by Dr. David Minkoff June 03, 2020 6 min read
You're about to read Part 2 of The Low Sugar Con. You can catch up on Part 1: Maltodextrin HERE.
Everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for you. You heard it from your parents, and if you have children, you avoid allowing them to have too many sweet drinks and candy, right?
Well, we have some bad news for you. The for-profit food industry has developed ways of sneaking sugar into your diet without making it obvious. In other words, you and your family are likely consuming much more sugar than you thought – and paying the price.
To understand this, we have to take a step back and walk through exactly what sugar is, what it does to your body, and how you get it. Let’s begin.
Sugar is the generic name for a group of carbohydrates that taste sweet and dissolve in water. The simplest forms of sugar are single molecules called monosaccharides (mono = one). They include:
Glucose is directly used in your bloodstream to provide energy to your cells. “Blood sugar” refers to the concentration of glucose in your blood. And yes, that means that some sugar is good and critical for your body to function at all.
Fructose and galactose are either converted to glucose or stored as fat in your body.
When a sugar has two molecules, it is called a compound sugar or disaccharide (di = two). Table sugar, confectionary sugar, and other common sugars you can buy in the store are generally compound sugars, such as sucrose.
When a compound sugar enters your body, it is broken down into glucose or stored as fat.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are a broader category of food made up of sugar molecules. Carbs are generally broken down into three categories:
When you look at the nutrition facts on any product, you will see that the “total carbs” includes both sugar and dietary fiber as subsets. Because your body doesn’t digest fiber, many people subtract the dietary fiber from the total carbohydrates to get a real idea of how many “carbs” you are eating.
Most complex carbs in their natural state are healthy and provide slow-burning, consistent energy. Why? Because they contain fiber and other nutrients that slow the digestive process and keep everything moving at a healthy pace.
Unfortunately, most complex carbs in modern food are no longer in their natural state – they have been processed, and the fiber and other nutrition removed. This provides a sweeter taste, fluffier texture, and longer shelf life – great for marketing and selling food.
But these refined, long chains of sugar molecules are rapidly converted by your body into either glucose or fat – just like eating a spoon full of table sugar.
Some examples of refined carbs include:
To make it clear, look at this nutrition facts label for Ball Park Classic Burger Buns. You can see the total carbohydrates is 28 grams out of a 53 gram bun, of which 4 grams are added sugar. 
Now you might think, 4 grams of sugar - not bad, right? Wrong. When you look at the ingredients, you will see the first ingredient is “Enriched Wheat Flour” – which is a pretty way of saying “refined flour that we put some nutrients back into.” With less than one gram of dietary fiber, you are looking at 23 carbohydrate grams that will turn right into sugar (and then be stored as fat) as your body digests them.
So yes, you guessed it. Refined carbs are a hidden enemy, and they are everywhere.
Your body doesn’t need a lot of sugar, and you could easily survive without a single gram of added sugar if you eat fruit, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. Your body will convert the complex carbs into glucose to maintain the optimal, healthy blood sugar level.
The measurement that determines how quickly a carb turns into sugar is called the glycemic index (GI). It is a scale that ranges from 1 to 100, with 100 being the equivalent of eating straight glucose. The range is as follows:
White rice, for example, has a GI of around 75, while brown rice has a GI of around 65. Harvard Health has a comprehensive list of over 100 foods and their respective GI indexes.
The GI of a food will also vary depending on what else is on your plate. Mixing a high-GI food with a low-GI food can balance the digestive process. So, it’s not that you must never eat junk food – just be smart and eat it in moderation.
When you look at the ingredients, they are listed in sequence with the first item being present in the highest quantity, and successively lower quantities as you move down the list.
While this is a good system, food manufacturers have developed a method of loading sugar in and hiding it: they use multiple types of sugar. Instead of seeing “sugar” as the second or third ingredient, you might see four or five types of sugar lower on the list. When combined, the total “sugar” would be the second or third ingredient.
Takeaway: It’s important to read the label and recognize the different kinds of sugar.
HealthLine has a comprehensive list of the 56 most common “types” of sugar, which we recommend you check out.
Added sugar in food and drinks is often referred to as “empty calories,” which means calories without any health benefit. Added sugars, especially fructose (one of the most common forms of sugar in beverages and sweets – ever heard of high fructose corn syrup?), can have significant adverse effects on your health, including:
With sugar so prevalent in our diets, the question remains: “What can we do about it?”
Well, the answer is quite simple:
by Dr. David Minkoff
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