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Food myths busted : Sugar edition

Is sugar really the big bad villain we make it out to be? The truth may be sweeter than you think.

There are two things we know about sugar for sure, number one, its delicious. And number two, it’s a song by Maroon 5.

While it’s easy to blame sugar for all our problems, there is a lot of misinformation about how all the sweet stuff harms your health. Sugar is not exactly a health food, but will cutting out sugar completely really help you lose weight? Or are some sugars healthier than others?

Turns out, the answers might not be what you think.

Here’s a look at 4 things even health nuts may not know about sugar – and how it can factor into your diet.

Myth #1 : All sugar is bad for your health

Truth : When your nutritionist and doctor tell you to eat less sugar, they mean less ADDED sugar.

Added sugar is sneaky, it can be found in the most unexpected of products, from pasta sauce to instant oatmeal and peanut butter. But added sugar is NOT the same as the sugar found naturally in fruits and milk.  

These naturally-occurring sugars are packaged with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber that our bodies can use to manufacture glucose and to slow down the rate of sugar absorption by the body.

Foods like fruits, milk, unsweetened yogurt also tend to contain overall less sugar. Fruit is also filled with antioxidants and other nutrients that are great for fighting disease, stabilize your blood sugar and more. So you can load up on fruits with no worries.

While foods like desserts filled with refined sugars, sugary drinks, sodas or packaged foods tend to have added sugar to make them taste sweeter.

As many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake.

Key takeaway : Don’t worry about things like whole fruit or plain dairy (like milk or unsweetened yogurt). Sources of added sugar — desserts, sugary drinks, or packaged foods — are the things you need to keep an eye on.  

They’re troubling because they don’t provide any nutrients – just excessive calories.

Dietary guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day.

Myth #2 : Sugar-Free stuff is the right way to go

Truth : It might be tempting to pick up the zero calorie beverage or the sugar free doughnut, but making this swap is not really the healthier choice.

Consuming artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame or sucralose are linked to weight gain, higher risk of blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, according to a cross functional analysis of 37 studies done by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Evidence also suggests that they can have a negative effect on blood sugar and cause an imbalance in the gut bacteria levels, which can put you at a risk of related health problems.

A study done by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine found that if you eat artificially sweetened foods that are low in calories, it may cause you to indulge on high-calorie foods later in the day.

Some studies also show they can alter taste to make less-sweet foods undesirable, and increase inflammation in the body, as reported by the Arthritis Foundation.

Key takeaway : Go for real, natural sugars, rather than artificial sweeteners. Choose honey and good old white/brown sugar (in moderation).

Sugar isn’t necessarily the villain. You just need to watch how much you consume.

Many people who use artificial sweeteners, tend to eat a little more thinking they can afford to do so as they’ve saved up on calories. In the end, it’s better to just eat less real sugar then swap it for an artificial sweetener.

Myth #3 : Completely cutting out sugar will help you lose weight

You hear it everywhere, going on a low- or no-sugar diet will help you lose weight.

Truth : Humans need glucose to survive. Too much sugar can lead to long term health problems like weight gain. But it’s a basic block of fuel our body runs on.

Yes, limiting your sugar intake can help you reach your weight loss goals. But only if you’re also mindful of your overall calorie intake.

It’s very easy to swap sugary foods for other foods that actually pack more calories, which can lead to weight gain. A low- or no-sugar diet cannot guarantee weight loss. Mindful eating can.

The usual sugar-free suspects, like sorbitol or sucralose are high in carbohydrates and/or calories.

Key takeaway : Choose natural, unprocessed foods, while adding less sugar to it. You can gradually cut the amount of sugar you take in your smoothie or tea. It’s unrealistic to eliminate ALL sugar from your diet. From fruits to potatoes all contain sugar.  

The Indian dietary guidelines suggest 6 teaspoons of added sugar ( or 25 grams) per day. Ultimately, It’s all about — you guessed it — moderation.

Monitoring your daily calorie intake and quality of food as well as exercise will help your weight loss journey.

MYTH #4: Sugar is the root of all of your health problems.

Truth : Sugar is not the main reason behind obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Obesity : Usually people assume if you’re overweight, it’s because you gorge on a lot of sugary desserts. But the truth is, it’s when your overall calorie count is over the healthy range, it might create those love handles and a jelly belly.

Too much of even starchy foods like potatoes, rice and cereals may cause you to add on the kilos.  So, if you’ve put on a few kilos, don’t put all the blame on sugar. An American Journal of Clinical NutritionTrusted Source study that followed more than 350,000 adults for over a decade found that added sugar consumption was not linked to an increased risk for death.

If you eat a lot of sugary foods, like cake and cookies, and drink sugary sodas and juice, you will gain weight. But that’s because you’re ingesting a lot of calories, period, not because sugar is inherently fattening.

Sugary foods have a ton of calories and are usually heavily processed. But the simple math here is – if you eat more calories than your body can burn, you will gain weight.

Diabetes : Another common misconception is sugar causes diabetes. Probably because blood sugar levels are affected in diabetes, and sugar consumption has to be managed for a diabetic.

But diabetes is in reality a result of an inactive lifestyle, poor dietary choices and genetics. If you’re genetically predisposed to diabetes or lead an unhealthy lifestyle, including being overweight, not exercising or smoking, your chance of developing diabetes increases.

There is no direct link between sugar consumption and development of diabetes. But additional calories, which can come from sugar, are consumed and not burned, they may be stored as fat. That accumulation of fat, contributes to obesity, which is a risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Tooth Decay : Eating sugar causes cavities. The reason your mom took away all that candy, turns out, was a giant lie.

Tooth decay is not directly caused by sugar; any substance that lingers on your teeth contributes to it. 

If your teeth come in contact with sugary foods and drinks, decay can result. But that’s only if those sugary substances sit on your teeth for a long time. Your teeth can also be damaged if all sorts of other foods are in contact with them for prolonged periods – including, fruit, bread or oatmeal.

Plaque starts forming on your teeth the minute you eat or drink something. If you don’t get rid of it, it will eventually erode the enamel on your teeth, creating tiny holes that are the very start of cavities.

To prevent tooth decay, then, it’s best to brush your teeth after eating. Even rinsing your mouth with water can help. If you’ve eaten foods that can easily get stuck in your teeth, like raisins, dry cereal, popcorn or raspberries, a thorough job of brushing, flossing and rinsing your teeth is critical

Key takeaway : Treat yourself to that occasional sweet on Sunday, but make sure you don’t go over your calorie limit for the day, exercise to burn it off and brush your teeth well!

In defense of sugar

Sugar isn’t a health food, but it’s also not the demon that it’s sometimes made out to be. While most of us could stand to have less of it, it’s perfectly fine to have a little bit. So go ahead and enjoy the occasional sweet treat — without a side of guilt.

Head on to ACTIVeat bakery to choose some tasty and healthy desserts to enjoy 😉