Which sugar to eat for a healthy diet ? A great question that finds a plethora of answers on the web with medical, nutritional advice, etc. with quite different point of views. With the arrival of sunny days, we will be bombarded again by a whole bunch of miracle programs and diets…not always “very healthy” for our organism. In addition, with Instagram, we see a lot of photos and food content that can give erroneous information. By this post, I want to share with you all the information that I have accumulated in my weight loss process and by exploring food in the broad sense.
Which sugar to eat : what is sugar ?
Sugar is a big food family, as are proteins, fats, fibers, etc. The family of sugars, also called carbohydrates, fall into two categories :
- fast sugars or simple carbohydrates : as their name suggests, these are sugars that will be quickly assimilated by our body. They will provide energy over a short period of time. Simple carbohydrates include sucrose (sugar from sugar beet), fructose (sugar found naturally in fruit) and lactose (sugar found naturally in milk) for example.
- slow sugars or complex carbohydrates : on the contrary, will take longer to digest and therefore will allow a more diffuse and stable energy supply over a longer period of time. Complex carbohydrates include starch and fiber, for example.
Fast sugars have tended, and sometimes still are, to be demonized and accused of causing weight gain, diabetes, etc. As for carbohydrates, they have often been banned from diets because they are supposed to “make you fat”. Still many and many of us refuse to eat them for this reason. The message I want to get across is that carbohydrates don’t make you fat. Well proportioned, they are an essential health ally. Carbohydrates are the fuel of our bodies, without them our diet cannot be balanced.
Which sugar to eat : the glycemic index
In order to better choose your sugars, the glyceric index (GI) will be invaluable information. The glycemic index allows you to compare portions of foods that contain the same weight of carbohydrate based on their ability to raise blood sugar. It indicates how quickly the glucose in a food gets into the blood.
All carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, cause the blood sugar level to rise sharply. This peak blood sugar occurs 30 minutes after their ingestion and is more or less long. It determines the glycemic index of the food.
A high glycemic index, between 70 and 100, corresponds to a food that increases blood sugar and insulin levels sharply and rapidly. When it is between 55 and 70, the GI is said to be moderate. Below 55, it is considered low.
But while they should only represent 10% of the 55% of carbohydrates recommended each day, high GI foods are currently the most consumed : white bread, refined cereals, potatoes, white flour, breakfast cereals…
What’s more, there are countless more products to which the food industry adds glucose, fructose or other sucrose to improve its taste. This is the case for sodas, confectionery and dairy desserts, but also for many prepared dishes ! As a result, more than half of the carbohydrates we eat come from added sugars
Here is more infos about foods and their glycemic index.
Why choose low GI foods ?
Ingestion of a food causes a rise in blood sugar. Insulin is the hormone that is secreted by the pancreas immediately after the ingestion of carbohydrates to allow glucose to be used by cells and to prevent sugar from remaining too much in the blood.
The more a food has a high GI, the more it raises blood sugar and the more insulin will be released. In the more or less long term, eating foods that have a high glycemic index can lead to a loss of insulin sensitivity in the body’s cells. This “resistance” to insulin causes it to lose efficiency and result in an overflow of blood sugar. Ultimately, this insulin resistance can cause obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
Which sugar to eat : some advice
In these conditions, how to have a balanced diet and be healthy ? On the one hand, it is important to limit the consumption of processed products and, on the other hand, by choosing foods with a low glycemic index. At the same time, stock up on fruits and green vegetables, legumes (lentils, dried beans, peas, etc.) or whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, barley…).
The fibers that these foods contain have the particularity of slowing the passage of carbohydrates in the blood. This allows you to have a longer feeling of satiety and to regulate blood sugar in a diffuse way. The only exception : wholemeal bread. The wheat bran from which it is made contains mainly insoluble fibers, which do not slow down the digestion of starch and therefore have practically no impact on blood sugar. On the contrary, barley, oats and rye are much richer in soluble fiber. Breads that contain whole seeds (wheat, millet, quinoa or flax seeds, for example) are also a safe way to lower the glycemic index, as well as a sourdough bread.
As for rice, the basmati variety is preferred because it is tastier and its glycemic index is significantly lower than that of traditional white rice. Potatoes, on the contrary, have a high GI but remain a healthy food. You just have to combine them with greens or raw vegetables to balance it all !
Other health posts :
- Gluten Free Diet
- My journey to become a vegetarian : why and how ?