There’s been a lot of talk about sugar lately. Nearly everyone has an opinion about it, and often those opinions can be extreme. But, as with so many other things, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle.
So what exactly is sugar, and what does it do to our bodies? And surely sometimes it’s okay to eat that chocolate cupcake calling to us? Right?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that’s naturally found in many foods, which our body needs for energy. It’s most concentrated in fruits, some vegetables and grains, and is also added to some processed foods to sweeten them and enhance their flavour. Some of the different types of sugars include fructose, galactose, glucose and sucrose.
So is it good or bad?
For everyone out there with a sweet tooth, you know that sugar sure can be delicious. And, like many things, too much of it can negatively impact our health. But does that mean we should avoid all sugar all of the time? Definitely not.
In Australia there’s no recommended daily intake of sugar, but the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting your intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends reducing your intake of sugar to no more than 5% of your total energy intake. For an average adult of normal weight, that’s about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day.
Now remember we’re talking about added sugar, plus the sugar naturally occurring in honey, syrups and fruit.
The lowdown on liquids
There’s a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that concluded we need to stop blaming weight gain solely on the sugar content of foods and beverages. Now, this doesn’t mean that slurping down a giant soft drink every day doesn’t contribute to weight gain – but it does mean there are many different factors that lead to excess weight.
Think about meal replacement shakes. When consumed in conjunction with a proper diet and exercise, they can be an effective way to trim down. A typical meal replacement drink provides proteins as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It’s quite different from adding a large coke to your fast food combo meal. In that case, yes, the sugary drink may very well contribute to weight gain.
The effect of sugar consumption on body weight totally depends on dosage, behavioural intent and its percentage contribution to the entire diet.
Balance is best
Ultimately, our bodies are best served when we eat everything in moderation. Sugar isn’t the devil. Too much can be bad for you, but so can a lot of other things. You don’t have to completely avoid the sweet stuff, just be sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet most of the time, and follow any recommendations from your doctor or other health experts. And remember: we all deserve a little treat every now and then!