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Health Food of the month - Sugar

November 2018


Pile of brown and white sugar cubes
Sugar can come in different forms

Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Pumpkins

Bananas

Gooseberries


 

Diet & Supplements Index

Sugar – nature’s gift of sweetness

It is great when we hear the odd bit of good news...and it was good news indeed when a report came out from a leading American doctor that sugar is good for us...well at least for our brain.

Dr Drew Ramsey is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and he agrees with what most of us know, that cutting down on sugar can lower our blood pressure, decrease a risk of heart attack and make us less likely to develop dementia...to say nothing of helping us maintain a healthy body weight.

But Dr Ramsey also says that sugar does offer certain benefits as well including a positive effect on our brain.

He explains that our brain is the biggest user of sugar in our body. Evidently brains use up 400 calories of glucose every day.

“Sugar: It’s loved. Feared. Blamed. But most of all, it’s misunderstood,” he said. “Let’s set the record straight: I’m a physician who specializes in brain health, and I think sugar is a miracle.
“It’s the singular molecule on which all life on Earth depends, the beginning of the energy in our food supply. Your greatest assets: grit, gifts, creativity...all run on it.”

Dr Ramsay believes, however, that of the 400 glucose calories your brain needs every day, only a quarter of this should come from your daily sugar intake...about 30 grams of sugar a day. Seven sugar cubes gives you an indication. The rest of the sugar should come from carbohydrates.

He also points out that while you need sugar, there is a key choice to be made on where you source the sugar from. Fructose is the sugar found in many artificial processed foods and isn’t a lot of use to your body. What you need is natural sugar, the sugar found in honey, maple syrup and fruit.

There are many different types of sugar and this alone can be confusing. There are also various misconceptions. For instance brown sugar is often considered better for one’s health; but while it does contain tiny levels of calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium, these are at such small levels that really there is no difference nutritionally between brown and white sugar.

The common sugar most of us have in our homes for cooking comes from sugarcanes or sugar beet.

Most sugar making processes involve removing the juice from the plant, then boiling and filtering it before it is spun. This produces raw sugar crystals which contain molasses. Depending on the processes after that, you can obtain various brown sugars or completely white sugar when the molasses has been removed completely. White sugars generally come in granular or the finer crystal form called caster sugar although other types are available such as icing sugar or preserving sugar.

Generally the types of sugars can be categorised as follows:
Fructose: found in fruits and honey
Galactose: found in milk and dairy products
Glucose: found in honey, fruits and vegetables
Lactose: found in milk, made from glucose and galactose
Maltose: found in barley
Sucrose: made up of glucose and fructose and found in plants
Xylose: found in wood or straw

Most people love sugar and it can make you happy. This is because the rarest amino acid in our food is tryptophan which is used to help produce serotonin. One of the things sugar can do is to help transport this serotonin into our brain.

Sadly though you can get too much of a good thing! As Dr Ramsey is very careful to point out, while we all need sugar for brain health; we do only need 400 glucose calories a day. Stocking up on chocolate won’t do the trick, and there is clear evidence that too much sugar can not only harm your teeth but also cause numerous health problems.

The following site gives a good summary of the results of too much sugar:
healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar


 


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