Sugar is pretty serious stuff. What used to be an ingredient reserved for the occasional sweet treat is now added—in major amounts—to a number of packaged foods.
The impact has been devastating.
Excess intake of added sugar has been identified as one of the main causes of a number of modern illnesses. Weight gain, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease are all closely associated with sugar intake.
Many people have taken various approaches to cut it out. The problem is that good and bad sugar can be confusing. Even worse is that food manufacturers know this and try to disguise it.
You’ve surely seen ingredients like “agave,” “real maple syrup,” “fruit juice,” “real honey,” and “barley syrup” masquerading like they are somehow good for you. But in reality, that stuff is just pure sugar.
Cutting back on sugar can be confusing. After all, added sugars aren’t the only ones out there. Plenty of nutritious fruits, vegetables, and dairy contain natural sugars.
Most of the time, natural sugars can be consumed without too much thought. The fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals make them healthy choices. The fiber and water, in particular, slow sugar absorption to keep blood sugar levels and insulin secretion under control.
There are, however, a couple of exceptions. Grapes and bananas, although nutrient-rich, are not great options for people hoping to control blood sugar. The water/fiber to sugar ratio is not great, so opting for berries, apples, melon, or other fruits is recommended.
Another caveat is dried fruit. Dried fruit is also rich sources of nutrients and fiber, however, the lack of water influences absorption. The sugar concentrations in dried fruits are extremely high, and without water to help slow absorption, they can send your blood sugar shooting upwards.
The lack of water also makes them less filling, making portion control rather difficult. If you can manage consumption, a handful of raisins might be harmless. But the reality of stopping at handful is unlikely.
Hopefully, that helps you get a handle on added sugars and naturally occurring ones. For the most part, naturally occurring sugars are okay. Avoid the added ones in processed foods and you’re likely to start experiencing the benefits of a low-sugar high-fiber diet.