Myth Debunked: Should we give up sugar for Lent?

Debating what to give up for Lent? Should sugar be on your list? It’s been related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline and cancer. We’re told it’s as addictive as heroin. Interest in all things sugar-free has boomed in the western world. Walking down any supermarket aisle, we can see new ‘healthier’ sugar-free alternatives. But is sugar really that terrible?

You’d be forgiven for being confused by the range of sugars that our body processes every day. There’s well-known glucose and fructose, and also galactose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, maltotriose. But all sugars are not created equal.

An apple has the same amount of sugar as four digestive biscuits, or 100ml of soda. They all contain fructose, the sugar blamed for  most sugar-related illness. Fructose can only be pro­cessed in the liver, meaning that high consumption of it can lead to insulin resistance and fatty liver deposits. But apples, whilst containing fructose, also contain nutrients and fibre that help the body digest the sugar more easily, cutting down its negative effects. The fructose from soda goes directly to the liver, without any nutrients to help our bodies process it.

Cutting out sugar entirely is a daunting prospect. Lots of foods still contain sugar. When we eat carbs, the body breaks them down into sugars. Lactose in milk contains sugar. So to cut out sugar entirely, we would need to avoid fruit, vegetables, dairy products, alcohol, and carbs. This leaves us with little more than meat and fat, not the healthiest diet! Such a restrictive diet can have side effects ranging from bad breath to malnutrition. Perhaps eating sugar isn’t so terrible after all.

So while eating excessive amounts of sugar is not recommended, we shouldn’t feel so guilty if we have another slice of prinjolata this Easter!

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