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All About Sugar

Is any amount of sugar OK? Are all sweeteners created equal? We bring you the answers to these and more cloying questions.

| November/December 2013

  • High-protein snacks offer satiety and a boost of energy without sugar and sweeteners.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson
  • Used in moderation, these natural sweeteners can make eating sweets a little bit healthier.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson

  • Photo By Thomas Gibson
  • Liquid sugars such as those in fruit juices and sodas are among the worst offenders for driving up insulin levels.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson

I was the last one to arrive at dinner. The three friends already seated had ordered a baguette with butter to tide them over as they waited to order their meals. I came hungry, too, but when I laid eyes on the crusty white bread before me, all I could see was a pile of sugar—an image that made it easy for me to ignore the bread while I waited to order my dinner.

Having been researching sugar for this article—where it hides, how our bodies make use of it, which kinds are best and worst—my brain was primed to see foods as a composition of smaller parts. In the case of white bread, I only saw glucose. And I was grateful.

More About Sugar

Making Sense of the Glycemic Index
What About Natural Sweeteners?

Like everyone, I have my vices and I enjoy them. I find great pleasure in cooking and eating. I love sweets. Still, I aim to consume food conscientiously. This means making some tradeoffs. For my portion of sugar, I’d rather have a well-made chocolate dessert than a couple slices of white bread as an appetizer, an occasional whiskey instead of a daily soda, homemade pasta for dinner rather than biscuits and gravy (white flour bread smothered in white flour sauce) for breakfast. And I’d rather have sugar I know about than stealthily sweetened processed food. I’ll have my Caesar salad without the added sugar, thank you.

Once you know what to look for (keep reading), you’ll be amazed at how prevalent sugar is in our food system. It shows up in shocking quantities in a wide range of surprising and not-so-surprising foods, from salad dressings to soda.

Yes, refined sugar is bad for us. Yes, it is addictive and can be toxic. But we are human, and as such, we are evolutionarily drawn to the calorie-dense prize that is sweet stuff. Aside from those of us willing to drastically monitor our diets, most of us are going to consume sugar sometimes. A bit of education can help us be smarter about when and how to do so.

Greg Parks
12/28/2013 11:12:38 AM

Article never called sugar a drug. It triggers a reward response like a drug - hence, we crave it and must have it.

Grax McCoar
12/27/2013 1:13:35 PM

Sugar is not a "drug" unless the serotonin in fruits and all vitamins in food are also "drugs". The writer prefers her easy carbs in whiskey? Isn't alcohol a "drug"?

Grax McCoar
12/27/2013 1:10:41 PM

Sugar is not a "drug" unless the serotonin in fruits is also a "drug" and the vitamins in food are "drugs".

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