Sugar is one of the many things in life that gets a pretty bad name for being bad for you. Usually, it's justified. It has a wide range of extremely detrimental effects on your body. One big issue with it, is that it comes from so many different places, and some of those are natural, but does that mean they are good for you?


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The Basics

Sugar comes in more forms than just the white powder that we get in packets or that comes in soft drinks. It’s in pretty much everything. The entire format of our energy systems is based on it. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar, and that’s ultimately what our food gets broken down into for us to use as energy or store as fat (depending on how much we eat). That’s the first thing we need to get our heads around.

Even before it gets to the simple sugar that is glucose, though, it has other forms. These are from natural sources and from unnatural sources at the same time. This makes it so vital that we understand what they are and what they do to the body. That's how we can know what is and isn't bad, and where it's coming from as a result.

Natural Sugars

Bowl of fruit (natural sugars) and honey

Natural sugars are just different ways to get sugar from natural resources, like fruit and dairy. Most things have some sort of sugar as a building block of its structure; it just depends on which type(s). Plant-based foods like vegetables and fruit, for example, contain fructose sugar. This is one of the most commonly occurring sugars, and there's a lot of it in them—especially sweet-tasting fruits like pineapples and even oranges.

Milk and dairy are also culprits of natural sugar, and that’s not a bad thing either. Lactose is the sugar this time (which is where lactose intolerance comes from), and it does the same thing. Be careful with these types of sugars though, as they often aren’t alone, and milk or dairy products are often given added sugar for an extra kick.

Unnatural Sugars

Bowl and spoon of brown sugar

So, if natural sugars are in healthy things, what are unnatural sugars?  The general basis behind them is that, since humans like sugar and sweet things, why not put it into everything? The problem is that it costs money, but making the sugar unnaturally doesn’t. Getting sucrose, another sugar is easily done in large amounts by refining sugar cane and sugar beets. This is then usually thrown into all kinds of foods so that they taste better, and that’s even usually the form of packet sugar we put into tea and coffee so often.

It doesn’t stop there either though. Unnatural sugars are actually made on a chemical basis too. One of the easiest ways to get sugar on a mass scale is by using corn syrup. Mass producing corn syrup is extremely cheap and means that so much of it can be used to make bad things taste even better, and actually become addictive. Soft drinks and juices are some of the biggest culprits of this, as well as healthy-appearing foods like natural yoghurt and pre-made meals, just so that they taste as good as possible despite having none of the fats.

The Question

Even with this knowledge of where sugar comes from, what difference does it make? Is natural sugar good or bad? Well, neither really. When we look at the more complex structure of sugar, we have simple sugars and complex sugars. This is where things get a little tricky.

Simple sugars, like glucose and sucrose, are very easy for the body to break down. As soon as it’s broken down, your liver goes to town on it and sends it to where it needs to be. That's usually your bloodstream and then your muscles so that you can store glycogen, the energy required to move your muscles in short, powerful bursts. The problem is that anything leftover is then turned to fat. If these simple sugars are in too high an amount, they break down too quickly, and more is stored as this fat. Not only that, once it's finished being processed, your blood sugar drops, and you feel hungry again. And as a result? You eat more sugar.

Natural sugars, however, are complex structures. The more complex the structure, the longer it takes for you to process. The longer the process lasts, the fuller you stay for longer, and the less of it you want or need to consume. That means less fat, and it's a win-win situation! On top of all of that too, eating the sugar from the natural sources contains a boatload of other vitamins and nutrients too, and they're exactly what you need to be as healthy as possible.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, natural sugar isn’t bad for you, but it certainly isn’t good either. However, it is better than unnatural and refined sugar, which you should cut out as much as possible, wherever possible. It has adverse effects on your weight, energy, teeth, and your health in general. Your diet needs to be balanced and healthy for you to feel the benefits of good health and make the most of your efforts in training and life as a whole. Keep it to a minimum, but don't cut fruit and vegetables just yet!

For more info, check out this NHS link too!


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