Conversations about sugar abound. Consumers scour labels trying to cut down on this highly demonized carbohydrate. Sugar is touted as the demise of health, causing obesity, heart disease mood disorders, addiction and more.
Some fad diets eliminate anything with sugar. That includes glucose, a simple sugar found in many foods.
Do we need sugar? If so, how much? Is it really causing all these health issues? Well, yes, our bodies require a certain amount of sugar and, yes, excess sugar can lead to inflammation, weight gain and more.
Balance is key. Our daily caloric intake should come from three food sources: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Most health experts agree we should get about 50 percent of our calories from carbs, 25 percent from proteins and 25 percent from fats. Proteins should be from lean animal or plant-based sources containing little or no saturated fats. Fat calories should come mainly from polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils. These are fats that are liquid at room temperature.
All carbohydrates are broken down into three sugars in our bodies — glucose, fructose and galactose (milk sugar). Fruits and vegetables contain glucose and fructose. These should be the primary source of sugar in our diet, but should be balanced with complex carbohydrates from whole grains and starchy vegetables. These can be brown or wild rice and quinoa. Starchy vegetables include sweet potatoes, corn and root vegetables.
For the first time, dietary guidelines for Americans define moderation of added sugar intake as being less than 10 percent of daily calories, which on a 1,500-calorie day would equate to 37 grams or 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s about 150 calories from sugar.
The key to managing sugar intake is delivering the glucose your body needs along with fiber and protein. By making sure you have enough of these nutrients along with the sugar, it slows the release into your system.
The glycemic index of a carbohydrate is the effect it has on your blood sugar compared to consuming an equivalent amount of straight glucose. Consuming straight sugar has a glycemic index of 100. High glycemic index foods result in a higher insulin response, which tells the body to store excess calories as fat, promoting weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, dementia and many other chronic diseases. A reading of 55 or less confers a low glycemic index designation for that food.
Choosing a weight-loss program that uses the glycemic index in meal replacement shakes and bars and is high in nutritional value is important to success. When reading labels, focus on the grams of fiber and protein as well as added sugar. If the grams of fiber and protein significantly exceed the grams of sugar and added sugar, the food shouldn’t have a significant insulin effect. Find a brand that’s had its shakes tested at the globally recognized Glycemic Index Testing Center at the University of Sydney in Australia. The test isn’t required, but companies have had their products tested.
Our bodies need sugar, but it should come mainly from natural sources. Balance sugars with enough fiber to help fill you up as well as protein for long-lasting satiety. This will provide a great nutritional foundation for achieving weight control and living a longer, healthier life.