Sugar has gotten a bad reputation in recent history. We even wrote a prior article about the ill-effects of sugar. Yet in trying to avoid sugar, people sometimes forget or fail to realize that sugar can come in indirect forms. For instance, carbohydrates are a source of sugar. So, simply focusing on reducing or eliminating added sugars from your diet neglects other forms.
All carbohydrates break down into sugars
Your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose and/or fructose after ingestion, both of which are forms of sugar. Although the body takes longer to break down complex versus refined carbohydrates, both ultimately break down into sugars. That’s why ingesting carbohydrates increases your blood sugar level.
Whole grains are not necessarily better
Whole grains have the reputation as being “healthier” than refined carbohydrates for retaining more fiber and nutrients. While whole grains retain their entire structure, refined grains usually lack the bran or germ from the grain. The presence of fiber and other nutrients can increase the time your body takes to break down whole grains. That’s why they rank lower on the Glycemic Index (GI). The GI ranks foods according to how quickly they affect your blood sugar (glucose) level. The higher the rank, the quicker the effect. Thus, whole grains tend to rank lower than refined grains, but they still affect your blood glucose level. Some diets popularized the GI with the idea that eating foods lower on the GI scale will prevent your blood sugar from spiking. In turn, the slower blood sugar spike will keep you feeling full longer to prevent having to eat again as quickly. However, if you’re seeking to minimize sugar consumption, then you should avoid eating any foods with a glycemic response.
The point of this article is not to demonize carbohydrates. Healthy or physically active people can afford to eat carbohydrates, so long as in moderation. Rather, the point is to dispel the popular misconception that sugar in your diet only comes from pure or added sugars. Some people only focus on reducing or eliminating added sugars (e.g. candies, soda, flavored yogurts, desserts, etc.), but continue to eat refined or unrefined carbohydrates (e.g. rice, pasta. crackers, bread, fruits, milk, etc.). Understand that carbohydrates are sugars at the end of the day. So, if you are seeking to reduce your sugar intake for health or other reasons, be mindful of all the forms sugar can take in your diet.