Is Sugar the New Tobacco? – The Role of Sugar in Food and Nutrition


Is Sugar the New Tobacco? - The Role of Sugar in Food and Nutrition

Quick Bites

  • Sugar is a carbohydrate
  • 50-60% of the energy in our diet is contributed from carbohydrates
  • There are simple and complex carbohydrates

Sugar! We are hearing a lot about it these days. It has become the villain in our diet.

So what is sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate. 50-60% of the energy in our diet is contributed from carbohydrates. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. So what’s the difference between the two?

Simple carbohydrates include glucose (present in fruits & vegetables), sucrose (table sugar), fructose (present in fruits& vegetables), lactose (present in milk). Complex carbohydrates include starch, modified starches and different forms of dietary fibre. 

When we talk about the extent of the sweetness of each form of carbohydrate, fructose is the sweetest form followed by sucrose, glucose and lactose. Complex carbohydrates are relatively low on sugars.  

Also read: 7 Signs that You are Eating too Much Sugar

How do these sugars work in our body?

One gram of carbohydrate provides 4kcal. Simple sugars are directly absorbed in our body and provide energy. Whereas, complex carbohydrates require the necessary enzymes to break down in the body and then get absorbed. For example, modified starches like resistant starches take a longer time to metabolize, thus, they release energy slowly into our body, which does not influence blood glucose and insulin levels. 

When we talk about the negative impact of sugar, we basically mean refined or processed sugar. The role of sugar in our food is to provide sweetness. Apart from that, they are used as a preservative in jams, jellies and sauces. Sugar provides texture to various kinds of foods like bakery products. The properties change depending upon the form of sugar used. 

What is the big hue and cry about sugar?

Many experts have named sugar the culprit behind various metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome and even diabetes mellitus. 

How true is it? 

Well, our sedentary lifestyles make the calorie intake the major culprit. This means regular physical activity can do magic.

Does that mean we can eat as much sugar as we want as long as we exercise?

Well, this is debatable. Anything consumed in moderation is not harmful to health. Of course, moderation is an ambiguous word, interpreted differently from person to person. 

Then, what are the guidelines for sugar consumption?

As per WHO guidelines, 5% of the energy from carbohydrates should come from sugars, which can be roughly 25g (6 teaspoons) per day. Studies have shown that high consumption of sugar leads to hyperactivity, binge eating, cravings and altered mental function. 

Now suppose the average person consumes less than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day; say in 2-3 cups of tea or coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar per cup.

Where is the risk?

Believe it or not, we are at the risk because of the hidden sugars that we are regularly exposed to. Hidden sugars disguised as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, maltose and dextrose to name a few. They are present in various foods that we consume, like breakfast cereals, cream biscuits, carbonated beverages, packaged fruit juices, salad dressings, chocolates, fruit yogurts, etc. Hence, the next time do check food labels to look out for the hidden sugars that add to your daily quota of sugar. 

The discussion concludes that sugar-free products will help you avoid excessive consumption. 

Also read: Effects of Excess Carbs on Your Health

Is that is the best solution?

Sugar-free products are high on fat and use artificial sweeteners that provide several hundred times more sweetness compared to table sugar. They provide you with the pleasure of sweetness without the additional calories of table sugar. But, there are studies that have shown adverse effects on the gut microflora on consumption.

So what is really the best solution?

Deconditioning your taste buds from sweetness! At infancy, we develop taste preferences based on the kind of foods we consume. Traditionally, honey was given to infants who developed sweet preferences at the delicate age of childhood. Consuming low sugar foods avoids development of sweet preferences at an early age.

One step towards reducing the amount of table sugar added in your diet will help you keep many diseases at bay. Start your Sugar Detox today!

Inputs by: Shruti Kumbla, Senior Nutritionist, Pristine Organics.

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Written by: Onlymyhealth Staff Writer

Source: Onlymyhealth editorial team Feb 27, 2019