ALL ABOUT SUGAR
Written by: Dr.Claire Arcidiacono, ND
What exactly is sugar? Sugar is what we call sweet- tasting water soluble carbohydrates. Sugar comes in two forms, monosaccharides or “simple sugars” which include glucose, fructose and galactose. Disaccharides or “compound sugars” are made of 2 bonded monosaccharides. For example sucrose or table sugar is a combination of glucose + fructose. Lactose which is the sugar found in dairy is a combination of glucose and galactose. Maltose which is a sugar syrup obtained from grain consists of 2 molecules of glucose. While starch may consist of chains of monosaccharides since these chains of monosaccharides are greater than 2 molecules it is not regarded as sugar. Additionally while other molecules such as sugar alcohols may taste sweet they are not actually sugar because they have a different chemical structure.
Where do we get sugar (other than the grocery store lol)? Sucrose is found in sugarcane and sugar beets which is why they are the main sources for refined sugar. Honey and fruit are natural sources of simple sugars. Corn syrup is a man-made sugar where corn starch is converted in the lab to sugars such as maltose, fructose and glucose. As you can see most forms of sugar come from plants. Lactose however is found in any milk product including human breast milk. (1)
While sugar addiction is controversial we do know that sugar affects dopamine. This is the same chemical pathway that is released when a person intakes an addictive substance. Dopamine is basically what allows us to feel pleasure and happiness. When we intake sugar our body is programmed to release dopamine. One theory for why this occurs goes back to humanity’s early days as cave men. The theory is that in order to survive humans were drawn to high calorie foods and typically those with a higher sugar content provide that. Therefore by perceiving high sugar foods as “good” by giving the reward of dopamine the body is actively encouraging us to eat them. Unfortunately unlike in cave people time when these foods were not readily accessible modern technology has made them easy to access. And so while our brains want us to seek these foods it is very easy to overdo it. (2) An example is an apple. In cave man times you might be able to find apples for a few days. So you would likely ration them to last. In today’s society you can have 10 apples a day if you want. See the difference?
While this series has focused on the risks of developing high blood sugar and diabetes and its complications I would like to point out that a high sugar diet can increase the risk of other health concerns as well. High sugar intake can increase the risk of heart disease. It can also cause fat to build up in the organs and lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. High sugar intake can also increase the risk of kidney disease. It can of course lead to cavities and is associated with acne. Interestingly high sugar intake is also associated with increased uric acid, increasing the risk of gout. In my prior blog I mentioned the increasing risk of cognitive decline. High sugar diets have been found to lead to an overall decrease in energy. Additionally the damage to telomeres leads to an increase in cellular aging. High sugar has also been found to increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Studies show that increasing sugar can increase the risk of cancer both by increasing weight and increasing the risk of obesity and by increasing inflammation. Lastly a high sugar diet can make us literally look older than we are by damaging collagen and elastin thus increasing skin aging. (3)
How much sugar should we be consuming every day? According to the American heart association women should consume no more than 24 grams or 6 teaspoons a day. Men should have no more than 36 grams or 9 teaspoons a day. Now when we look at nutrition labels, the amount of sugar is already in grams. It is very important to add the amount of sugar you consume just by adding up the grams. You can convert the number to teaspoons however in general, most people find it easier to just add up the grams. (4)
Sugar goes by many names. Some examples are:
- corn sweetener
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrates
- high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- malt sugar
- molasses (4)
- brown sugar
If you see the prefix “ose” at the end of a word you don’t recognize most likely it is a form of sugar. https://www.virtahealth.com/blog/names-for-sugar is a link for many different names of sugar.
Now I’m not going to lie sugar is tasty. I’ll confess I do like to indulge in a sweet treat. It’s all about a healthy balance. Next week we well talk about natural and synthetic alternatives to sugar. But I thought I’d leave you some yummy ideas in the meantime. Feel free to experiment!
- Fill me up chocolate oatmeal
- I start by cooking my oatmeal and setting it aside. This can be any oatmeal you like. Take Greek yogurt (unsweetened) and add 1 scoop of Invite whey protein, 1 scoop Cocoa Hx and mix. After mixing gently fold into your oatmeal. You can top with some sunflower seeds if you want a little crunch!
- Blender muffins of health (lol)
- With this recipe it’s not exact feel free to have fun! I usually take 2 eggs, 2 scoops of Invite Whey protein, 1 scoop Cocoa Hx, and 1 cup raw oats. As I blend I add enough water so that it is a muffin like consistency. Generally between 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup. Scoop into a muffin pan and cook at 350 for 20 min checking to see if they are done. Variations to this include using almond milk instead of water. As I said it is not exact and you can have fun changing things up!
- Cranberry goodness
- I’m going to be honest here. This came about because I wanted to make cranberry sauce and forgot to buy sweetener. What resulted was so good my family requested I make it that way every time! Take 1 average size package of cranberries and cook them in water that has 2 scoops Reds Hx and 1 scoop Ribose complex mixed in. (Basically mix the powders in water and use that water to cook the cranberries.). If it is not as sweet as you like you can add more Ribose complex. When it is done cooking as per the directions on the package blend or pulse to your desired consistency. If you want an added texture feel free to add a scoop or 2 of Organic flax seed powder.
- Yogurt goodness! Don’t forget, any of our powders can be mixed into yogurt or avocado for a yummy treat!
- “OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2020–2029” (PDF). FAO. 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2021.