The Shocking Truth About Sugar & Why Your Body Needs It
Is sugar really as bad as it’s cracked up to be?
I’ve always had a sweet tooth - maybe you have too! Dessert, chocolate, fruits, and more - these were my snacking go-to’s. But then, as I worked in the fitness and health industry, I heard all about how bad sugar is for you and how there was far too much of it in the modern Western diet.
So, I attempted to cut it out.
Not only did this send me on a rollercoaster involving moodiness, fatigue, and more, but I also ended up with epic food binges. Friday night would roll around, and I’d find myself knee-deep in chocolate, ice cream, jujubes - all the junk stuff. The no-sugar thing didn’t exactly work out well for me.
And I get it - there is no one-size-fits-all for health and diet. Yet, physiologically, we are all built relatively the same.
So, what’s the deal? The truth?
Your body needs sugar. In this article, we’ll dive into exactly why you need sugar, the benefits of it, and what kind of sugar you should be eating (Hint: It doesn’t come in pre-packaged containers or boxes!).
What is Sugar?
Sugar, in the most simple terms, is a carbohydrate. And it comes in many forms, including glucose, fructose, and galactose.
The table sugar you have in your cupboard at home is glucose and fructose. When any of these types of sugars are broken down in the body, they are converted into glucose, which is used by every cell in the body for energy.
In fact, using glucose from the food you eat is the most efficient way for your body to make energy. And because of this, your body likes to have a relatively stable amount of sugar circulating throughout the body in your blood (more on this in a second).
Learn more about Sugar: Your Brain & Body on Sugar.
Different Types of Sugar
As mentioned above, sugar comes in different forms, including:
The fact that many people often forget about when it comes to sugar is that it isn’t the only ingredient in many of the foods that you are eating. For example, many popular ice creams, candies, and chocolates come with a list of additives and other chemicals - none of which are helping you or your health.
There’s also the fact that a lot of individuals aren’t getting the right amount of nutrients from their diet, which often results in them eating more. This means that they consume more of the wrong foods, which often contain a high amount of added sugars.
In other words, sugar has been misunderstood and mistakenly demonized. It’s not poison - and don’t worry, we aren’t done here yet.
So, Is All Sugar Bad for Your Body?
No! And the types of sugar you eat doesn’t necessarily matter that much either. Remember, the body breaks it down into the same thing.
What really does matter is what else is in the foods you’re eating. Are you eating sugar from pre-packaged and processed foods? Or is it coming from whole foods, like fresh and ripe fruits? These are the questions you need to be asking.
Why Your Body Needs Sugar
First off, your body loves to use sugar for its primary fuel source. It’s easy and efficient for the body to use - unlike proteins and fats.
Now, let’s talk about blood sugar levels for a quick second.
Most Important: Your Blood Sugar
Stabilizing your blood sugar levels comes down to eating enough, eating the right foods, and frequently eating (about every 3-4 hours). Stabilizing your blood sugar levels can prevent hormonal imbalances and those mid-afternoon crashes. It supplies your body with a steady flow of glucose for energy, which is necessary for normal and optimal functioning.
The Glycemic Index ranks foods by how quickly they increase your blood sugar levels. Usually, fruit sits somewhere in the middle. The scale goes from 0-100, but you’ll find fruit at about 35-65 on the scale. This makes it one of the best sugar food options. Plus, you get the additional nutrients that come in different kinds of fruit, like vitamin C in oranges.
Cookies, crackers, and other pre-packaged sugary food items sit a little higher up on the glycemic index. This means when you eat these foods, you’ll likely have a huge spike in blood sugar, followed by a dip. You might feel energetic and ready to go for the hour after eating, but then after an hour, you begin to feel fatigued and hungry again.
When you eat sugar, your body signals to your pancreas to release insulin, which allows your body’s cells to take in sugar. Wonder why artificial sugars often don’t work too well? It all comes down to this process right here.
When you eat something sweet, your body starts this process.
Insulin is released. But if there isn’t any sugar that comes in for your cells to utilize, they will use what’s circulating throughout your blood. This means you experience an even bigger drop in your blood sugar levels, which means you will likely feel completely wiped out and likely will reach for more food.
The bottom line here? Stabilizing your blood sugar is important. Yes, your body needs it for energy, but you also need to give it the right kind of food containing sugar at regular intervals to ensure your body and its systems function at their best.
But Wait - Why Can’t I Just Cut Sugar Out of My Diet?
It really shouldn’t be about cutting out sugar entirely. Rather, you want to eliminate the added sugar (aka pre-packaged and processed foods) in your diet as much as possible, meaning you may just want to start eating less sugar.
The occasional treat is okay, but most of your diet should consist of whole foods, like fruit, veggies, eggs, and more.
Related Article: Supplements 101: Do You Need Them?
Think Critically About the Food You Eat
With any food, too much of anything is never a good thing. A healthy and balanced diet often comes down to ensuring you are eating a variety of foods so that your body is getting what it needs.
When your body is provided with what it craves and needs, in most cases, weight loss and good health will happen naturally. Poor health, or at least many of the health problems of today (not all), frequently comes down to imbalances of some sort in the diet. Think of your food as your foundation for good health.
Most importantly, read labels. Usually, sugar isn’t the problem. It’s the other stuff that is in your food. If you don’t know what an ingredient list item is, maybe think about it a bit - should you be eating it?