Importance of Sugar in the Human Body
Posted on October 18th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera        London

Sugar receives blame for many health problems, but without it, your body would cease to function properly. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit, and lactose, or milk sugar, come from sources that benefit your diet. However, the sugars and syrups added during food processing and preparation, called added sugars, are viewed as a detriment to a healthy diet. Maximizing sugar’s benefits requires balancing the healthier and less wholesome sources.

Excess Sugar can cause health problems

Sugar has a reputation for causing health problems such as obesity, which can lead to diabetes, which can lead to heart disease. The list of complications seems endless. The ends of the spectrum include those who can’t get enough sugar and those who avoid it as much as possible. No matter how strict your diet is, however, there is sugar in just about everything you eat and for good reason. Sugar is essential for your survival; it provides the energy your body needs to function.

Diabetes and Insulin

Insulin is a hormone in the body produced by the pancreas. Your body uses insulin to move the sugar (glucose) obtained from food from the bloodstream into cells throughout the body. The cells are then able to use the sugar for energy.

When you have diabetes you either don’t make enough insulin or the insulin that you do make is not used as effectively as it should. In cases where not enough insulin is made by your body to meet your needs, several types of insulin products are available that allow you to replace the insulin your pancreas doesn’t make.

Because insulin is a protein, it cannot be taken by mouth. Like any protein, the insulin would be digested by the acid in the stomach, just like the food you eat. That’s why insulin is taken by injection (a shot).

Over the past decade, several new types of insulin have been developed to meet the different needs of people with diabetes.

 Sugar provides energy if used moderately

If used properly and in moderation sugar provides the source of energy your body uses for fuel, known as glucose. If your body runs out of stored energy, and there’s no immediate fuel available, it begins to look for other sources of energy to use, such as protein. You don’t want your body to use protein as a source of energy because of the possibility of damage to your kidneys, as a result of unnecessary stress. In some cars there is an extra emergency petrol tank because sometimes some people forget to top up the fuel similarly the body also needs some source of reserved energy to be used.

Fruits, vegetable and whole grain

Sugar from carbohydrates plays an important role in making sure you have energy to go about your day, to exercise and to carry out the most basic functions of your body, including brain activity. You have control over the kind of sugar you put in your body, which means you can use forms of sugar that your body will use over a period of time, such as a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. If you eat these types of foods, your body will process them more slowly than foods that contain added sugars. This means that your body will shore up its glycogen stores and you’ll have plenty of fuel for your body to use, without being in danger of depletion, which puts you at risk for impaired brain function, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 Just not table sugar any carbohydrate

No point that we always point our finger at supermarkets and blame for sugar added food in the supermarket. Remember any carbohydrate has sugar.

Sugar is found naturally in some foods, including fruit, honey, fruit juices, milk (lactose) and vegetables. Other forms of sugar (for example table sugar) can be added to food and drink such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks during manufacture, or added when cooking or baking at home. Remember sugar is a carbohydrate but not all carbs are sugars.

Foods that slow release of sugar are better

 Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. What about the types of food usually eat for breakfast in Sri Lanka, they do not have added sugar like in some Western breakfast cereals. I mentioned these Sri Lanka breakfast food such as string hoppers, hoppers, pittu, boiled chick peas, Kiribath”, boiled sweet potatoes, manioc, Kiri ala”, boiled or steamed jack and bread fruits? Most Western people think about ham, bacon, baked beans and sausages then packets of breakfast cereals only for breakfast but what about the above mentioned list of Sri Lankan food? Now those kinds of food are found anywhere but may be a trade trick, not to mention the healthy type of carbohydrates, I am not sure.

When I shop for those kinds of simple food, I hardly buy them at supermarkets even when they are available there as well but go for some street markets. Then you get more choice at a reasonable price as well. The supermarkets have overhead expenses so they need to put the price up where as street markets can afford to sell much cheaper. One thing, I shop for fruits and vegetable only at street markets but never any meat such as chicken and beef because they never keep them under hygienic conditions unlike the supermarkets. Sometimes they keep on chicken hanging all day just above the counter that kind of things are not hygienic. Have I got to remind all the different kinds of germs and bacteria that might grow in that conditions? In any supermarket you never see these kinds of display, they properly refrigerate any meat.

Sugar Amounts

The American Heart Association reports that the average American consumes about 22 tsp. of added sugar a day, which accounts for about 355 calories. That’s way too much. The AHA recommends that most women consume no more than about 6 tsp. of added sugar. Men should limit this discretionary sugar to about 9 tsp. When people consume large amounts of sugar, they tend to do so at the expense of more nutritionally valuable foods. The added calories can add weight, too, which can increase the risk of health problems such as heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Ceylon tea

Many years ago a glass of plain tea not cup of plain Ceylon tea with very little sugar was an excellent drink any time. Sometimes they add a piece of fresh ginger as well to give an additional taste. The milk available was not always cow’s milk but tinned one called condensed milk. Now in many restaurants, they give tea with cow’s milk and a bowel of sugar so that you tempt to add far too much sugar. That is the responsibility of the customers to use whatever they want than blaming them.

At home sometimes I drank plain tea with a piece of real kitual juggery. Only those who know the taste admit, it’s a nice combination. Even in England, most of the Asian food shops they are available but at a price.

Famous Salgadu Bakery

In some hotels they provide a whole stack of sweets and cakes with tea. Sometimes two or three stacks of plates full of varieties of sweets such as different cakes, Thalaguli, aggala, aluwa, and musket” and many more varieties of cakes are served with tea made with condensed milk. The waiter checks what is left then you pay for what is eaten.

When I was teaching at Stafford Boys College at Maradana, I usually come for tea at Salgadu bakery near the college. One day while I was in the hotel, a long-time friend saw me in the hotel then he dropped in to say hello. He was a funny person, he ate as much as possible and quickly from the stack of sweets and when the waiter came, he was really confused what he served. In some varieties there were any left while more were missing. That may be the reason now that we have to pay and take whatever we want to eat, not pay later. I have seen many Ananda College cricketers and other students as well in this place. Your comments are welcomed

2 Responses to “Importance of Sugar in the Human Body”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    One of the ways Sugar becomes either a health problem of a health solution is the way it is consumed. Bleached purified sugar is extremely bad for the body, but Fructose found in fruits, mixed in other natural nutrients and fibers then become a nutritious way to consume sugar.
    Other methods of sugar is natural honey added to tea to brown sugar in moderation. I personally use just half a teaspoon of white sugar in my morning tea. Outside of that I do not touch the stuff. Not in candy, chocolates etc. I love fresh fruit. My regular check ups show a healthy body be it my blood pressure, levels of sugar, cholesterol etc.

  2. aloy Says:

    Dr. Perera,
    Interesting article. Especially the part regarding Salgadu Hotel. Thanks.

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