There are few subjects you’ll find more well-intended division of opinion on than sugar. How much should you eat? What kind should you eat? Sugar’s more addictive than cocaine. This current social fear of sugar is all alarmist hype. It’s hard to know what to believe.
The truth of the matter is a lot simpler than the people marketing so-called “healthy sugars” want you to believe.
How Much Should You Eat?
If you’re drinking half a dozen cups of coffee each day with a couple of sugars in each, if you’re chasing them down with a slice of cake or a biscuit, if you’re regularly finishing off your meals with dessert, then deep down you already know you’re eating too much sugar. The purpose of all carbohydrate is to fuel your physical activity. Now, this doesn’t mean that you just need to alter your activity levels to suit the endless spoonfuls of sugar you intend to chug down. In order to efficiently fuel your body, you are going to need carbohydrate from different sources, including complex carbs (polysaccharides), and only a small amount of simple carbs (monosaccharides). The importance of complex carbs is in the amount of time it takes to absorb them and use them for energy. Rather than giving you a half-hour high followed by a crash, a small portion of complex carbs will be sufficient to fuel a good workout or a busy day. So, if you’re eating complex carbohydrate consistent with your energy expenditure, but part of your overall carb allowance happens to be a teaspoon of simple sugar, you don’t have anything to worry about. If you’re doing it any other way, you might want to take an honest look at your nutrition, and if you’re training hard, eating right and still not losing body fat, then I’d be quick to tell you that you need to ditch that spoonful of sugar. Great sources of complex carbohydrate include sweet-potato and pumpkin.
What Kind Should You Eat?
So you’ve probably heard of coconut sugar. You’ve probably heard of “smart,” or low-GI sugar. You’ve probably been told by a well meaning associate who loves to bake that her cakes are healthy because she uses honey instead of sugar. You probably have a friend who’s read books on the evils of fructose and refuses to consume it, but still bakes muffins with expensive fructose-free alternatives.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Expensive, faddy, “healthy” sugars play on our very human desire to believe that we can (quite literally) have our cake and eat it too. We want those sweet things, and we want that movie-star physique, and we want them both in equal measure. The marketing industry knows this, so telling us we can have them both is, always has been and always will be a very effective strategy. A spoonful of sugar is a spoonful of sugar. As I said before, if you have only one of them, as part of your daily carbohydrate allowance, I wouldn’t be panicking. There’s no way to consistently eat cakes and remain fit and healthy, though.
What About Stevia Then? That’s Alright Isn’t It?
Well, based on what I said above, you’d think so. According to Sydney University, stevia has a GI of 0. There is a problem with this, though. Your body is a very clever and sophisticated machine, however, it will adapt to what it learns, and whilst this is generally a good thing it can also cause us problems.
Your body knows if it’s not receiving any kilojoule value from something you eat. This is because, as I said, it’s very clever. If you consistently replace your sugar intake with sweet things that have no significant kilojoule value, you are teaching your body that sweet things don’t fill it up. Now, in the context of everything I’ve written up to this point a body that constantly craves more sweet things, no matter how much you have, isn’t exactly an ally in our fight for good nutrition, is it?
Ditch the stevia.
Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine, Or Is It All Alarmist Hype?
Addiction as a state is subject to such a wide variety of variables that it’s very hard to quantify. This means that claims like this are impossible to prove or disprove. That really just makes them valueless. I’ll tell you this though, I’ve never been mugged in a quiet back alley by someone hoping to get a few coins together to buy a cookie. You don’t hear about gangsters being shot over “sugar-debts,” so if I was to make an educated guess here, I’d say no, sugar is not more addictive than cocaine, it’s a bunch of crap.
That doesn’t mean your body doesn’t become accustomed to it though, and that’s all addiction is, really, it’s mind and/or body being accustomed to something. So yes, if you decide to ditch the cakes and start eating right (and if there’s one take-home message from this article it would be that eating right never includes cakes), you might find it tough. Your body will be used to having excess carbohydrate, and it will have to adjust to your new regimen. This may take a few days.
You’ve just got to ask yourself what you want more. Do you want a better physique, greater self-esteem, a longer life, better health, a chance to remain active into old age, a better mood every day, an improved immune system, reduced risk of dementia, increased sex-drive, improved productivity, reduced risk of stroke, reduced risk of diabetes, and better quality of life?
Or do you want cake?
Give it some thought, and have a great day.
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