the second one is produced of sugar beet. However, other substances to substitute sugar are known and widely used for different purposes.
Any person is aware of the fact that sugar may be both useful and dangerous. There are various diets which include restricting this product. Also, it is common knowledge that extensive sugar consumption may lead to diabetes mellitus and other health problems. However, it’s almost impossible to totally exclude sugar out of your ration, as it comes in most of the food we are used to eat, even in those which taste salty, bitter or spicy, but not sweet at all.
Role in Metabolism
Sugar contains clear saccharose which falls into glucose and fructose as soon as it comes into the stomach. Thus, sugar is absorbed within several minutes and is a wonderful source of energy. However, there is no biological value in sugar, and it’s advised by World Health Organization that it must make up only 5% of all the calories consumed during the day – which is about 6 spoons.
The process of sugar turning into energy is called glycolysis. Apart from being a source of energy for your body, sugar may become an energy reserve. It helps to conserve lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, sugar has mainly a negative effect on metabolism as the amount of it in the food eaten is much higher than it should be. And excessive sugar becomes either amino acids or fatty acids.
Sugars and Added Sugars
Sugars may be naturally found in products like fruit, vegetables or milk, or they may come into food while cooking, processing or added right at the table, like into tea or coffee. Natural sugars are less detrimental for your health than those added. That is because while eating fruit we get vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. That is fiber which makes sugar in fruit and some vegetables less dangerous – it slows down absorption. Lactose contained in dairy products is a kind of “healthy sugar” as well, but a lot of them still contain added sugar apart from the natural one.
It’s important to remember that manufacturers wouldn’t like their goods to have horrifying labels, so they try to change the name of added sugars for some other ingredients like syrup, panocha, etc. But why not produce goods without sugar? Because it helps keep them fresh for a longer period of time, improve fermentation, make them good and more attractive in terms of texture, favor and color. The main sources of added sugars are:
- Drinks (such as soda, energy drinks, etc.);
- Candies and milk/white chocolate;
- Baked or fried desserts (cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, etc.);
- Dairy desserts (yoghurts, ice cream, etc.).
Disadvantages of Excess Sugar Consumption
In terms of taste, sugar is brilliant for most of people on our planet, but this product is a dangerous thing when we speak about health. Here is the list of problems you may get because of eating too much sugar:
- Adding Fat – when your liver is full with glycogen, sugar turns into fats on limbs and belly;
- False Hunger – that is due to the influence on brain cells and the necessity to keep glucose and insulin on the same level as when sugar comes;
- Aging – the more sugar you consume, the more wrinkles you get;
- Addiction – sugar may have the same effect on your brain as morphine or cocaine;
- Lack of B-vitamins – that is because added sugar doesn’t contain vitamin B, but this group is needed for its absorption;
- Heart diseases – lack of thiamine affects the heart muscle and may lead to cardiopulmonary arrest;
- Immune system worsens – due to the rise of sugar in the blood the immune system fails to fight infections.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetically made sugar substitutes, but it’s possible that they are derived from herbs or ordinary sugar. Usually, they are much sweeter, and if compared with ordinary added sugar, a small amount is needed to provide the same taste. The advantage of artificial sweeteners is that they are free of calories and, thus, you wouldn’t get fats stored – this quality is successfully employed by people who would like to lose weight, also it’s highly recommended by dietitians to patients with obesity diagnose. Some sugar substitutes may be allowed to people with diabetes, as they don’t raise blood sugar and don’t involve insulin into the absorption process.
There was a test which showed that artificial sweeteners may cause cancer, but to do this their huge amounts are needed. Nevertheless, Food and Drug Administration controls these food additives, and its approval is necessary before the sweetener is available for sale. Apart from buying FDA-approved sweeteners exclusively, customers are to pay attention that some of them have contraindications, and it’s better to consult a dietitian to avoid unexpected health problems.
FDA has made a special list of “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) artificial sweeteners, which are quite safe:
Moreover, FDA has provided an acceptable daily intake for each artificial sweetener to point out the dose safe and recommended for everyday consumption. Usually, manufacturers either name the sweetener they use in the product or put “E” with the corresponding number. For example, Aspartame is Е951, Saccharin is E954, etc.
Cutting Sugar Down
If you are concerned about excessive sugar consumption and would like to avoid the dangerous consequences of eating too much sugar, you are to act right now. Here are several tips which would help to cut down on sugar:
- When cooking, try to reduce the number of teaspoons you put into dishes, tea or coffee. If you have got a sweet tooth, then do it gradually to avoid stress.
- Don’t buy soda or other sweet drinks. They are rich in added sugar and don’t work properly when you are thirsty. It’s better to drink water.
- Learn the names of sugar and pay attention to the labels to cut down both the sugar amounts and calories you consume.
- Fresh fruit is the best source of sweet taste. They are better than dried fruit and canned ones with sugar syrup.
- Try non-nutritive sweeteners as they can perfectly substitute sugar, in case you find the one which fits you and doesn’t leave after-taste.