Sugar comes in many forms, some more obvious than others. Obvious forms of sugar include powdered sugar, brown sugar, table sugar, and turbinado sugar. We know that using excessive amounts of these types of sugars is bad for our health. We know that consuming too much of it can cause a whole host of health problems such as cavities, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. However, this is only part of the sugar problem that our society faces today. The truth about sugar is that it exists in just about every type of food we eat each day. Some of it occurs naturally, some is added, and some is ultimately converted from something else like carbohydrates. Understanding how sugar affects you and where it is found will empower you to make better choices.
Assuming we are careful with our sugar intake, we may not realize that choosing not to eat a candy bar but instead drinking that energy drink is the better option. Hidden sugars make it difficult for us to make healthier decisions, unless we know where to find them. Sugar is found in high fructose corn syrup, fruit, cereal, rice pudding, and carrot cake. It also comes in the form of simple and complex carbohydrates with foods like white rice, bread and pasta made with refined flour, pastries, whole grain breads, and starchy vegetables like corn, peas, white potatoes, and beans. But, you might be thinking, how can something healthy like corn or whole wheat bread be potentially harmful to my overall health?
Essentially, carbohydrates turn into sugar. And while some types of carbohydrates take much longer than others to convert to sugar, like those from complex carbohydrates, they eventually do as well. The key is to ensure you balance your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. There is a vicious cycle that occurs each time we eat foods that are processed or highly refined. Sugar and simple carbohydrates break down in our body into glucose (an energy source every cell needs) and quickly enter our bloodstream. The glucose, in turn, releases insulin to regulate the amount of glucose (energy) that the cells receive. Rather than having a constant and even supply of energy, there is a surge followed shortly by a significant drop in blood sugar. This creates that vicious cycle where we feel that dip and get sluggish, turn to less than healthy snacks to boost our energy, and find ourselves dipping again a short time later.
The solution? Consume more complex carbohydrates, as they contain fiber, which slows the sugar break down. It becomes more of a steady flow, which helps to manage energy levels better. We don’t feel that dip as we do with sugary treats and simple carbohydrates. Including healthy fats makes a difference, too, like avocados, eggs, and nuts. Being aware of what you eat, and when, will help keep your blood sugar in balance so you can have that authentic energy to enjoy every day.