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Consuming added sugars: reactions of the body

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Introduction

The effects of sugars on our health are the subject of ongoing discussion and medical research. Experts, however, unanimously agree that sugar intake must be limited to a minimum to avoid the onset of chronic pathologies series. In a healthy and balanced diet, sugars must not be missing, as they are essential for the correct functioning of the body, however, even if not completely eliminated, they must be limited to 10% of the total daily calories. The quantity corresponds on average to two teaspoons of coffee per day.

Added sugars: limit intake

The intake of added sugars and free sugars, according to scientific evidence, it should limited to a minimum to stay healthy. The indication of 10% of daily calories, in reality, is not a quantity applicable to all types of diet. There is therefore no threshold in medicine that is universally shared and suitable for all people. In addition to the teaspoons of sugar added to coffee or tea, or in the cake dough, the sugars in fruit, milk, some vegetables and the hidden sugars in some foods which dramatically increase the daily quantity consumed must also be considered.

A diet, in fact, includes different categories and sources of sugars, which can be natural or added. In particular, refined “added sugars” but also naturally “free sugars” are of greatest concern present in honey, syrups, fruit and vegetable juices.

“Added Sugars” on the label…

It often happens that you read the words “no added sugar” on food labels. To understand what this means it is useful to understand what is meant by added sugars, or sugars refined people who come added in packaged foods during the manufacturing process, in order to obtain a more pleasant flavour, a different consistency or longer shelf life. By doing so, it is easy to understand how the quantity of sugars and calories contained increase modestly, ending up in an unconscious increase in daily sugar consumption. With added sugars, the glycemic intake of foods increases, which causes the onset of various metabolic and cardiovascular pathologies.

Added sugars: what are they?

Among the sugars added to foods we find sucrose, table sugar extracted from beetroot or sugar cane (white or raw); fructose, fruit sugar; glucose; maltodextrins; corn and rice syrups, considered hidden added sugars, as the name could mislead and not make you think of sugar.

Natural sugars and added sugars: what are the differences?

Let's start by saying that from a nutritional point of view, there is no difference between added sugars and natural ones. Both are found in certain foods, such as fruit, milk or honey. What makes the difference, and is relevant, is the way in which these sugars are taken in (more or less hidden in foods) and metabolised by the body. If we consume fruit, we introduce sugars into the body, i.e. fructose, but also vitamins, mineral salts, antioxidants, flavonoids. Likewise, when we drink a glass of milk, we consume lactose (milk sugar), but also calcium, proteins, etc. Added sugars in industrial products, on the other hand, are sugars that are extracted from natural foods, but which lose all the other nutrients beneficial to health and which are able to counterbalance the absorption of sugar in the blood.

At a metabolic level, natural sugars are processed more slowly by the body, while added sugars enter the circulation immediately and cause insulin spikes.

Types of sugar

There are various types of sugar consumed daily. They differ in color, texture and taste. There are white or dark colored sugars, of the granulated type and with a more or less fine grain consistency. Sucrose and fructose are the most common sweet and soluble granular carbohydrates such as table sugar, obtained from sugar beet and sugar cane. There are also other natural sugars on the market such as apple sugar, coconut sugar, etc.

The color of granular sugar does not determine its quality, but in general the white one is more refined, since during the production cycle it is deprived of the molasses – typically dark in colour, therefore the brown sucrose and in large crystals, i.e. the one commonly understood as sugar made of raw cane, it has the same characteristics as the white one – also made of beetroot.

Whole sugars, on the other hand, are not subjected (or only partially) to centrifugation and refining processes. An example is muscovado, which contains a greater quantity of minerals and vitamins, and a lower glycemic and caloric load.

Icing sugar, on the other hand, is obtained from sucrose in ultra-fine grains with the addition of starch powder.

Excess sugar: pathologies

Sugar is considered a high energy density food. Excess consumption can lead to the onset or worsening of certain pathologies, including:

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