Natural sugar vs refined sugar
Natural sugar vs refined sugar
Eating an apple or a jam sandwich
Lets take a look at what sugar does to the body. Is there a difference between natural sugar from whole food – like eating an apple; and refined sugar – like eating a jam sandwich?
Let’s follow an apple through the body:
When eating an apple, after a short stay in the stomach it moves into the small intestine and reabsorption starts. This means the sugar molecules (glucose) pass through the intestinal wall, arrive in the blood and the level of blood glucose rises. With this form of natural sugar (the apple), the blood sugar level rises gradually over 1-2 hours from 80-100mg to 120-150mg.
And now it is time for the pancreas to start with the insulin secretion (into the blood). What does insulin do? Insulin is like a truck that carries the glucose (like firewood) to the organs, muscles and nerve cells.
The organs then take the wood to the fire, getting the energy to do their work. Now the blood glucose (blood sugar level) drops back over 1-2 hours to 80-100mg again.
The natural sugar in the apple is not pure glucose – it comes with essential vitamins, roughage and minerals. These associated nutrients act like a brake; blocking the glucose from pushing too quickly into the blood. We can imagine it like good quality firewood – it burns consistently and long.
If all organs are 'burning' well and there is still wood (glucose) left in the blood, the 'truck' (insulin) transports it into the liver. Here the wood gets transformed so it is easy to store, into 'chipboards'. These 'chipboards' are called glycogen, which is our stock for lean times.
When these lean times don't come often enough the stock overfills and we need more storage space. To get that additional storage the glucose must be converted (into fat) and deposited around the body. We often call these new storage areas ... problem areas
If no more food arrives into the stomach, after a while the blood glucose level drops because the organs are taking glucose out of the blood all the time. If it drops a lot the pancreas sends in a team of workers with axes and saws (glucagon) into the liver, to divide out the stored up 'chipboards' (glycogen) into wood again, so the organs can use it for energy. In this way the sugar level in the blood is constantly in balance.
But unfortunately we eat a lot of processed or refined sugar which contains no nutrients; like a jam sandwich or sweets, noodles, dairy products such as fruit yoghurt ... and so on.
These sugar forms – for example, the jam sandwich – come into the blood without any brakes (no nutrients) and so the sugars flood quickly into the blood, causing the sugar level in the blood to rise very high, very fast – like a sugar tsunami!
As sawdust would burn compared to wood, so the jam sandwich can be compared to the apple:
- It burns rapidly and the fire is over in a few seconds.
- The blood sugar rises in 30 minutes to 150-180mg (this causes an adrenalin rush) and the pancreas sends teams of trucks/insulin to carry this flood of sawdust/sugar speedily to the organs.
- With this flurry of activity – the blood glucose level drops in 1-1.5 hours to a record low of around 50mg ... and so we become tired and crave sugar again!
- Instead of a slow, balanced rise and fall of sugar levels in the blood with an ongoing fire and glow we get a quick, tsunami style rise and fall with grass fires that go out fast and leave us exhausted and 'sugar needy' again.
This illustrates our mood swings after a sweet breakfast and why we get hungry even though our clothes are getting tighter and tighter ...
So "what sugar does to the body" depends on which kind of fire we get and that depends on whether we go for natural or refined sugar in what we eat, such as in eating an apple or a jam sandwich ... or you might like to find healthy snack ideas in our recipes.