Many types of food we eat contain sugar, yet not all sugar is the same. Generally, our food and drinks contain two main types of sugar – natural sugar or refined sugar. So, let’s look at the difference between these different types of sugar. Particularly, how our body reacts when we eat sugar, and tips for managing our refined sugar intake.
Natural Sugars vs Refined Sugars
Natural sugars are a type of sugar that naturally occurs in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and legumes. Examples of natural sugars are lactose found in milk and fructose found in fruit. On the other hand, refined sugar refers to sugar that has been produced and processed from naturally occurring sources. Examples of refined sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. While all these sugars may come from plants, they have been processed in some way to create a simple, sweet form.
How Your Body Responds to Sugar Consumption
When we eat foods like fruit that naturally contain sugar, our bodies use multiple steps to digest and extract the sugar from that whole food. The steps to digest natural sugars in our body occur slowly, and as a result, it helps us feel full for longer and keeps our blood glucose elevated for a greater period of time.
However, when we eat foods that contain refined sugar, such as a donut, the body’s digestion process to separate the sugar from the rest of the ingredients is much less complex. Therefore, compared to the sugar in fruit, the sugar from a donut passes through our stomach and into our small intestine much more rapidly. As a result, we experience a spike (and then a drastic drop!) in our blood sugar level. It also explains why we often feel unsatisfied. Maybe even irritable or soon craving another pickup after eating food that contains large amounts of refined sugar.
How to Manage and Monitor Your Refined Sugar Intake
The good news is that sugar is only harmful to our health when we consume too much of it. So, while it is not necessary to completely eliminate refined sugars from our diet, reducing our daily intake is beneficial. How can we do this?
Sugar is called many different names, so reading the ingredients list on food nutrition labels is a good place to start. Agave nectar, corn sweetener, evaporated can juice, fruit juice concentrates, honey, molasses, and raw sugar are all examples of important ingredients to check. Although honey may seem to be a better sugar than something like high-fructose corn syrup, the truth is that all added sugars are the same. So reading labels is one way to keep an out eye for refined sugar that is hiding in plain sight. A good tip for identifying an added sugar in food is to look for words that end with “-ose” as well as phrases that contain the words “syrup” or “malt”.
Be Aware of Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates, also referred to as simple carbs, contain refined sugar. Refined carbohydrates are foods that have been stripped of the naturally occurring fibre and nutrients that are found in unrefined carbohydrates. So these carbohydrates are considered “processed”. Examples of refined carbohydrates include white flour, bread, pasta, biscuits and many cereals. When we eat refined carbohydrates, our body rapidly digests these simple carbs and sends glucose into our bloodstream quickly. In contrast, unrefined carbohydrates are digested more slowly, providing our body with sustained amounts of energy. Examples include whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes. Therefore, being mindful of the amount of refined carbohydrates we consume is another way to manage the amount of refined sugar in our diet.
Reduce Consumption of Sugar Sweetened Drinks
Beverages often contain very high amounts of sugar and generally have little nutritional value. These include soft drinks, cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, and energy and sports drinks. For example, a 600ml bottle of soft drink contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar, while the recommended daily intake of added sugar is only 12 teaspoons of sugar. In Australia, around one in two (48%) adults consume sugar sweetened drinks or diet drinks at least once a week, and statistics indicate that the sugar in these types of drinks tends to make up over half of the added sugars we consume. So, if you choose to indulge in sugar sweetened drinks from time to time, keep it to small amounts. Alternatively, switch to drinks such as plain water, soda water, or mineral water instead.
Choose Natural Sources of Sweetness
When you find yourself craving sugar, satisfy this craving with foods that contain naturally occurring sugars. Fruit such as strawberries, melons, dates, grapes or apples are a great option. Also, vegetables and nuts are all good alternatives that will keep even the sweetest tooth satisfied.
Reform Studios – Mitchelton
At Reform Studios we are all about balance. This includes encouraging our clients to find the balance that works for them. Including making sure there are rewards for making it to your workout. That’s because we totally understand that some days are tougher than others. When it comes to nutrition, we don’t promote fad diets or the latest supplements. Instead, we know you’re all individuals and finding a balance that works for you can be complex. If you require assistance with nutrition, we have access to a great clinical dietician who we refer to.
If you’re looking for a truly boutique reformer studio, why not try Reform Studios, we would love to see you!