The 5 Unexpected Benefits of Sugar
It often seems like you can’t browse through your favorite online news source without seeing a study (or advertisement) about the dangers of sugar. According to many experts, sugar is the ONE Thing most people need to eat less of throughout the year. Do Americans eat way too much sugar? Yes. Is it healthy to permanently remove all sugar from your diet? No.
At the heart of the sugary situation is the fact there are two types of sugar:
There are sugars that occur naturally in fruits and milk. These sugars are complex carbohydrates that provide nutrition and help regulate blood sugar.
Refined white sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, honey and syrups that are added to food are the focus of all those health studies. These added sugars are simple carbohydrates that provide little nutritional value and can cause spikes in blood glucose levels.
The latest Dietary Guidelines suggest that added sugars account for less than 10 percent of your daily calories. But every age group in the U.S. consumes more than the recommended amount of sugar. Kids 9-18 years old eat the most added sugar – around 17 percent of their daily calories. Sweetened beverages are the number one source of all those sugary calories.
The holidays are the sweetest time of year, which can make controlling sugar intake difficult. And we don’t want you sitting on the sidelines while your peers enjoy the fruit cake. Like most things in life, as long as you eat sugar in moderation it can actually provide some sweet benefits, especially when you have a busy schedule.
Sweet Benefit #1 – Sugar Can Provide an Immediate Burst of Energy
A healthy diet that supports productivity includes sugar. Glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel, and it comes from the breakdown of sugar. Sucrose contains a fructose molecule and a glucose molecule. The body splits the molecules apart, and insulin helps transport the glucose to cells where it’s instantly metabolized and converted into energy. Without glucose we wouldn’t have stamina for all of ourholiday festivities.
Sweet Benefit #2 – Sugar Helps You Store Energy for Later
Sugar can provide energy beyond the immediate boost. After glucose is converted into energy for immediate use, the body will store some of the glucose as an energy reserve for later. The process is called glycogenesis. Glucose molecules are connected together in what’s known as a glycogen chain. The glycogen chain is broken down in single glucose units whenever there’s no primary source of energy.
What’s great about the glycogenesis process is that it allows us to go extended periods without eating – and there are some days around this time of year where that comes in handy. It’s worth noting, however, to still be mindful of your intake because when glucose exceeds storage capacity it’s converted into fat.
Sweet Benefit #3 – Sugar Can Provide an Instant Mood Boost
It should come as no surprise that sugar makes us happy. We’re so hardwired to like sugar, two sweet-receptor genes have been discovered that can predict how strong your sweet tooth will be. Regardless of genes, sugar activates the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of dopamine. This will produce an immediate, euphoric feeling.
Here again you have to be careful with how much sugar you eat. Too much of a good thing (i.e. sugar) can actually cause the opposite effect. If you find yourself habitually overindulging, check out our Willpower Cheat Sheet for tricks to increase your willpower!
Sweet Benefit #4 –Naturally Sweet Chocolate Can Improve Thinking Skills
Chocolate is a source of natural sugar, but it also contains other healthy components. Each bite provides a surge of antioxidants along with cocoa flavanols. Researchers have discovered that cocoa flavanols can improve cognitive function, and studies out of Italy have found that it can even improve thinking skills regardless of whether a person has cognitive impairment.
Researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact cause for the sharper thinking skills, but they theorize that cocoa flavanols protect against brain cell damage and help create connections within the brain. For the biggest cognitive boost, stick to minimally-processed dark chocolate, which contains the highest levels of cocoa flavanols. You’ll also get an extra surge of sweetness and flavanols by choosing dark chocolate infused with berries.
Sweet Benefit #5 – Natural Sugar Sources Come With Added Nutrients
When you select natural sources of sugar they usually include healthy nutrients alongside their sweet counterparts. Dairy products, fruits and veggies all provide natural sugars in addition to fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and hydration. You can indulge in all the natural sweets you want without creating unhealthy insulin spikes.
Despite all the benefits, sugar consumption has to be limited or it can do more harm than good. What’s the ONE thing you can do, such that by doing it, would make limiting sugar consumption easier or unnecessary?
You don’t have to forgo all the holiday foods you love.Enjoy eating some sugary sweets and treats in moderation at the holiday parties you have planned and ride the energy, mood, and brain boost into the New Year!