A few days ago I had a conversation with my friend who is a baker. We spoke about amounts of refined sugar in baked goods and whether it is the same thing as sugar in fruits. Unfortunately it turned out she didn’t know the difference between the sugar in sweet chocolate pancakes she made on that day and a fresh apple.
After that conversation I have realised that she is probably not the only one who doesn’t make the distinction between added processed refined sugars and sugars that are naturally occurring in foods like fruits and vegetables. It is often misunderstood, so I thought I’d write an article to let you know the metabolic differences between white sugar and fruit sugar.
There is a big difference between them! Refined sugars produce a rapid and high rise in blood glucose while sugar from most whole fruits produces a gradual rise. Whole fruits are also high in soluble fibre which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and they are packed with vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants.
So, let’s make it clear once and for all. Let’s see what sugar actually does to the body when you are eating a pancake or an apple.
When eating an apple, which has natural sugars, the blood sugar level rises gradually over 1.5-2 hours. The pancreas starts to secrete insulin into the blood and insulin carries the glucose to the organs, muscles and nerve cells, so they are getting the energy to do their work. Then blood sugar level drops back over the next 1-2 hours.
When you eat a chocolate pancake with lots of refined sugar, it is a different story.
The blood sugar rises in a short period of 30 minutes to a higher level (we call it sugar rush) and the pancreas sends insulin to carry this sugar speedily to the organs. As a result the blood glucose level drops in 1-1.5 hours to a record low and so we become tired, get an energy dip, become sleepy and then crave sugar again!
When refined sugars are consumed on a daily basis, your cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar increase and this promotes inflammation and disease over a period of time. It kills your immune system too. One day you may find yourself suffering from constant colds and flu, ADHD, eczema, fatty liver, diabetes or even cancer as sugar contributes to these diseases a lot.
Fructose in fruits is not toxic at all. It is only a part of whole foods that contain many other important nutrients which are important for good health. Nutrients such as magnesium, B-vitamins, chromium, manganese, antioxidants, enzymes, fibre and other phytonutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables and are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of our body and regulation of blood sugar and will actually reduce health problems.
The vitamins and minerals take parts in cellular chemical reactions, fibre is great for your digestion and helps slow the rate of sugar absorption, and antioxidants protect against oxidative damage and premature ageing in your heart, brain and liver.
Refined sugar contains sucrose and is refined from cane sugar or sugar beet. You find it in soft and energy drinks, store bought juices, bars, biscuits, cakes and chocolates to make them taste sweet. This is the sugar that we need to avoid alltogether or at least reduce our intake of it. Added sugars are not and are highly implicated with many health problems. Refined sugar is totally devoid of nutrients and contains added chemicals.
Here is a list of sweeteners which are all SUGAR and generally need to be avoided or consumed very rarely (although real raw honey has a lot of health benefits and can be consumed occasionally, its consumption results in a lower blood glucose spike compared to other types of sugar.)
Brown, White, Demerara, Muscovado sugar
Agave, Corn, Malt, Golden, Maple syrup
Cane crystals and Cane sugar
If you have to pick from that list – pick maple syrup and honey.
During the last century, the rate of chronic and metabolic conditions has increased dramatically. Lots of studies have demonstrated that sugar-sweetened beverages and foods have a strong association with the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, dementia, macular degeneration, renal failure, chronic kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
Another thing to consider is your genetic predisposition. Did you know that we all are genetically different when it comes to digesting sugar and carbohydrates generally. My body might be great in processing sugar as energy, but your body might be more likely to store it as fat. If you feel like you are never losing weight, it might be a good idea to have a genetic testing done and find out once and for all.
The conclusion: Dessert and other foods that contain added sugar should be eaten only occasionally and should not be a daily part of your diet, but you can enjoy a few pieces of fruits on a daily basis provided there are no health reasons when you need to avoid it completely, i.e candida, diabetes, cancer, liver problems.
The fruits with lowest sugar content are: kiwi, blueberries, raspberries and all other berries, grapefruit, lemons and limes.