Why Sugar Isn’t Always So Sweet

Ever since you were old enough to walk, you’ve been instructed that eating too many pieces of candy gives you a stomachache, indulging in too many cookies makes you overweight, and too many sugary drinks give you cavities.  

But what about a cup of fruit?  Or foods labeled as “low-fat”?  We typically think of these food options as a better alternative to a bag of Skittles or a piece of cake...but are they?

Sugar is a nutrient that your body needs to function. However, eating too much sugar from any type of food -- whether it be candy or fruit -- can be negative.  Your body naturally produces all the sugar you need through internal glucose production.    

So let’s bust some myths about sugar:

Only sugar from desserts and other sweets are bad for you.

False.  Too much sugar, in any form is not good for you.  As stated before, your body makes all the sugar it needs on its own.  Adding too much more is harmful to your liver since it must process this sugar as waste.

Eating sugar from fruits is a better alternative to sugar from desserts since fruits also provide you with fiber and other nutrients, while desserts provide none of these.

Choosing the “low-fat” option is always better.

False.  Often times when food is labeled as “low-fat”, the fatty oils are taken out of the product; however, this can leave the food tasting bland or less-appetizing.  To compensate, food producers add in extra sugar.  This extra sugar is bad for your liver and can be worse than the original fatty oil in the food.

A diet high in sugar can be difficult to change.

True.  Sugar releases the hormone dopamine into the rewards part of your brain -- leaving you feeling pretty happy.  This is the same chemical reaction that occurs during drug use.  People with addictive tendencies can become addicted to sugar similarly as they can become addicted to other drugs.

All fruit has the same amount of sugar.

False.  A cup of bananas has three times more sugar than a cup of blackberries.  In order from the least amount of sugar per cup to the most: blackberries, strawberries, apples, pineapple, oranges, bananas, grapes.

The main health concern from eating too much sugar is developing diabetes.

False.  Diabetes is a major health concern resulting from a diet high in sugar, however, there are many other problems that can arise as well.  When you eat a lot of sugar, your body can become resistant to insulin -- an important hormone -- which can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Type II Diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda can cause cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no clear connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer in humans.  There have been tests in rats that resulted in production of cancerous cells after eating artificial sweeteners but this should not be translated to humans.  

So what’s the moral of the story?  As the cliche goes, “Everything is OK in moderation.”  Your body can tolerate a small amount of added sugar (from candy, soda, etc.) as well as sugar that is already present in fruits, but too much of any sugar is just “not sweet.”