Although too much sugar is harmful to health, our bodies most certainly need sugar to function effectively. When our bodies don’t have the sugar it requires, it becomes impossible for us to carryout our normal daily functions for lack of energy and proper stimulation of our brains and muscles. So this means that sugar is absolutely important and healthy. The problem comes in when people consume uncontrolled amounts of added sugar especially in processed foods. Natural sugar found in our natural foods do not pose a problem unless you already have a health condition that requires you to limit their consumption.
The key to a healthy sugar consumption is in understanding the difference between natural sugar and added sugar. Plenty of healthy foods are naturally high in sugar. In the case of carbohydrates like fruit, starches, starchy vegetables, yogurt, and milk, the food breaks down into sugar during the digestive process. These foods have a balance of sugar and the vitamins and minerals necessary for prime fitness.
Natural sugars (glucose) produce immediate energy and move any excess to storage for later. When you consume natural sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates, the body takes a long time to digest the food and therefore provides a steady level of glucose between meals. That will provide you with optimal energy and even-keeled emotions.
Added sugar, on the other hand, is found in almost any processed food you can buy. It spikes the blood sugar immediately but burns off very quickly, leading to a crash. Added sugar is used to make foods that don’t have much nutrition taste good. Because sugar is so vital to cellular function and energy, the cravings for it can be intense, and major food manufacturers know that heaping helpings of added sugar will get you hooked on their products.
Health care professionals are blaming the insane levels of added sugar in food products for the rise in Type 2 diabetes, when the body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels.
Also read : Food Digestion: How Long does it Take?
How Is Sugar Processed in the Body?
The carbohydrates you consume contain starch and sugars. Food sugars are commonly monosaccharides, or single sugar molecules, and disaccharides, which are molecules of two sugars joined together. Your body processes sugars through digestion, absorption and metabolism.
If the food you eat contains starch, its digestion begins in your mouth, where salivary amylase cleaves glucose molecules from the starch molecule. The remainder of starch digestion occurs in your small intestine with the action of another amylase secreted by your pancreas. When your body processes all your digestible carbohydrates into single-sugar monosaccharides, they are ready for absorption by your small intestine.
Finally, lining your small intestine are multitudes of folds called villi, and lining your villi are structures known as microvilli. These architectural features of your small intestine greatly increases the absorptive surface area of your digestive system. On the gut side of the villi and microvilli intestinal cells are special proteins called hexose transporters. These sugar transporters bind the free monosaccharides in your gut and ferry them, one by one, across the cell membrane to the interior of the intestinal cell. Once inside the cell, the sugars move to the other side of the cell, where different hexose transporters deposit them into the capillaries abutting the intestinal cell. From there, the sugars pass into your blood for further processing.
When glucose, fructose and galactose molecules reach your blood, they travel to your liver and to other cells. Your body can then process these sugars to synthesize glycogen, fatty acids or certain amino acids. Alternatively, your cells can oxidize monosaccharides to derive the energy cells need for various physiological functions. The oxidation of sugars within your cells results in the formation of adenosine triphosphate , a high-energy molecule that provides energy to drive the biological reactions in your cells; carbon dioxide, a waste product of sugar metabolism; and water.
Three (3) Main Functions Of Sugar In The Body
1. For Fuel
Your body derives energy from the sugar in your cells. In a process called glycolysis, your cells oxidize glucose to produce either pyruvate or lactate, which then is further metabolized to ultimately produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is a high-energy molecule that supplies your cells with fuel for activities such as muscle contraction. Your cells can also derive energy from sugars other than glucose, including fructose from fruit or table sugar and galactose from milk.
2. Energy Store
When you eat more dietary carbohydrate than your body needs as fuel, some of the excess sugar may convert to glycogen. Glycogen is a storage form of starch your muscles and liver stockpile in modest amounts. While your muscle glycogen is available strictly for use by your muscle tissue, your liver glycogen can travel to other tissues as needed. This matters because some organs, such as your brain, require glucose as an energy source. Your liver glycogen thus serves as a means to fuel your brain when your blood sugar levels are low.
3. Sparing of protein
Although your body prefers to burn dietary carbohydrates for energy over proteins or fats, when sugars are scarce, your body may turn to other sources to fuel itself. For example, if your sugar intake is low, you may burn the amino acids from your dietary protein to supply energy to your tissues. When you do this, however, the protein you consume is unavailable for other uses, such as building muscle or maintaining your current muscle mass. Sufficient dietary carbohydrates help you conserve your muscle tissue.