Although sugar is related to so many health problems, without it, the body ceases to function properly. Sugar occurs naturally in the foods we eat such as fruits, vegetables and these are very beneficial in your diet.
It is important to note, however, that the sugars and artificial sweeteners added during food processing and preparation are very detrimental to your health. If one wants to benefit from sugars, they must balance the healthier and less sugar sources.
According to Amanda Tumewbaze, a freelance nutritionist, the body processes glucose from sugar but the same glucose can be extracted from starch, protein and fats that we eat. One should focus on including high fibre diet, which has complex carbohydrates.
Sugar has its place in your diet, but many health and diet experts warn that excess sugar consumption can lead to several serious health complications and diseases.
She says, “Excessive sugar intake disrupts your normal eating pattern, causes overeating and leads to obesity. To decrease your risk for these complications, eat foods and drinks with little added sugar.”
Honey as an alternative
Besides being a great natural source of carbohydrates which provides strength and energy to our bodies, honey is also effective in instantly boosting brain performance, endurance and reduces muscle fatigue of athletes.
Dr Ismail Tamale, a nutritionist at Taimex Uganda Limited, says, “Its natural sugars play an important role in preventing fatigue during exercise. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly and gives an immediate energy boost, while the fructose is absorbed more slowly providing sustained energy.”
Although honey contains simple sugars, it is not the same as the manufactured white sugar or artificial sweeteners. “It is a combination of fructose and glucose which helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. It is known that honey has also been found to keep levels of blood sugar fairly constant compared to other types of sugar,” he says.
It is known to heal wounds and burns as it can stimulate the production of immune cells. External application of honey to a wound is as effective as conventional treatment because the drying effect of the simple sugars and honey’s antibacterial nature combine to create this effect.
Tamale says, “One of the better known health benefits of honey is that it is able to help treat sore throats. Honey not only soothes throats but can also kill certain bacteria that may cause infection. Professional singers commonly use honey to soothe their throats before performances.”
If you have a hangover from drinking too much alcohol, its effects can be combated by using a honey home-made remedy.
Since honey is gentle on the stomach and contains a mix of natural sugars such as fructose, this will help in speeding up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver thereby acting as a sobering agent. Mix liquid honey with orange juice and natural yoghurt. Blend them together until smooth.
Honey possesses anti-tumour properties according to research and there could be a potential role played by honey in the prevention and the progression of tumours and cancer. Honey is a natural antioxidant and has the ability to prevent cognitive decline and dementia and enhance the brain’s cell system as well as circulation.
“The anti-bacterial qualities contained in honey are good for the skin. When used with the other ingredients like aloe Vera and cucumber, it can help in moisturising and nourishing the skin,” says Tumwebaze.
Your body needs carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar in your body. This sugar is essential for your body to create energy to survive. However, it is not necessary to include sugary foods or added sugars in the diet in order for your body to make energy.
However, Tumwebaze says, “Excessive sugar is associated with many health problems such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, chronic inflammation, dental plaque and cavities and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Good and bad sugars
There are indeed bad and good sugars and the best kind of sugars are those that occur naturally in foods and fruits. However, natural sugar additives like honey, maple syrup and stevia are also recommendable for both children and adults.
“However, children below one year should not be given honey because it contains some amounts of bacterial spores that can be toxic to infants,” Dr Tamale says.
Artificial sweeteners which include sucralose, aspartame, fructose corn syrup and saccharin which is commonly used in tea or coffee, and food companies add it to jams, candies, powdered drinks; dairy products, soft drinks and chewing gum are the worst sugar choices.