Here I am speaking about sugar – the product, white crystaline stuff you can buy at a grocery store and put in your coffee, tea or whatever. I am not speaking about sugar as a hidden ingredient of other products.
White sugar is probably one of the most hated and demonized food stuffs, or culinary products. It’s deemed the main culprit for obesity, diabetes, cancer and whatnot.
To say that it is healthy – that would be an overstatement, but here I will show you how the whole narrative about bad, bad sugar, in some cases misses the point. I’ll debunk some claims, and acknowledge some others, and more importantly tell you why I appreciate this product, and how to have healthy attitude towards it.
- It is the most honest, authentic food product there is…
Sugar is sugar! No one claims that it is healthy or anything fancy. With sugar you know exactly what you’re dealing with. You take sugar, you see it with your own eyes! This inspires you to be careful with it. When you know it’s sugar, you’ll be more moderate, you’ll try not to overdo it. You know on a visceral level that too much sugar is bad, and when you’re dealing with plain sugar, it is very obvious.
- Unless you’re making cakes each day that call for copious amounts of sugar, you’re most likely not consuming too much table sugar
By sugar I mean the product, the sugar that you put in stuff on your own. The sugar that’s already there isn’t counted, and it is much more dangerous and insiduous. Here we’ll talking about plain sugar. People can easily get paranoid about sugar consumption so that they make big efforts to avoid putting sugar in their coffee or tea or lemonade. Instead they drink it without sugar, or they put artificial sweateners. These same people, on the other hand have no problems eating cookies, sweets and chocolates that have much more sugar inside, or drinking fruit juices, soft drinks, etc… which are practically liquid sugar… but they pay attention not to sweaten their coffee. IMO it is completely pointless. The amount of sugar one puts in coffee or tea isn’t that important as to mess with your whole nutrition. Unless you’re a diabetic, there’s probably no reason to avoid using sugar in such ways. Using sugar mindfully in such ways, while at the same time trying to avoid products that already have loads of hidden sugar, can be considered a healthy and rational attitude.
- Plain sugar is sucrose, it has a good balance of fructose and glucose.
Too much glucose is not good because glucose has highest glycemic index, caues insuline spikes, followed by a quick sugar crash etc. Regarding fructose science isn’t completely clear whether it on its own causes problems or not, or it is only a problem when it’s consumed excessively. However some studies link high fructosis consumption with metabolic syndrome, obesity, etc. but as of today there isn’t a clear proof that fructosis causes these conditions. However until we’re perfectly clear about it, sugar which contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose, may be safer than either of these two simple sugars on their own.
- Unlike honey and brown sugar it doesn’t pretend to be healthy
If you ask me to technically give you an answer what is better – white sugar or brown sugar… white sugar or honey? – the answer would be that brown sugar and honey are indeed better than white sugar. However, the difference between them is so small, that it’s practically meaningless. Brown sugar and honey do contain some very, very limited amounts of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc… but those are trace amounts that serve no role in your nutrition. However, they are promoted a lot as a healthier alternative to sugar, and it is 99% just marketing. Marketing that can even be harmful, if based on these claims one forms an opinion that it’s safe to consume large quantities of honey or brown sugar, because unlike white sugar, they are healthy! They are pretty much the same thing! The only REAL advantage of brown sugar and honey is that for some people they taste better. Especially honey. Also honey might have some medical uses (topical antibiotic, anti cough properties, etc…), but these are unrelated it its nutritional profile. When it comes to nutrition itself, honey may be the most overrated of all the products out there.
- Sugar can save your life
If you’re a diabetic or you enter a state of hypoglycemia, urgently consuming some sugar can literally save your life. From this it follows that sugar is food, it is a good energy source… it’s not any kind of poison like some try to portray it.
Now of course, all that being said, take home message is to be mindful of your sugar consumption, and more importantly:
- It’s much more important to avoid hidden sugar in stuff like cakes, cookies, sweets, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc. rather than to avoid plain old table sugar… for the simplest reason that you usually don’t consume too much table sugar anyway, while you can easily consume too much hidden sugars. Soft drinks and fruit juices are especially big reason for concern.
- Artificial sweeteners may be a better alternative for diabetics, as they can’t consume sugar. But for general population, especially if you are not overweight or obese sugar when consumed in reasonable, moderate quantities does not necessarily need to be replaced. Science has not yet had its final word on artificial sweeteners, and while they are approved for sale and are generally considered safe, being relatively new and artificially produced substances, they may be linked to some health conditions in longer term, which we right now don’t know whether it will happen or not. Furthermore, artifical sweeteners may influence the metabolism of sugars or psychologically give us a justification to eat large quantities of sweet stuff.
- If you have problems with excessive weight or are obese, you should be mindeful about your overal calorie intake, and also about your sugar intake from all sources, including table sugar. But even then, table sugar is probably not the biggest issue. But if you have excessive weight, replacing some sugar with artificial sweeteners may still be a good idea.