Sugar is sugar is sugar……or is it not as simple and sweet as that? Just me mentioning sugar will either set you up for a craving or put you in a defensive
I-never-touch-the-stuff mode. For most of us though, we’re likely somewhere in the
middle of those two extreme reactions. Yet it’s essential to have a good understanding about sugar and the impact is has on your brain health.
Do you ever feel like it’s time for a nutritional makeover? And tackling your sweet tooth should be part of that makeover?
Sometimes tackling nutrition right up front goes better if you’re asking yourself the right questions. And get the right answers!
For instance, do you know the answers these questions?
Is all sugar created the same?
No, all sugar is not created equal, so let’s go over some basics. This will help you understand the links between sugar and brain health.
Table sugar is sucrose. Fruit sugar is fructose. Fructose from fruit is not the same as high fructose corn syrup. That’s a different substance altogether.
Though both sucrose and fructose metabolize into glucose, how they become glucose and what they do to your blood sugar levels are very different. That’s what’s important to understand.
Foods that contain sucrose, like baked goods and candy, get your blood sugar levels VERY high VERY quickly. At one time or another we’ve all felt this surge.
Your body’s response is to release insulin to control this blood sugar spike. This is exactly what you don’t want, this dumping of insulin into your blood stream.
Is it a challenge to keep your fat levels in check?
I get many questions that start with, “I’m not doing anything differently or eating
differently but I seem to be spreading around the middle. Any ideas?”
Controlling insulin is essential in your fat loss efforts. If you are pleased with your body, and want to maintain your health and keep muscle, then insulin control is important in this scenario as well.
Eating too many foods that will elevate your insulin levels fast and high is what you want to avoid.
What about fruit sugar?
Fruit sugar does not create the same response as sucrose. Yes, sugar is sugar, and your body surely knows this. How your body reacts is what’s important.
Will your blood sugar and insulin levels go up from fruit sugar?
Absolutely, BUT much more slowly. That’s the point.
I know you can tell the difference between how you feel after eating a high sugar sweet pastry breakfast for example, and eating a bowl of fruit to start your day!
You’ve likely heard of the Glycemic Index. It ranks foods based on how quickly they’ll
spike your blood sugar levels. If you look at the index you’ll notice that fruits are low on the index for just this SLOW reason. The slower the sugar level spike the more time your body has to meter out insulin.
This is better for your health.
Think of fructose as the tortoise and sucrose as the hare, and remember that slow and steady wins the race!
When Is Sugar Good for Us?
We all need sweet tastes in our diet. Our tongue has an area that’s coded for sweet, just as it does for all the other tastes like sour, bitter, and salty. So there’s nothing
intrinsically wrong with wanting to eat sweets. It’s just the sources we choose that get us into trouble.
And you do need sugar, there’s no doubt about that.
Ever tried a NO CARB diet?
Did you start feeling lethargic, groggy or irritable?
Healthy lower glycemic carb foods like bananas, apples, carrots and other fruits and
vegetables do not need to be eliminated from your diet to keep your blood sugar levels at an optimal level, or to better control your insulin levels. Keeping these two levels healthy will help you shed fat and maintain the body fat percentages that are best for you.
Tips to help you stay on track:
1. Avoid refined white sugar as much as you can. It’s a process, so start from where you are and go from there. White sugar is everywhere so check labels.
Many cereals, breads, and what are often labeled healthy foods, can contain high amounts of processed sugar. Read the ingredients carefully and if high fructose corn syrup, refined corn syrup, sucrose, cane sugar or even organic evaporated cane juice are listed, re-assess your choice.
2. Make foods that raise your blood sugar levels slowly (those low on the glycemic index) your staples when it comes to carbohydrate choices when you’re craving sweet foods.
Sweet cravings DO SUBSIDE the less you feed them.
I find that berries, apples, grapes, and other fruits work for me when I feel like something sweet. You’ll find your own, so try out as many as you need to and find the ones that work.
3. Save your sweet treats for special occasions. Keep your portions reasonable and enjoy them. I think declaring that you’ll never eat sweet treats again is sort of foolish. It’s okay to indulge once in a while. You know what your body can handle before it starts reacting by feeling crummy or gaining fat, so pay attention and eat accordingly!
Understanding sugar and its link to brain health is important. Begin working towards SWEETENING up your life with other than sucrose choices. You’ll look better, function better, and be able to encourage others to do the same!
If you feel stuck and need additional support to adopt a new healthy habit or routine, consider working with me. We can partner up in setting goals, drawing on your skills and strengths, and implementing strategies to help you find your way to lasting healthy success.
For over 15 years, Shelli has been a freelance writer and wellness coach on Joyinmovement. She writes about brain fitness, creating a healthy lifestyle, traveling the world, and making positive habits stick. Stop procrastinating! Take action, join her free newsletter.