More On the Sugar Debate…

Sugar. This simple, sweet nutrient has hit the airwaves causing debates between health professionals and the food industry in regards to its risks. But how dangerous is sugar?  Starting with the basics, sugar is a carbohydrate, and as you all know, carbohydrates break down into simple sugars such as glucose providing our bodies with a source of energy. Sugar takes many forms such as white, brown, syrup and honey. Natural sugars are also found in fruit and dairy products. So where’s the problem you may ask?

Assorted Junk FoodThe food industry uses sugar in huge amounts especially in processed foods as it adds colour, taste, thickness and bulk to food products. Furthermore, our consumption of processed foods has seen sky-high records including consumption of soft drinks, snack foods such as chocolate bars, lollies, biscuits and the list goes on… This excessive intake of added and refined sugars has contributed to the increase in obesity worldwide due to the fact that added sugars increase the calorie density of such food products. With the rising rates of obesity, came the increase in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Apart from the excessive amount of added sugars in food products, the processed food industry has received its share of scrutiny because of the addition of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is not considered a naturally occurring substance where it is extracted from corn stalks via chemical enzymatic processes producing the chemically and biologically novel compound. Producing HFCS may also involve the use of genetically modified corn and toxic pesticides. Given that HFCS is sweeter and cheaper than normal sugar, no wonder the temptation to use this compound in processed foods and confectionary.

HFCS consumption has doubled over the years after its introduction into the processed food industry and some studies have shown that excessive HFCS consumption may play a role in developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity and fatty liver in humans. Products that usually contain HFCS such as sodas, cookies and confectionary are of poor nutritional quality and offer a cocktail of artificial ingredients, calories, and fat. Where to find HFCS? Just by simply reading food labels can help you identify whether the food product contains HFCS or not. 6015065-01-02_A1_Sugar-Obes_r770x495

Should we avoid all forms of sugar then? The answer is OF COURSE NOT. Carbohydrates such as wholegrain breads, cereals, biscuits and fruits are all advised to be included in your daily diet. Using alternatives to sweeten products can include honey, maple syrup or dates but remember moderation is the key.

As for processed foods, expert advice always entails cutting down on foods that provide empty calories and no nutrients. High consumption of processed foods can displace important nutrients you may be missing out on including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre. 

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