Nutrition: Sugar Really Is That Unhealthy

Is sugar really that unhealthy?

Doctors distinguish between several types. Giving up is not that easy, but it is possible.

4 minutes

You can get an idea of ​​added sugar by reading the nutrient tables on processed foods.

You can get an idea of ​​added sugar by reading the nutrient tables on processed foods.
© Benjamin Nolte/dpa

“In principle, sugar is a building material that we need,” says Antonia Stahl, nutritionist at Falkensee. Sugar is one of the carbohydrates. The body needs the simple sugar glucose, for example, to keep the brain, muscle cells, and other processes running. First of all, sugar is neither good nor bad, but simply an energy provider for the body. It gets a little more complicated with everything commonly meant by sugar, says Stahl.

The types of sugar glucose (dextrose) and fructose (fruit sugar), for example, are called simple sugars. They are found in fruit, but also in honey. Classic table sugar, also known as sucrose, is a double sugar, that is, it consists of two simple sugars. All of these sugars are short-chain carbohydrates, making them readily available to the body. This means that the blood sugar level rises rapidly, resulting in a high release of insulin.

And then there are the polysaccharides, which consist of various sugar molecules. They are more difficult for the body to eliminate and therefore tend to be a bit healthier, as nutritionist Stahl explains. However: Multiple sugars don’t really satisfy our cravings for sweets. Because they are found in vegetables or whole grain products, for example.

Sugar comes in many forms.

So sugar comes in many forms: However, the body doesn’t need the typical industrial sugar found in products, says Antonia Stahl. Carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits and whole grain products, for example, are completely sufficient for the body to generate energy. Sugar should represent a maximum of ten percent of the total energy intake per day, explains Silke Restemeyer of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE). With an energy contribution of 2,000 calories, that is, a maximum of 50 grams of sugar. This ten percent maximum includes all added sugars, but also the sugar found in honey or fruit juices. Sugar from fruits and natural yogurt is not included. A piece of chocolate is not a problem with a balanced diet, says Restemeyer. However, according to nutritionist Stahl, it becomes critical if you consume large amounts of added sugar every day. This increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Satisfying a sweet craving with fresh fruit is healthier than eating a candy bar.

Satisfying a sweet craving with fresh fruit is healthier than eating a candy bar.
© Christin Klose/dpa

However, eliminating refined sugar is a bit more complicated than eliminating sweets. Because sugar is often added to cheese, sausage, and yogurt for flavor, as Stahl explains. Frozen pizzas, barbecue sauces or potato salad from the supermarket also often contain considerable amounts of sugar, says nutritionist Silke Restemeyer of the DGE.

The best options are natural, unprocessed foods. Especially at first it is anything but easy to do without sugar. Stahl advises starting small. The first step is to develop an awareness of your blood sugar levels by reading the nutrient charts while you shop. If processed products have a maximum of five grams of sugar per 100 grams, they are suitable for a low-sugar diet.

You can start by setting one low-sugar meal a day. A healthy breakfast, like oatmeal with milk and fruit instead of chocolate muesli, is a good start to the day and a good start to a change in diet. If you have the first meal under control, you can change another to without sugar, recommends nutritionist Stahl. Over time, this reduces the desire for sugar.

And with the drinks? Does it make sense to use a sugar-free soft drink with sweetener? Sweeteners like aspartame are not sugar, they do not cause cavities and they have few calories. But in larger amounts, they can have a laxative effect, Restemeyer says. And: they are not helpful when it comes to stopping eating sweets. So a water with fresh lemon and mint is better. (dpa)

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