A recent news article in the NYTimes depicted how the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960’s to downplay the link between sugar & heart disease, and instead shifted the blame to saturated fats. It’s too easy to look at these findings and say all sugar = bad, but nutrition is a lot more complicated than that. In fact, sugar plays a crucial role in our diet.
All carbohydrates end up being broken down into glucose for fuel. Glucose is a type of sugar and is one of our body’s most efficient energy sources. As a mixed sport athlete, glucose is critical for high intensity exercises.
Many starchy vegetables are rich in carbohydrates that can fuel your training & provide you with a host of vitamins & minerals. These starchy vegetables contain complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest, reducing your insulin response. When you need a faster digesting carbohydrate, typically around your training, simple carbohydrates ( sugars ) are a good choice. Fruit, for example, is a good source of sugars. This is because fruit typically contains fiber that slows down the digestion of glucose and reduces the insulin spike. Of course, in addition to sugar, fruit is also rich in vitamins & minerals that are beneficial to our health. Honey is another good choice because of its health benefits, one of which being anti-inflammatory. Both natural sources of glucose can be beneficial when consumed at the right time ( around your workout ) and within moderation.
The real issue is excessive consumption of processed sugar. When sugar is found in nature, it has a host of other nutrients attached to it. It’s also a lot more filling than processed sugar and as a result, you don’t consume as much. Say for example, you try to consume 10 bananas versus 10 candy bars. It’s a lot easier to consume these higher concentrated candy bars than the comparable fruit. The result of consuming a lot of processed sugar is an excessive amount of calories that leads to a host of health issues.
Moral of the story, monitor your processed sugar intake but there's no need to run for the hills.