WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT SUGAR and its link to cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and obesity, particularly when consumed with industrial seed oils and refined grains, one is left to wonder if it is truly toxic, if all sugars are created equal and in what quantities they should be consumed. Our brain specifically needs glucose to function properly, so the very low carb (VLC) camps can’t get too far with their arguments. Although protein and fat can still be metabolized into glucose, it is nothing like the real thing which is efficiently utilized by the body within limits.
It goes without saying that there is a big difference between added sugar and naturally-occurring sugars found in their original form, as is the case with fruits. The sugar balance in fruits is often a 50:50 ratio of glucose to fructose, along with phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber (soluble and insoluble forms). All these factors help to balance the insulin response and fight inflammation. Consuming added sugar in its concentrated form, especially in liquids, such as soft drinks, can lead to excess caloric intake as you are not compensating for your diet elsewhere. In cases of excess, sugar is converted to glycogen or fat, and the byproduct of converting fructose or glucose to fat is the formation of triglycerides. Toxic end products also result and contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Fruit and fresh fruit juices contain many beneficial constituents:
- Soluble fiber absorbs water, supports good bacteria growth in the intestines and helps lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Examples include: pectin, gums, inulin, mucilage.
- Chromium assists with blood sugar control and is found in apples, bananas, oranges and blueberries.
- Magnesium plays a central role in the secretion and action of insulin. Without adequate magnesium levels within the body’s cells, control over blood sugar levels is impossible. Magnesium can be found in figs, apricots, dates, prunes, bananas and blackberries.
- Naringin, a grapefruit bioflavonoid has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels as it improves insulin sensitivity.
In addition to fiber (25-35g daily), you can lower the glycemic load by consuming fruits with a protein or fat source to slow sugar absorption. Certified nutritionist Emma Sgourakis recommends not eating carbohydrates or protein alone as that tends to cause hypoglycemia either way. She encourages eating cheese with fruits, broth with beetroot or gelatin in fruity smoothies. “If sugars (fruits etc) are used at the right time, with the right ratio to proteins and fats, sugar and protein will blunt cortisol, will assist sugar into the cell, increase cellular metabolism etc. Through decreasing catabolism, we are indirectly pushing ourselves to an anabolic state. It all comes back to balancing the macronutrients (specific to the individual).”