Sugar is the generic name for sweet, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. Sucrose is common table sugar. It is a refined manufactured product. For human consumption, sucrose is extracted and refined from either sugarcane or sugar beet. The crystals thus obtained are clear, odorless, and have a sweet taste.
It is found easily in cookies, cakes, donuts, biscuits, chocolate, ice cream, and basically almost everything that tastes sweet. It is added to some beverages also, such as coffee, tea, and juice. For example, a can of cola can have as much as nine cubes of sugar – way more than the recommended daily limit for adults.
Sugars have no essential nutrients besides calories (no fiber or micronutrients), and their energy input is of 4 kcal/gram. For example, if 100 grams of chocolate contains 30% added sugars, then that means it has 120 kcal are coming only from the sugar. And because calories are primarily responsible for obesity, therefore one should ideally choose foods with no added sugar. They are often found to be labeled as “sugar-free”.
Added sugars are easily found in almost everything we are eating these days. Besides this, they also contribute to various imbalances that can ultimately create diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even tooth decay. However, it is unnecessary to be this much extremist, but the main reason why I wrote these things about it is that consuming sugar is totally against the purpose of losing weight and is also against following a balanced and healthy diet. Plus, I’d say that the table sugar is unnatural, and hence our body has to deal with it somehow, unlike fructose which is a natural sugar provided by fruits and is easy to digest and utilize.
Fructose is considered a simple carbohydrate just like table sugar. However, fructose is unprocessed and hence is more natural and organic. Fruits provide not only contain lots of calories like using table sugar gives, they also provide an abundance of fiber, micronutrients, and anti-oxidants absent in case of table sugar. The best sources of carbohydrates are always the ones associated with fiber and other nutrients.
I know that when it comes to losing weight or gaining mass, most people out there only care about this simple principle: calories in versus calories out. But the body doesn’t work efficiently, or properly in absence of its most essential nutrients. And this is why I think you should never get rid of fruits, no matter how caloric dense they might be. Instead of that, you need to learn which ones contain fewer calories and when is the right time to eat them.
These nutrients that fruits provide play an essential role for our state of mind too. We need to think clearly, be responsive and have a sharp mind. We cannot do all this if we deprive our cellular machinery of what’s necessary for the said purpose. On the other hand, table sugar has no beneficial impact on our well-being over the long term. We can still take enough calories and be healthy in absence of any added sugar. Studies show us that table sugar creates some sort of addiction, and step by step, replacing it with better calorie sources, we can reach the point where table sugar is simply totally out of our diet, forever.
After all, a balanced and healthy diet is one that helps to maintain or improve overall health. It must also provide the body with essential nutrition: fluids, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and adequate calories. A healthy diet supports our energy needs and provides us nutrition without exposure to toxicity or excessive weight gain from the consumption of more calories than the body’s requirements (don’t overindulge in fruits either if your current weight is a cause of concern).
Moderation and variety are the keys to a better future. I eliminated the table sugar from my diet because I needed to clean-up my body and also wanted to get rid of extra pounds. Now that my fitness goals are secured, I have started to eat chocolate bars or other sweets on occasion.
If your goal is to lose weight, even the consumption of fruit should be under observation. Therefore, I have the following recommendations for you:
- Eat the high calorific fruits during the first part of the day. You may have to search the internet to know which ones provide most of the calories;
- Try to consume fruits in moderation. For instance, bananas have a lot of calories, and I don’t recommend you to eat 4 of them at once;
- Search the internet for info about low-calorie fruits. They will fit perfectly into a late snack.
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Dried fruits are generally more compact and calorie-dense, unlike regular fruits, which contain a lot of water. Some fruits, like avocados, contain lipids that provide lots of calories. These work better when consumed during the first part of the day.
Frozen fruit can provide the same nutrients and benefits as fresh fruit. Canned fruit and fruit juice typically have more calories due to either the syrup or added sugar. That syrup is also a simple carbohydrate most likely obtained from corn. However, it is a processed food and it should be avoided as much as possible.
Oleaginous fruits like olives, seeds or nuts are very rich in fats, take for example avocados. They provide essential nutrients, but also a lot of calories, so eat them in moderation.
Everything I have said here is important for your well-being and especially for overweight persons with a goal of reducing their body fat percentage. If these two things don’t concern you at all, and instead, you want to gain as much mass as possible, then eat as many fruits and maybe even try adding some sort of table sugar in order for some weight gain.
Now getting back to our enemy (the table sugar), you should be aware that the consumption of it all over the world is extremely high. According to Statista Inc., the total sugar consumption worldwide is increasing from one year to the next. They also say that: “In 2009/2010, approximately 154.1 million metric tons of sugar were consumed in total throughout the world. In 2016/2017, the numbers are a lot higher – 173.6 million metric tons.”
These numbers are a cause for concern, and I can understand the need or desire to eat something that gives you pleasure – after all, I like eating chocolate as well. But while I was undergoing a struggle to lose weight, my goals were above my desires. As I said, I gradually started to eat sweets on occasion, up to when eating sugars with regularity was no longer a problem for my weight.
Sugar is also found naturally in milk and vegetables. You don’t need to cut down on this one. That is a totally different story, as it is the case with fruit.
Always look at information on nutrition labels and ingredient lists to help reduce your intake of sugars. Look for the “carbohydrates of which sugars” figure on the nutrition labels as shown in the image below:
Products are considered to either be high or low in sugar if they fall above or below the following thresholds:
- high: more than 22.5 grams of total sugars per 100 grams;
- low: 5 grams or less of total sugars per 100 grams;
- medium level: between the two above.
The “of which sugars” figure describes the total amount of sugars from all sources – table sugars, plus those from milk and those present in fruit and vegetables. For example, plain yogurt may contain as much as 8 grams per serving, but none of these are table sugars, as they all come from milk. The same applies to an individual portion of fruit. An apple might contain around 11 grams of total sugars, depending on the size of the fruit selected, the variety, and the stage of ripeness. However, sugar in fruit is not considered table sugar unless the fruit is juiced or pureed.
This means that food containing fruit or milk will be a healthier choice than food containing lots of table sugars (free sugars), even if the two products contain the same total amount of sugar.
Sometimes, you will see a figure just for “Carbohydrate” and not for “Carbohydrate (of which sugars)”. The “Carbohydrate” figure will also include starchy carbohydrates, so you can’t use it to work out the sugar content. In this case, check the ingredients list to see if the food is high in added sugar. I found this to be the case with cereals/oats/corn flakes. 100 grams of the same carbohydrate contain different calories among these. They didn’t put on the food label all the details, but on reading the ingredient list I could observe that the product with more calories had more added sugars. These foods already have natural carbohydrates, but they might also contain some more table sugar just to sweeten up things for a better taste.
The government of U.K. recommends that free sugars – sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and purees – shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day. The USA government is a little bit more tolerant with the recommended daily sugar consumption, but nothing radically different.