Most people are aware that sugar is bad for their health, causing tooth decay, inflammation and obesity. Although all sugars may taste the same to our taste buds, it’s important to differentiate between good sugar versus bad sugar.
Natural sugars such as fructose and lactose (found in fruit and dairy products) are good sugars, providing nutritional value as well as satisfying our sweet tooth. Sucrose, on the other hand, is often used as an added sugar. It provides “empty” calories and zero nutrition and is considered a bad sugar as we are healthier without it.
Free Sugars are Bad Sugars
The World Health Organization classifies sucrose as “free sugars” as they are free floating and are not bound with other nutrients. These bad sugars are instantly absorbed into the bloodstream causing a sugar spike. They are the most common source of added sugar in soft drinks, salad dressings, sauces, ice cream, candies and sweet pastries.
Even honey, agave nectar and maple syrup fall into the category of free or bad sugars. Although they are natural sweeteners, they do not contain fiber, protein or vitamins and consequently add unnecessary calories to your diet and should be restricted.
The Difference Between Good Sugar versus Bad Sugar
Simple sugars break down quickly into glucose. As they enter the bloodstream they stimulate the pancreas to release insulin. As the sugar is dissipated around the cells, the insulin remains, creating a craving for more sugar, and this is the danger of bad sugars. They create sugar “highs” followed by “lows” which quickly become cravings for more sugar.
Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are also broken down in the digestive process to create glucose. They take longer to digest than simple sugars and consequently have a low glycemic index. They enter the bloodstream gradually and do not create the rush of insulin and the subsequent sugar spikes and cravings for more sweetness. These complex carbohydrates also contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which have high nutritional value, so they are considered to be good sugars.
Reducing Bad Sugar Intake
When you fancy a snack, treat yourself to tasty high protein foods such as nuts and seeds. When chocolate cravings strike, have a few squares of good quality dark chocolate with high cacao content (around 70%) and less sugar. For sweetening drinks and for cooking, replace bad sugar with natural stevia which is calorie-free, does not cause tooth decay and actually isn’t a sugar at all!