How Bad Is Sugar? Separating Fact From Fiction

By now, you’ve probably heard that sugar is bad for you, but you might still have some questions about what that means exactly. Moderation and sugar substitutes are hot topics since they aren’t always as good as they sound either. Here are some things to know about the sweet stuff and how bad it really is.

You’re Eating a Lot More than You Think

It might sound simple to avoid sugar by cutting out desserts and other sweets, but the stuff is actually lurking as an additive in all kinds of common foods. Ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and instant oatmeal are all surprisingly high in sugar. It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid sugar if you’re dining out or eating processed foods regularly.

Sugar is Truly Addictive

Many people would rather not forgo sugar completely, but think cutting down is a reasonable option. Not so fast. Sugar is truly an addictive substance and some research says that it’s even more addictive than cocaine. Sugar lights up the reward centers in the brain like other drugs do, but the body will require more and more sugar to get the same feel-good hits. Your desire to eat seconds of spaghetti could have more to do with the sugar in the tomato sauce than actually needing another dose of carbs to fill you up.

Raw Sugar is Not Better For You

Generally, the less-processed version of a food is better, but that’s not the case when comparing raw and regular sugar. Raw sugar and table sugar comes from the same place, but raw sugar still has some molasses left over for color. There are some trace nutrients in that molasses, but not enough to be helpful, and both types of sugar have the same amount of calories. Don’t think those “healthy” cookies made with raw sugar are any different than the normal ones.

“Sugar-Free” Foods aren’t Necessarily Better For You, Either

If you were able to go free of processed sugar while following an all-natural diet that would be ideal, but choosing processed foods labeled “sugar-free” is not necessarily the way to go. Those foods are packed with artificial sweeteners or other ingredients that boost the flavor content such as fats and salts. Artificial sugars are highly controversial since it still hasn’t been proven that they’re safe in the long term. Some studies suggest that people actually overeat later when they eat sugar-free foods since they have the concept of getting a “freebie” in their mind even though the sugar-free foods can still be highly caloric. Even natural sugar substitutes like honey or agave are still high in calories.

Fruit Sugar is Actually Good For You

Fruit is extremely high in sugar, but that fructose sugar is handled differently by the body. Fruit also tends to be high in water and fiber, both of which are great at filling you up. It would be a lot harder to overeat on filling fruit than processed snacks even if you had the urge to (but you probably won’t). Reach for a piece of fruit to cap off a meal or as a midday snack to feed that sweet tooth the right way.