Sugar has been getting a lot of attention in diet books, magazines and TV over the last few years. When they talk about sugar they are referring to refined sugars like sucrose (table sugar). This type of sugar has definitely contributed a lot of empty kJs to our modern diet, displacing good nutritious food. A lot of the foods that are high in sugar are also high in fat and low in fibre. Foods like cakes, pastries, biscuits, ice-cream, confectionaries, soft drinks and fruit juices all contain a lot of refined sugars.
In a few fad diet books doing the rounds at the moment, they give the impression that sugar is toxic. Anything in large enough quantities can become toxic, but It’s important to understand that refined sugar is just a carbohydrate (glucose combined with fructose) and all carbohydrates are broken down to either glucose, fructose or galactose during digestion before being absorbed into the blood stream. We all need carbohydrates we just have to make sure that we mostly get our carbs from relatively unprocessed fresh produce, so we not only get glucose and fructose but also get fibre and the many other nutrients available from whole foods.
Fructose has been getting a bit of bad press over the last few years, and not without some justification. In the USA it is used as a cheaper alternative to sweeten processed foods and drinks and has added a lot of empty kJ’s to the American diet. The refined form of fructose which is part of table sugar is something you should aim to minimise in your diet, but just because the natural sugar in fruit is fructose doesn’t mean you should avoid fruit. All fruits contain a lot of water and fibre, so are quite bulky and hard to over consume. In comparison to their volume they don’t actually contain a lot of fructose and they are packed full of essential nutrients.
If you choose foods form the 5 food groups in the recommended servings, you won’t need to worry too much about refined sugar. Refined sugar is mainly in the category of discretionary foods which are ok if they are not part of your everyday diet (save party foods for parties).
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