Sugar, no matter what form it comes in, is known as a simple carbohydrate. The body converts carbohydrates into glucose to use for energy. Where you get your sugar, however, can influence your overall health.
Some people have a skewed perception of the sugar in fruits. The reality is that the sugars in fruits are not the same as refined sugars in packaged foods, and they don’t behave the same way either. Natural sugars like fructose are found in fruits, and these fruits can aid the prevention of free radicals, heart disease, and cancer. Refined sugars, on the other hand, come from sugar beets or sugar cane and are processed to extract the sugar. This is known as sucrose, the combination of fructose and glucose. Food manufacturers add processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, or brown sugar to crackers, instant oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings, beverages, sauces, and more. These foods contain little to no nutritional value.
The sugars that are in fruits are accompanied by antioxidants, fiber, water, and a variety of vitamins and minerals that work to prevent blood glucose levels from spiking. These added nutrients also help to increase insulin sensitivity. This isn’t to say that sugars in fruit can’t spike blood sugar levels, because they can; rather, it is to say that the body uses much less insulin to metabolize the sugars in fruits than it does to metabolize the sugars in packaged foods.
Glycemic Index Vs. Glycemic Load
Diabetics typically have to pay attention to the glycemic index (GI) in various foods. The GI score ranges from 1-100, the score indicating how quickly the food can raise blood sugar levels. While the GI is important, the glycemic load (GL) may be of equal importance, because it is a more accurate way of determining how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar over time. Foods with low GI and low GL can help control blood sugar levels.
The body metabolizes sugars from fruit differently than it does refined or added sugars. Refined sugars are metabolized quickly, raising blood sugar levels and causing you to remain hungry. There is no real nutrition and the food is quickly digested, which explains why you can eat a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips without feeling full. Fruits, on the other hand, typically contain fiber, which helps to slow metabolism and lead to the gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream.
There’s one thing we have to warn you about. The amount of sugar that is already present in your system can determine how the body uses the sugar you eat, no matter if it comes from a candy bar or an apple. Excess sugar in the body can cause the sugar you consume to form fat or glycogen, which is glucose that is stored for energy.
The Big Picture
You have to keep in mind that eating a small amount of high-GI foods will affect your blood sugar the same way that eating a large amount of low-GI foods will. Watermelon, for instance, has a GI of 72, which is considered high, but most people aren’t eating an entire watermelon in one sitting. That GI number is based on 50 grams of carbohydrates, which is the amount used to measure every food’s GI number. The GL combines the quality of the sugar and the quantity of carbohydrates consumed; therefore, eating one cup of watermelon means that you are eating a GL of 9, which is very low.
When you are making food choices, it is always best to opt for whole foods, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. You want sweet potatoes and quinoa as opposed to white bread or refined grains. It is important to pay attention to your food choices, focus on portion control, and steer clear of sugar additives in order to balance your blood sugar in the long term. Your body learns to love the food you feed it, so feeding it healthy food means you’ll begin to prefer healthier foods and flavors.
If you are still on the fence about fruits, try consuming 80% vegetables and 20% fruits during your cleanse. The fruits below have a GI of 55 or lower and a GL of 10 or lower.