We’ve been told that sugar is the culprit to blame for unwanted weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes. At the same time, you’re encouraged to eat fruits despite the fact that they also contain sugar. So, is sugar bad or good for your health? The answer, as usual is that it depends…
The Obesity Epidemic and Type 2 Diabetes
The greatest focal point of nutrition in recent years has been to curb the devastating obesity epidemic in the United States and the Western world at large. According to findings from the CDC, from 2017-2018 the age adjusted prevalence of obesity in adults was 42.4%. Being overweight greatly increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and now the CDC reports that approximately 1 in 10 adults have diabetes—whether diagnosed or undiagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes is indicated by a marked increase in insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels and distributing glucose molecules to cells throughout the body for energy. So now we know that blood sugar is also known as glucose which is used for cellular energy.
Insulin resistance is when cells don’t respond well to insulin and can no longer easily take up glucose from your blood. When we over consume sugar, we have an excess amount of glucose and whatever is not used is stored as fat for later. Higher fat stores can increase the risk for insulin resistance. Cellular uptake of energy (in glucose form) is significantly impaired by insulin sensitivity and more sugar is left circulating in the bloodstream. A significant increase of sugar in our bloodstream is also known as pre-diabetes or diabetes depending on the levels.
Why is Sugar Bad for You?
Sucrose is what is known as table sugar. It is comprised of two monosaccharides that you may have heard of, glucose and fructose. Overconsumption of sugar has been traced to several chronic illnesses that plague the West such as diabetes and heart disease. Diabetes (when not influenced by genetic susceptibility) is strongly influenced by sugar intake.
In our post, “Are Carbs Really that Bad for You?” we tackled the topic of carbohydrate intake. We discussed how carbs serve a very useful function in the body and are our most effective source for energy. When carbs are consumed in abundance, weight gain is sure to follow, as well as the cascading hormonal effect (insulin resistance) that excess fat creates.
A simplified answer is that sugar is bad for you because it is swiftly absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking your blood sugar levels. Sugar is often referred to as “empty calories” which means that it provides no other nutritional value other than simple energy in the form of glucose. This means that when we sweeten foods or drinks with sugar, they are more calorically dense even though they don’t contribute to satiety levels. An excess amount of sugar in our diets makes it much easier to gain weight while also increasing insulin resistance and the risk of type II Diabetes.
Why is Fruit Sugar Better for Us?
In reality, sugar from fruit is not necessarily any healthier than regular table sugar. Table sugar and sugar from fruit are both metabolized the same way once they enter the body. However, It’s easier to overeat added sugars from processed foods than to eat an equivalent amount of sugar from fruit. Fruit is not only filling due to its fiber content, but it also contains ample amounts of additional nutrients and antioxidants that fight aging and cell damage.
You would have to eat two to three apples to get a similar amount of sugar as a can of soda offers. The fiber and time it takes to eat fruit significantly delay the entry of sugar into your bloodstream, offering a positive impact to insulin sensitivity. A can of soda can be drunk within 5 minutes and those 40-50 grams of sugar will raise your blood sugar quickly. Added sugar in sodas and certain food products are also highly refined and processed, which have been linked to increased inflammation in the body.
Plant-Based Meals Can Help Reduce Rates of Diabetes
A plant-based diet has more benefits than you could count, but if you had to, here are 10 reasons to try one today. Dr. Praeger’s has long since supported plant-based eating as a means to achieve a healthy weight, fight chronic illnesses, as well as just enjoy a delicious meal! Whether you want to kindle your inner child (or feed your actual child), enjoy cookouts again with our world-famous frozen veggie burgers, or kickstart your day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast, we have a product for you.
A 2017 study by McMacken and Shah supports the argument that a plant-based diet has observable benefits in treating (and of course, preventing) type 2 diabetes by reducing key macrovascular and microvascular complications. As the study states, dietary choices are a key factor in insulin resistant individuals.
Fruits, legumes, vegetables, whole grains, and dark green leafy vegetables are some of the foremost healthy parts of a plant-based diet. A study by Anderson et al found that feeding a high carbohydrate, high fiber, plant-based diet had a potent positive impact on the glucose and lipid metabolism of 20 lean men that were receiving insulin treatment for diabetes. The diet was set to maintain patients’ weight to keep body weight stable. The results showed that many men enjoyed a significant reduction in insulin quantities administered, with some men being able to discontinue insulin treatment altogether.
These, and many other studies, indicate just how crucial fiber is to regulating blood sugar levels. As the high carbohydrate, high fiber study showed, it isn’t necessarily that carbohydrate consumption causes diabetes. Rather that the type of food, nutritive value, and fiber content make a huge difference.
In other words, enjoy your fruit as you should your foods, whole.
Best Plant-Based Frozen Foods
Dr. Praeger’s is dedicated to bringing you the highest quality frozen plant-based foods, available in the frozen section of a supermarket near you.
Our foods are created with respect to both flavor and nutritional science for a result that is a joy to your tastebuds and beneficial to your health. From our plant-based frozen veggie burgers to our Littles line of foods that will help your kids eat vegetables without them even knowing it.
For any questions, contact Dr. Praeger’s today. We love hearing from our customers!