What is sugar
The sugar is a simple carbohydrate made up of monosaccharides (such as fructose commonly found in fruit and galactose) and disaccharides such as sucrose (the common table sugar made up of two glucose molecules) and lactose (the milk sugar formed by glucose and galactose). THE simple carbohydrates are present in the ingredient list of candies, syrups, fizzy drinks, biscuits or other baking products. Nutritionists refer to this category of nutrients with the expression “empty calories” to underline the fact that they are substances capable of providing a large number of calories but at the same time low in nutritional value. They do not contain vitamins, minerals and fibers.
Foods rich in sugars
Among foods with a higher sugar content there are those of the food industry: candies, biscuits and snacks. In the nutritional label, in addition to reading the intake in macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) it is possible to read the list of ingredients. It is therefore interesting to note that the types of sugars used by the food industry are different and that sometimes more than one type appears in the formulation of a single product. Let’s try to name a few:
- maltosewhich we find in beer and bread making;
- maltodextrin, present in ice creams and sorbets, given their thickening power; also present in packaged products (ready-to-eat, freeze-dried foods) and in sports supplements;
- dextrinswhich have uses similar to those of Maltodextrins, can also end up in drugs, as excipients;
- syrup of glucoseused particularly in pastry and ice cream, but also in baked goods;
- syrup of fructoseconcentrated fructose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, corn syrup with high fructose content, starch syrup with fructose: these acronyms indicate more or less similar products, which have a very specific purpose, namely that of that is to replace sugar in sweetened drinks;
- syrup of maltconsidered a natural sweetener, it can be barley, rice, corn or wheat;
- sweetened juice dehydrated or evaporated.
However, because public opinion has been made aware of the importance of one diet free of excessesthe food industry has foreseen the marketing of:
- foods low in sugar, with no more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams if the food is solid or with no more than 2.5 grams of sugar per 100 ml in the case of beverages;
- sugar-free foods, with no more than 0.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams or per 100 ml;
- foods without added sugars, in this case the product does not contain sugars or any other product used for its sweetening properties; if the food contains them naturally, it must be stated on the label “naturally contains sugars”.
How much sugar to take
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the consumption of sugars it must remain low throughout the course of life. Less than 10% of the total daily calorie intake must come from simple sugars. Translated in quantitative terms this means that it should be hired less than 25 grams per day of simple sugars. On the other hand, it is estimated that in those who consume a high quantity of industrial foods, the sugar intake can vary from 18 to 85 grams.
Why reduce consumption
It is worth explaining why you should reduce your sugar intake. Excessive consumption of simple sugars is a factor of risk for the onset of
- dental caries;
- insulin resistance;
- food intolerance to glucose (prediabetes);
A constant consumption of carbonated drinks, particularly rich in simple sugars, provides a quantity of calories far superior to the daily requirement. Generally, those who quench their thirst with this type of drink have a tendency to eat little fruit and little vegetables. The result is an absolutely unbalanced diet with little nutritional value. The incidence of dental caries is in this case significantly higher.
Excess of sugar and heart attack
A few years ago an article entitled “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research“. The article traces the story of how the very rich Sugar Association (the trade association for the sugar industry in the United States) wanted to give less prominence to some scientific revelations that would have damaged its business. In 1950, Americans began to study causes leading to the development of coronary heart disease. On that occasion the role of cholesterol, phytosterols, excess calories, amino acids, carbohydrates (simple and complex), vitamins and mineral salts was analyzed.
Ten years later two eminent scientists came to conclusions different: John Yudkin identified in sugars the cause of cardiovascular diseases while Ancel Keys (author of The Seven Country Study and supporter of the Mediterranean Diet) traced back to fats, especially saturated ones and cholesterol, the determining role. And so it was that the Sugar Association got in the way and wanted to have its say. Obviously, the association had every interest in ensuring that the hypothesis of Ancel Keys was the one considered most reliable. Thanks to the food industry and the sugar lobby, in the following years we pushed for the consumption of a low-fat and high-carb diet (low-fat and high-carbohydrate). In the meantime, however, the incidence of cardiovascular disease is increasing.
There reflection what emerges from this short story is that we are probably wrong in diet, we are wrong with the pharmacological approach and we are fighting against false enemies.
Fat and cholesterol are not a problem in the absence of inflammation and oxidative stress. But if we are chronically inflamed because we eat too much by consuming an excessively high sugar diet then even a cholesterol value in the normal range can trigger coronary damage.
How to reduce sugar consumption
We see below a series of strategies aimed at reducing the consumption of sugars.
- Read the nutritional labels in order to choose between low-sugar or sugar-free products;
- Reduce the amount of sugar to be included in the recipes, halving it; it may be advantageous to use ingredients with particular aromas (see vanilla, orange or lemon, cinnamon) able to enhance the flavor and make the sugar deficiency less noticeable;
- Structure your meals so that fats, proteins and carbohydrates are well balanced the consumption of simple sugars leads to a sudden rise in blood sugar, favoring the increase in body weight;
- Increase your consumption of fiber which slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugars while increasing the sense of satiety;
- Increase the consumption of foods rich in chromium and magnesium since these two micronutrients participate as cofactors in the metabolism of sugars;
- Providing savory breakfasts instead of sweet ones can help reduce the attraction for sweets while modulating the blood sugar level;
- Do not drink fruit juices, not even in the “no added sugar” version because in any case these drinks represent a concentrate of fruit sugars;
- Pay attention to low-fat foods because they usually have an above average content of simple sugars.