It seems like there’s a new study or theory out about the effects of sugar on our bodies pretty much every five minutes. Sometimes we’re told sugar isn’t all that bad for us, sometimes we’re told that some kinds of sugar are bad, but that other kinds are actually OK (natural cane sugar, anyone?), and sometimes we’re told that sugar is downright toxic.
Needless to say, it can be pretty confusing for us non-dietitians and nutritionists to know exactly what the heck is going on when it comes to making educated and personalized decisions about what goes into our bodies. Most of us end up guessing at what fuels our bodies the best and what doesn't, or worse — we might think we’re making food choices to boost our energy and nutrient-intake, when in actuality we’ve got everything backwards.
The good news is, information is out there, and it is possible to get a handle on what's exactly sugar fiction versus sugar fact. Yes, there's a lot of said information to go through, but don't worry — I've compiled a list to help. So if you're struggling to make sense of the sea of opinions out there, or just want to make sure you're making healthy choices day-to-day, take a look at some of the following information. Here are five myths about sugar, busted.
1. Sugar Gives You Lots Of Energy
OK, so this one isn’t 100 percent a myth. Sugar does give us energy, as Elson Haas, MD told LIVESTRONG. The problem here is it doesn’t give us energy very long, instead causing the infamous mid-afternoon "sugar crash," according to Chris Daniels, a writer for SfGate with certificates in human health and nutrition. And of course, with low blood sugar comes the craving for, you guessed it... more sugar. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, it's recommended to get your sugar from whole grains, like oatmeal and whole grain bread, because they are digested slowly and steadily throughout the day, giving you steady and consistent energy.
2. Sugar Has To Be Sweet
Just because we’re not eating candy and ice cream doesn’t mean we’re still not consuming a lot of sugar. According Daniels, the human body turns all carbohydrates into sugar during digestion — from rice, to bread, to pasta — causing our blood sugar levels to rise and our insulin to start pumping. Not to mention, according to nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens in an article for BBC GoodFood, there are often hidden added sugars in a ton of typically non-sweet foods, like food labeled as low-fat, soups, and many sauces.
3. There Are Good Sugars And Bad Sugars
Telling us that "natural" or "pure cane" sugars are better for our bodies than high fructose corn syrup is one of the best lies the sugar industry has ever told. According to the New York Times Magazine and Robert Lustig MD, our bodies don't know how the sugar we eat was made or where it came from — it just knows it's getting sugar and will respond the same way no matter the source. That being said, according to nutritionist Megan Grover, sugars from whole fruits actually are better for us than sugar from things like juices and candy, but only because our bodies absorb the sugar along with the other good things, like fiber (which slows down the absorption process leading to longer-lasting energy) and vitamins and minerals.
4. Sugar Is Not Addictive
A lot of people out there might tell you that eating "right" is just a matter of willpower and self-control, making those of us who struggle to choose what's the best food for our individual bodies (and every body is different, by the way) feel like we're missing something. However, evidence from the National Institute of Health strongly suggests that sugar truly is an addictive substance, inducing the same binge, reward, and withdrawal cycles as many other known addictive substances. This, combined with the fact that it's a hidden ingredient in so many processed foods, makes it an incredibly difficult habit to break.
5. Sugar Is The Enemy
OK, the world spends a lot of time bashing sugar — and it's for good reasons, sometimes. But it's important to keep it in perspective. You're not going to fall over dead if you eat a slice of cake at your birthday party or eat some extra dessert around the holidays. You have that piece of cake or four. Enjoy it. It will never kill you, and you should always feel free and unashamed to eat exactly what you want. Plus, our bodies need sugar to survive. As stated by the Harvard School of Public Health, just try to stick to sugar from fruits and 100 percent whole grains a little more than the added and hidden sugars in your diet, and you're golden.
Sugar can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be confusing with all the contradictory information flying around about it. As long as you focus on the facts, do your homework, and always make sure that you are making food decisions for yourself and absolutely no one else, you'll make the right choice when it comes to sugar every time — whether that means eating a delicious brownie, or opting for fruit instead of white bread.
Images: Giphy (2); Alex Gorzen/Flickr