Sugar – not a foe, but no friend either

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A BALANCED APPROACH CAN BLEND HEALTH AND ENJOYMENT

story by LEIGH SAVAGE

Dr. Jana Morse says that while sugar is vilified in many diet plans, it’s not the enemy – though processed sugar adds no nutrition and is frequently consumed in much greater quantities than our bodies can burn.

“If I’m out cycling and I need something to burn, sugar is not a bad option,” said Morse, an avid cyclist. “It’s fuel.” But for those with a sedentary lifestyle, processed sugar is unnecessary because the extra fuel is not needed – and can cause inflammation, along with other deleterious effects.

Our bodies produce insulin to absorb the sugar into our fat cells and remove it from our bloodstream, but too much sugar and our body can’t produce enough insulin to control it. “Excess consumption of sugar or simple carbohydrates can lead to the development of Type II diabetes,” Morse said.

Chronic inflammation caused by extra sugar intake can increase risk for autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, and neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.

While processed sugar is okay in limited amounts, especially for active people, unprocessed sugar is a much healthier choice, Morse said. Unprocessed sugar such as that found in fruits comes blended with fiber, which slows absorption of sugar, as well as key vitamins and minerals. And, most importantly, unprocessed sugars in fruit come in a more appropriate portion.

“If you’re eating oranges, you might eat one or two, but not six,” Morse said. “But if you drink a glass of juice, it might contain the juice of six oranges. If you eat fruit, you’ll be getting a smaller quantity of sugar than you would if you have juices, sweets and desserts.”

Morse, who has long advocated a healthy, balanced lifestyle for her patients, said that strict diets eliminating all processed sugars are unnecessary and can backfire. “There is a lot of individuality,” she said. “If I have one cookie, I need 10 more, so I might stay away. If you can limit your consumption, go ahead. You just have to know yourself.”

When craving sugar, a great first step is to have a glass of water, as people often confuse sugar cravings and thirst. Another technique is to think about why you are craving sugar, since people sometimes use it to soothe their emotions. The same calming effect could be achieved through walking, listening to music or reading.

Another way to think about processed sugar is to view it as similar to alcohol – something that you know is not improving your health but you might enjoy on certain occasions and in moderation.

“My goal is not to have people weigh a certain amount,” she said, ”but to enjoy their life disease-free and enjoy what they love

 

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