Episode 47 – Three Sugars and Why They Are Good For Your Health
Have you ever watched a YouTube video or read an article on how sugar is bad for your health?
Is it true? Is it not true? What’s the deal?
While it can be a little confusing – or worse still, no one wants to get ill or have some type of disease from a poor diet – you need sugar in your diet. Yeah, you do.
Let’s get you up to speed.
In this article today, you’ll learn about sugar in your diet, what to eat (and NOT to eat) and where, and most importantly why you need them. Be better informed, less confused and avoid getting sick from poor eating. Enjoy the read.
What role does sugar play in your health and well-being?
Sugar has a key role in brain and muscle function. Firstly, sugar in the form of glucose is needed to fuel the brain. The brain doesn’t really operate on anything else (well, there’s also ketones but the brain doesn’t run as well on this fuel).
Secondly, sugar is also used in the muscles to create movement or muscle contraction. This is stored in the form of glycogen inside the muscles then broken down into glucose molecules for the muscle cell’s to “burn” when required. While your muscles can also operate on a few different energy systems (and energy sources), sugar is a good short-term energy supply during high intensity bursts. These short-term bursts may be during sporting and workout activities, activities of daily living such as, walking to and from work, vacuuming, washing the dishes, etc. or more primal needs such as flight or fight reactions such as, jogging to catch a train you may be late for, or escaping the jaws of a lion (lol, it might happen).
Sugar also helps to metabolise fat in energy metabolism. As they say, “fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates.”
So, as you can see, you need sugar.
How do you get your sugar fix?
Sugar comes in two basis forms, sugar and carbohydrates. Sugar or (simple sugar) are sugar molecules on their own (much like lego blocks come individually packed) whereas carbohydrates are more like a chain of sugars put together (like lego blocks put together to make a wall shape).
Sugar in the form of carbohydrates – “complex” carbs or natural carbs – are the best source of sugar for your body. It absorbs slowly across the digestive system and delivers “fuel” to your body over a longer period of time. This is also better for energy management.
If, however you take in simple sugars in the form of processed “foods” (see list below), they usually absorb quickly across the digestive system and put a lot of stress on organs such as, your pancreas to regulate blood glucose levels. These aren’t great for your long-term health. Even short-term “health” markers like focus, concentration, energy (think “carb coma”) can also be affected.
What are the best sources of carbohydrates for fuel?
By far the best sources of carbohydrates for fuel are fruits, starchy vegetables and mixed grains. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
Fruits are amazing sources of sugar (in the form of complex carbohydrates). They are packed with energy and an array of micronutrients such as, vitamin C to keep you fit and healthy! Fruits will drive your health and fitness by delivering the energy you need. See the list below for some options:
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, raspberries, cranberries – any berry really)
- Tropical fruits such as, pineapple, kiwifruit, coconut
- Custard apple
- Honeydew melon
- [insert your favourite real fruit here]
To a lesser extent,
- Dried fruit
- Juices and smoothies
Note: if you’re going to consume these products opt for the “no added sugar” options.
Similarly, vegetables are another amazing source of sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates. They also contain fibre and some handy micronutrients to keep your body and bowels healthy. Have a look at this short list for some examples of good vegetables:
- Sweet potato (orange, violet, yellow)
- Potatoes with skin
- [insert your favourite real vegetables here]
While other vegetables have carbohydrates, they are usually a too small in quantity to count.
What about grains? Read on..
To gain additional and superior benefit from grains, get away from the usual wheat, corn, rice options and consider the wider selection of grains available. Grains such as these below will be fantastic options for getting in your carbohydrates. These grains are packed with many nutrients such as fibre, B group vitamins, folate, niacin and zinc to name a few. Check out these grains:
- Wild rice, brown rice, black rice, red rice
- Kamut berries
Legumes, pulses, beans, nuts and dairy also contain carbohydrates. These foods also contain other beneficial nutrients such as good fats, protein, calcium, zinc, folate and more. Other potential sources of carbohydrates may include:
- Dairy – natural yoghurt, cheese, natural cream.
What are the worst sources of sugar (carbohydrates)?
Processed “foods” are generally the worse sources of sugar and carbohydrates. They contain little or no nutritional value and are made largely of fat, salt and simple sugars (or just SUGAR). Here are some types of “foods” to avoid or minimise:
- Candy (confectionary, lollies, etc.)
- Cheap chocolate
- Processed cereals
- Processed or mass-produced muffins, cakes, biscuits, pancakes, donuts, pastries
- White bread
- White rice
- White pasta
- Fast food
- Cheap fruit drink (eg. Cordial)
- “Energy” drinks
- Ice creams
- Creams, ice confectionary, jellies, marshmallows
- Potato chips, crisps, corn chips
- Waffles, crackers
- Cheap noodles
- [insert more processed “food” items here]
Ready, set, good Carbs!
So, what are you waiting for? Avoid and minimise the bad sugars. These “foods” will surely contribute to long-term issues in your health and fitness. Instead, get in those good carbs to get your sugar fix! Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are by far the best options for you and the reason should be clear. These will power your brain and body to become healthier and fitter by the day.
- Chek, P. (2009) How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!
- Chopra, D. (1995) Boundless Energy: The complete Mind/Body Program for Overcoming Chronic Fatigue. Three Rivers Press
- Gropper, S., Smith, J., Groff, J. (2005) Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4th Ed.), Thomson Wadsworth
- Kausman, R. (2004). If not dieting, then what? Allen & Unwin
- Mahan, L. Escott-Stump, S. (2004) Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy (11th Ed.) Saunders
- McWilliams, M. (2001) Foods: Experimental Perspectives (4th Ed.) Prentice-Hall
Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness.
Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness. International Athlete, Elite Performance Manager for the Philippine Volcanoes rugby teams, qualified Dietitian / Nutritionist and qualified educator. Chris Everingham combines more than 10 years of experience and education together to deliver the best strategies to grow your mindset, rewire your habits and transform your life.