Sugar is bad, right? It seems we know this, but do we really understand why? We also tend to believe that the sugar-free or sugar substitutes are not bad for us, too. In fact, it’s a better option for us to choose sugar-free when possible. The reality is that both are bad for us and cause unhealthy side effects to our bodies if we consume them. Understanding this impact on us is important to making more informed choices about the food we eat.
People often wonder if there is a difference between the different types of sugar. It can become a bit confusing as there are 7 major types on the market today:
- white granulated sugar – highly refined; multi-purpose; most common type of sugar
- caster sugar – very fine granulated sugar; more difficult to find
- confectioners sugar – even finer sugar; used to make icings
- raw sugar – larger crystals; few minerals
- brown sugar – contains 5% molasses; trace amounts of calcium, iron and potassium
- fructose powder – sweeter than sugar; metabolized differently; does not trigger hormones that regulate appetite
- glucose powder – source of instant energy; labeled as “dextrose”;
Calorie-wise there is no difference between sugars, plus in any form offers little in terms of health benefits. For these reasons, the USDA suggests limiting sugar intake in our diet. To confuse matters even more, we find there is sugar-free options and sugar substitutes. Are they better for us? The short answer is no.
With our society in an obesity epidemic, one of the goals is to cut calories. Because sugar is filled with empty calories, this is the most logical place to start. We begin by switching to the diet version of our favorite soda, then opt for the sugar-free vanilla iced coffee rather than the regular. Granted the calories have lowered, but what have we really replaced them with? Both artificial and natural sweeteners. The FDA has approved 5 artificial sweeteners – saccharin, aspartame, neotame, sucralose, an acesulfame.
And only one natural sweetener, Stevia. Researchers are concerned about the long-term effects of consuming large quantities of sweeteners. Studies indicate that daily consumption of diet soda increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36% and a 67% increase in developing type 2 diabetes. Which coincidentally was exactly what these artificial sweeteners were meant to help in the first place.
When it comes to sugar, choose the natural route, stick with the natural sugar found in fruit. Opt for unsweetened tea, black coffee, and fruit infused water. However, if you just can’t ignore your sweet tooth, remember to use moderation. Be smart about the calories you put in your body. Because not every calorie is equal.