In our last post, we discussed the pros and cons of using artificial sweeteners. Today we talk about sugar and give some hints to help you decide which is better for you.
- What are the negative health effects of sugar?
Sugar has been called “the single most important dietary cause of obesity and heart disease”. Simple sugars—the type added to processed food, soft drinks, and fruit juices—are rapidly digested and reach the bloodstream quickly.
This rapid rise in blood sugar levels and demand for insulin leads to undesirable metabolic effects, as the much of the circulating glucose is converted into making fat cells. The pancreas, which makes insulin, may eventually essentially wear out, and diabetes can be the result.
Added sugars in the diet have a negative effect on cholesterol profiles, meaning good cholesterol (HDL) levels fall, and triglyceride levels rise. This raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Dietary sugar does not raise the risk of cancer unless obesity results from the sugar intake. Obese people develop imbalances in their hormone levels, increasing the risk of several types of cancers, including breast, colon, esophageal, pancreatic, and uterine.
- What about sugars in fruits or natural sources such as honey?
Fruits may contain lots of the simple sugar fructose, but these sugars, ingested with the fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and antioxidants present in fruit, do not cause a health problem. These sugars, slowly absorbed, do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
Honey, one of the “natural sugars”, is still basically sugar, and can cause all the problems associated with simple sugars. However, the mix of sugars in honey is more complex, and fortunately is not digested as quickly as simple sugar. Further, honey contains some valuable trace elements and antioxidants that make it a healthier alternative.
- Sugar or Sweetener?
If you are trying to keep your weight under control, or want to avoid the negative health problems with sugar, artificial sweeteners are your best option. The best data shows they do not cause cancer or other serious health problems. The only issue is that some people gain weight even when they substitute sweetener for sugar. So you need to observe how your own metabolism responds.
If you want to eat sugar, new World Health Organization guidelines recommend the upper limit of added sugars per day, be less than 12 teaspoons per day, and ideally, less than 6 teaspoons. Remember that most added sugar in our diets is “hidden” in processed foods. A tablespoon of ketchup has about one teaspoon of added sugar, and a can of sugared soda has up to 10 teaspoons.
The best advice is to gradually cut down on your use of added sugars, and even sweeteners if that is your choice, and train your taste buds to be satisfied with less sweetness. This may take time and effort, but after some months you won’t miss the sweetness. Think fruit when you think of sweet, and when you do need to add sugar, try more natural sources such as honey or unprocessed sugars.
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)