So, sugar is everywhere.
There is no hiding that. I think (most of) the general population is aware that sugar is hiding in everything nowadays. Buns, bread, sauces, ketchup (especially!), even things like our supplements and protein powders.
Today I wanted to chat about my thoughts on sugar. If you read my final post of the Fit Tip Friday series I was doing this spring on the blog, you might remember the info graphic I’m going to share again about how sugar can effect your body.
We are going to start with a bit o’ science here:
If you’ve read any nutrition label, you may be familiar that sugar ends in “ose.” There are other sugar substitutes, such as stevia, maltitol, Splenda, etc, but today we are going to focuse on the “ose.” Scientifically, our blood sugar is called glucose. This is what is left over after carbohydrates are broken down. Glucose gives our cells energy and is vital for our survival. However, there’s two different types of carbohydrates that our body breaks down: simple carbs and complex carbs (which would be something like brown rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables, etc). So what are simple carbohydrates then? You guessed it. Cookies, cake, candy, corn syrup (which is in EVERYTHING), jam, etc.
If you are familiar with the way our digestive system, you may know already that insulin is our storage hormone that helps glucose move to our cells. Insulin’s job is to keep a good amount of glucose in our bloodstream and deliver the correct amounts to energize our cells. So, what happens when our insulin levels are too high? This is a good indicator that our diet is made up of a high number of starchy and simple carbohydates. AKA, we are eating too much crap and our body doesn’t know what to do with it. Why is this a problem? When our insulin levels are too high, our muscle cells start to become resistant to the signal that insulin sends them – “hello, please accept this glucose!” When our cells start resisting the signal to accept glucose, the glucose does not move from our blood stream. It hangs out there and creates high blood sugar levels. The bad part? When our body cannot use the excess glucose, like for brain and muscle functions, it’s converted into free fatty acids… And guess how it is stored after that? You guessed it. Fat.
What does this have to do with the other “OSE” ingredients out there? Well, fructose for one is metabolized a lot quicker and turns into fat more quickly. The more fructose we eat, the more fat we build up. Too much sugar (fructose especially) can also lead to high blood pressure and other medical issues.
“But I LOVE SUGAR!” Yes, that’s because sugar is addicting. I mean, I get it. I love sugar too, but after researching more about what it is doing to my body, the more I don’t want to have it regularly in my diet. Now, I feel like I am in a place in my life where I am more aware about these things, mostly because it is a huge interest of mine to know what is in my food and how it impacts my body. Sure, a donut is great and all, but it leaves me feeling lethargic, bloated, and foggy-brained. Then, when I wake up it’s almost like a hangover from the sugar I’ve consumed.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t eat sugar at all. I think sugar (using it as a broad term) is essential for our survival, because we need to keep our blood sugar levels stable. The last thing you want is to be caught in the vicious cycle where you spike your blood sugar at breakfast, come crashing down at lunch, so then you are searching for something to get that blood sugar up again. And UP it goes in another spike after a sugary-latte drink, then crashing down again in the afternoon. Do you see the pattern here? It’s important to keep our meals balanced to keep our blood sugar levels balanced too.
How do I eat sugar now? In the form of fruit, but before you go and whip up a giant smoothie bowl with seven different types of food mixed in, I like to keep my fruit to a minimum. I used to be all about that banana life every single day, then have berries, and an apple, etc. Yes, fruit is healthy for you as it also includes things like fibre, vitamins, and minerals, but I find that having my fruit in the morning works best for my body. For example, I will make a smoothie with blueberries or pineapple, and then my body has all day to use that energy and burn it through my daily activities. Yes, I am a sucker for a nice glass of wine and celebratory birthday cake (if the mood strikes where I am at a party and yes, I really want that!!), but I know that it’s important to balance that out with healthy options. If I’m going to have a couple glasses of wine, that’s enough sugar for me, and that coupled with a slice of cake is a recipe for a sugar-hangover-disaster in the morning. That being said, listen to your body. It is smart, and you can often start to recognize your hunger signals and other signals your hormones are sending to you if you listen closely!
Let me know in the comments: What are your feelings on sugar?