Sugar is a commonly used substance. Whether its in coffee, tea, or the key ingredient in your favorite candy, sugar is something we, as humans consume everyday. Sugar also comes in many varieties, some claiming to be more healthy than the other, and being safe for consumption for those with Diabietes. Other sugar based substances, like High Fructose Corn Syrup are rumored to be very harmful to the body.
With all of these varieties of sugar; aspartame, splenda, saccharine, and high fructose corn syrup, which are really safe to consume? What is sugar anyway? What do these varieties contain and how are they made? And is it really more beneficial to avoid sugar altogether, or to consume it in moderation?
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a close look at sugar, what it is, what it means for Autism, and some alternatives that may be safer than Sugar.
First of all, let’s take a look at the basics:
What is Sugar?
A simple definition of sugar is : “a white crystalline carbohydrate used as a sweetener and preservative.” However, it’s much more complicated than that especially with its substitutes. When the word “sugar” is used, it usually refers to sucrose which is derived from sugar cane and sugar beet, a cultivated plant.
The problems with Sugar
The problem with sucrose is that it can contribute to tooth decay. Most experts believe that too much sugar does not in fact cause diabetes. However, excessive calories from sugar can contribute to obesity which then can heighten the risk of diabetes.
Other Sugar Varieties
Other sugar varieties, which are typically used in industrial food preparation are glucose, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup.
Glucose itself is stored mainly in the liver and is an essential, primary source of energy for the brain. When glucose levels are low, certain psychological processes are impaired such as decision making and self control.
Fructose is a fruit sugar and is found in a variety of foods. It is also one of three important dietary monosaccharides along with glucose and galactose. Fructose is the most easily dissolved in water of all of the sugars. Substances such as honey, fruits (especially melons), and some root vegetables contain a great amount of molecular fructose in combination with glucose. This combination is stored in the form of sucrose.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is a corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic process to convert some of its glucose to fructose to achieve the desired sweetness. In the United States, cereal, beverages, yogurts, lunch meats, and soups commonly contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. The reason why High Fructose Corn Syrup is so commonly used is because it is quite inexpensive compared to other sugars.
Additionally High Fructose Corn Syrup may be a source of mercury, as we’ve learned and spoken about before, is a very dangerous neurotoxin and can cause numerous negative bodily effects on the autistic body.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has no saccharide and is used as a sweetener in some foods and drinks. It’s safety has been questioned over the years and a lot of internet hoaxes have accused Aspartame of being the cause of epidemics of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors. These accusations were proven false, and the FDA has not found, to this day any consistent proof that Aspartame causes any great danger to the body.
However, because of it’s chemical breakdown consisting of phenylalanine, Aspartame must be avoided by those with PKU, a condition marked by a deficiency of the PAH enzyme.
Splenda is a sucralose based artificial sweetener. The caloric content of Splenda is lower than Sugar. It is considered a safe substance, however there was a controversial study in which consumption caused a series of negative affects including reduction of fecal microflora. To get an idea of how Splenda is made and produced, take a look at its slogan: “It starts with sugar, it tastes like sugar, but it’s not sugar.”
When checking nutrition labels, Reader’s Digest offers a helpful suggestion:
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate devoid of any nutritional benefits. And even if an ingredient label doesn’t list sugar, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Manufacturers use more kinds of sugar than you can shake a stick at, and it’s worth familiarizing yourself with some of them so you’re not fooled into thinking an item is better for you than it is. Look for any of these:
-Evaporated cane juice
-Fruit juice concentrate
-High-fructose corn syrup
To get a sense of how much sugar you’re really eating, check the nutrition label for “Sugars,” listed in grams. Every 4 grams is equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar. Experts suggest we limit our sugar intake to 12 teaspoons a day for all food sources
Now that you’re familiar with the different types of sugars, it may be a bit easier while you’re wondering what to put in your coffee, tea, or what to check for on nutrition labels.
A preview for next week:
Could your child be addicted to sugar? What are some safe and healthy alternatives to sugar that can be used?
Photo Credit: via