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Facts About Sugar

Updated on April 19, 2013

Types of Sugar

Did you know that eating an excess of white sugar has been linked to cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, dental decay and hyperactive behavior? From ketchup to soft drinks, from baked goods to cereals, white sugar can be found in commonly eaten food products and is literally robbing us of our health. Eating sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables is not the problem. It’s eating too many processed sugary foods. Listed below are the common types of sugar.

This is the simplest form of sugar and is easily absorbed into the blood stream. Our bodies will break down carbohydrates into glucose to use as fuel. The glycemic index is an indicator of how fast glucose enters our blood stream. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains tend to take longer to digest and therefore have a lower glycemic rating. As a result eating these foods will help to stave off weight gain or energy fluctuations. Foods like soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, muffins, sweetened cereals are high on the glycemic index. By the way, glucose is often referred to as dextrose so make sure you read your labels.

This sugar can be found in fruits and vegetables and has a slower absorption rate and is therefore a healthier sweetener.

This is the humble table sugar that comes from sugar beets or sugar cane.

This is the sugar found in milk and to be properly broken down in our bodies we need to produce the enzyme lactose. People who aren’t able to produce this enzyme are said to be lactose intolerant.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup
This sugar comes from corn of course and is used because it extends the shelf life of food but more importantly it is very cheap to produce. The downside of consuming this sugar is that it has been linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Tips to Reduce Sugar Intake

Don't be fooled by brown sugar, it is still sugar. Often it is white sugar with a small amount of blackstrap molasses added.

Eat fruit, drink water. If you want to avoid too much sugar, avoid store bought fruit juice and instead eat the fruit in its natural state. Instead drink water.

Read the labels. Sugar isn't necessary labeled as sugar on most products. Look for the following: sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose and corn syrup. If they are listed within the first four ingredients, then the food has a high sugar content.

Use natural sweeteners for baking. You can use fruits to replace sugar in your baking. Use mashed bananas, plums, applesauce and cranberries to add sweetness to your food.

When buying cereal make sure there is a minimum of 5 grams of fiber per serving and a maximum of 5 grams of sugar per serving.

Books About Sugar

Healthier Natural Sweeteners

The following sweeteners possess some nutritional value and can be substituted for the less healthy choices.

This is a byproduct of refining sugar cane or beets. Molasses has a higher nutritional value than sugar because it contains calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, selenium and Vitamin B6.

This is a product that is comes from evaporated sugar cane juice. It contains more vitamins and minerals and can be used for baking, cooking or sweetening your coffee or tea.

Agave Nectar
Agave comes from a plant called a succulent or cactus which is mostly grown in Mexico. Agave is low on the glycemic index and has almost no impact on blood sugars.

This sweetener is completely natural as it is produced from a plant found in Central and South America. It has very few calories and is available in a liquid or powder and can be used to sweeten baked goods. It can also be used to sweeten your tea or coffee.

Sugar Alcohols
This sweetener goes by many names including maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt and xylitol. They have a different composition than sugar and are not fully absorbed by the body. They contain fewer calories than sugar but because they are not fully absorbed by the body they can ferment in the gut and cause bloating, stomach upsets, gas or diarrhea.

Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame – NutraSweet, Equal. It is used as a tabletop sweetener (Equal). It is added to cereals, yogurt, soft drinks, candy and desserts. Possible side effects include headaches, depression, abdominal pain.

Cyclamate – Sugar Twin, Sweet’N Low. It is used as a tabletop sweetener. It is heat stable so it can be used in baked goods. Possible side effects include: a 1960 study found that it may speed up the formation and progression of cancer tumors and it might damage the male reproductive DNA.

Sucralose – Splenda. It is used as a tabletop sweetener. It is also added to cold and hot drinks, baked and frozen goods. Possible side effects include: because it contains chlorine, studies are still required to determine its safety. One study has already revealed that their test rodents suffered from shrunken thymus glands and enlarged livers and kidneys.

Acesulfame Potassium – Sunett. This artificial sweetener is added to beverages, fruit spreads, baked goods, hard candies and chewing gum. Possible side effects include: long term studies have yet to be conducted. However, Acesulfame K does contain the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.

Neotame is a chemical derivative of aspartame, and judging by the chemicals used in its manufacturing, it appears even more toxic than aspartame.  Although the proponents of neotame claim that increased toxicity is not a concern, because less of it is needed to achieve the desired effect.  Brought to you by Monsanto which has not funded rigorous independent testing for safety. They won't because virtually every independent analysis of aspartame not conducted by Monsanto partners has revealed a long list of disturbing side effects, mostly neurological in nature.


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    • True Blue Tips profile image

      True Blue Tips 7 years ago

      Hi Lynda

      Thanks for reading my hub. I have to agree with you. Just because its a food doesn't mean it's good for you.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Excellent information for the processed food generation. We've raised our children on a diet of sugar and then bemoan the rising use of ritalin to control their hyperactivity. Yes, we are a foolish society. Thanks for the food for thought. Lynda