When it comes to sugar, there’s only one thing we can all agree on. It tastes great. Sure, we know that eating too much isn't going to give us many health benefits, but there’s lots of misunderstanding around our sweet cravings, and how much added sugar we should include in the foods and drinks we consume.
Whether it’s discussing which sugars are “good”, which are “bad”, and whether cutting it out will really give you the body you’ve always dreamed of, it turns out the answer might not be quite what you think.
Why Sugar Is Bad For You?
When it's added to a thousands of foods and drinks on our supermarket shelves, it's natural to ask ourselves: how bad is sugar really?
Well it is, and it isn’t. The NHS states that eating too much sugar creates a surplus in calories, which can lead to weight gain. It's specifically this weight gain which increases your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
From minor negative health effects to dangerous conditions, this sweet substance surely can cause a lot of damage, and for these reasons your sugar habit needs to be kept under control.
So, how is sugar good for you? This is where the confusion arises. Sugar often gets a bad rap but it shouldn’t always be the case, with a number of natural sources providing a variety of health benefits and essential support for your brain and body.
So, we’re here to bust the myths around the sugar in your diet – calling out 5 myths that even the nutrition-savvy among us have fallen for, and you’ve definitely been wrong about this whole time.
5 Myths That Say Sugar Is Bad For You
- ‘All sugar is bad sugar’
We hear all the time that we should be eating less sugar. But what health experts really mean is we should be eating less ‘added’ sugar. Added sugar – brown sugar in chocolate chips, refined sugar in orange cordial, or honey in your yoghurt – is different to sugar that is naturally occurring in foods like fruit juice and milk. Natural sugars come with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients that help to offset the negative aspects of the sugar content.
For example, raw cane sugar is a source of pure glucose, which is the primary source of energy for your body. It not only raises performance levels, but it’s proven to have an enhancing effect on cognition, meaning sugars such as these should most definitely not be shunned from your diet.
Just be vigilant when it comes to what type of sugars you eat and drink – choosing natural sources or clean, plant-based supplements to activate your brain when you’re busy.
- ‘Cutting out added sugar will make you lose weight’
We are all looking for quick wins to lose weight and feel lighter. Of course, cutting out calories from added sugar can help you reach your weight-loss goals, reduce your risk of diabetes and enjoy the associated health benefits of being a few pounds lighter . But it’s important you keep an eye on your calorie intake.
Swapping our sugars for other foods and drinks isn’t a fool-proof method, and can often lead to actually gaining weight if not done correctly. For example, switching out your 300-calorie cereal for nearly 500-calorie eggs and beans on toast almost cuts sugar out entirely but drives up your fat and carb intake, not to mention nearly doubling the calories.
What will help? Simply choose unsweetened versions of what you usually eat such as plain yoghurt instead of vanilla. If you can’t find a suitable replacement for the sugar in your diet, simply reduce the amount you use. Discover easy to curb places such as on top of your morning cereal or that “just one” teaspoon in your 3 coffees a day.
- ‘Sugar can kill you’
What happens if you eat too much sugar? Yes, it can increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Yes, it can contribute to a number of serious health conditions. But, this is when consuming too much on a regular basis.
Sure, no one wants to get cardiovascular disease, but eating sugar in moderation isn’t going to knock years off your life. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study confirmed this. They followed over 350,000 adults for over a decade and found that added sugar consumption was not linked to an increased risk of death.
The real answer here: don’t overdo it. Enjoy a doughnut or dessert over the weekend without worrying you’re taking your life into your own hands, but be careful not to make this a regular thing Monday to Friday, too. This is how calories start to stack up and your sugar intake can become majorly unhealthy.
- ‘Sugar is addictive’
We naturally like the taste of sweet foods, often using them as a reward or pick me up. Eating too much sugar causes your blood sugar to spike and then drop quickly, which can make us crave more sugar. Because of this, we can start to feel reliant on them and some people feel as though they’ve developed an addiction.
However, a recent European Journal of Nutrition analysis showed no evidence to suggest that sugar is addictive in the same way as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; we may just have developed hard-to-break habits. Keeping a lid on cravings by reducing the number of sugary foods you eat each day is key, to avoid getting trapped in a sugar-cycle which only ends in a high calorie intake.
- ‘You should cut sugar out completely’
Sugar is a wonderful thing. Some of our favourite foods contain lots of it, and as part of a balanced diet we should continue to enjoy them. It’s important to not restrict ourselves too much, as there’s definitely room for sugar in our diet – from body-boosting think drinks such as Cognifuel to nutrient-rich fruit – and rewarding ourselves is also essential for positive mental wellbeing.
So, how many grams of sugar per day is recommended? According to the Association of UK Dieticians, adults should have no more than 30 grams of sugar (roughly 7 sugar cubes) a day. Of course, you won’t always be able to stick to this, especially if you’re treating yourself (sometimes only cheesecake will do). Just remember to keep to these guidelines for most of the time.
Health Benefits: Is Sugar Good For You?
Sugar is certainly not a health food. It’s clear what happens if you eat too much sugar – from sluggishness and weight gain to more serious, to increasing your risk of developing long-term health conditions.
But, whilst there is a lot of added sugar in your foods and drinks, it’s important we unlearn the myths about sugar and educate ourselves around their possible health benefits, including the ability to activate your brain and the importance of a balanced diet to overall wellbeing.