The Big Sugar File: everything you need to know about sugar

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Sugar … an ingredient most of us love and hate at the same time. It is bad for us, yes, but deep down we want it. Now, the question is this: why is it bad? And what is happening inside our bodies? I will explain this to you and why Abbot Kinney’s is not adding any sugars to its Starters. I will also reveal which natural sugars we do use in our Frosts.

 What exactly is sugar?

Sugar is a source of energy for your body. It makes sure you are able to think and move. It perfectly explains why it is such a crucial ingredient. Sugar consists of fructose and glucose. Fructose is processed by the liver. Glucose is absorbed into the blood. The hormone known as insulin makes sure glucose goes to your tissues to make a perfect fuel.

Carbohydrates is the umbrella term for sugars, starch and fibres. Sugars provide flavour, adding structure to certain types of food (I will explain below in this article), but they are not equally sweet like those in wholegrain pasta and sweet potatoes. Although sweet potatoes taste slightly sweet. These carbohydrates have a long chain of sugars and they are absorbed more slowly. In a nutshell: your body needs to work harder to let in these nutrients. Other sugars taste sweet like fruits and honey. These chains are short and they are quickly absorbed by the body.
Sugar has as many as 56 different names like maltose, rice syrup, dextrose and juice concentrate. Hardly anybody knows all these names or takes the time to read food labels properly. It means we are not quite sure what we are actually allowing into our bodies. Avoiding sugar can be quite a challenge.

What is happening inside your body?

We need sugar. It is as simple as that. So basically, it is not necessarily a bad ingredient. But like so many things, consuming excessive amounts of sugar will jeopardise your health for sure.

Brain

Sugar interferes with many functions of the body. Like the brain. It helps release a substance called dopamine. The reward centre in your brain is activated. It makes you feel good and happy, indirectly encouraging you to eat more sugar.

Pancreas

Sugar also clearly has an impact on the pancreas. This organ sends out insulin to your blood to help regulate the blood sugar in your body. Consuming too much sugar can seriously overburden your pancreas. This will increase the risk of overweight and type 2 diabetes.

Fat storage

Consuming too much sugar can cause fat production in your liver. Also it encourages the production of abdominal fat and blood fats. This could make the body less sensitive to insulin, which again can cause type 2 diabetes. It is important to avoid sodas and fruit juices as much as you can. Because these products are all about sugar and they will not leave you saturated. The energy
that you are taking in is not compensated because you are not eating any less.

Teeth

The bacteria in your mouth will turn sugars into acids which might affect your dental enamel. Your mouth is exposed to many acids every single day and in case the mouth does not have enough time to recover well, cavities could be on the lurk.

Why add sugar?

Sugars add colour and flavour to food. Heating sugar beyond the melting point, and in the absence of proteins, a dark-brown colour and caramelised flavour present themselves. This is the case in products like sauces, sweets and dessert wines. So it is used for flavour, but there are a lot more purposes (e.g. filler, preservative, gel former, stabiliser, colourant, structure). In addition to all different functions, sugar is inexpensive. Products containing lots of added sugar, like candy and cake, are usually incredibly cheap.

The reason we are not adding any sugars to our Starts

Sugar: we cannot do with nor without it. As you may realise by now, your body needs sugar. But not as much as you are consuming on a daily basis. And therefore we have decided not to add any sugars to our Coco Start and Almond Start. We simply do not need it for the flavour nor for texture. Those with a sweet tooth may add some sugar to taste.

Natural fruit sugars in the fruit variations

The fruit variations of the Coco Start and Almond Start contain natural fruit sugars. But no extras are being put into these products. The organic fruits are sweet and tasty as they are, so why exaggerate (the sweetness)?

abbot-kinneys-fruit-flavours
These are the natural sugars we are adding to our Frosts (and why)

The Almond Frost and Coco Frost are not sugar-free. We would preferably have avoided any sugar in our Frosts, but (as far as we know) we then would not be able to make natural scoopable ice cream. So we are using a tiny bit, to get a good texture. The sugars that we have been using are agave syrup and coconut blossom sugar. Should we remind you not to eat ice cream on a daily basis?

Refined sugars versus natural sugars

Natural sugars obviously are produced by fruits, vegetables and legumes. These sugars often co-exist with other dietary fibres inside the products, like vitamins and minerals. This slows down absorption by the body, making you feel saturated more quickly.

Refined sugars (e.g. table sugar) have been stripped from all nutrients (fibres, vitamins and minerals). This type of sugar has been processed from sugar beet or cane sugar plant for instance. The natural product is ground, heated and crystallised in order to extract pure sugar. This type of sugar is quickly absorbed by the body and you will feel less saturated.

All sugars are the same

All sugars are the same and they are processed in the same way. But still, picking alternatives like coconut blossom sugar, maple syrup or agave syrup is a wise thing to do. These are unrefined sugars and they are slowly absorbed by the blood compared to refined sugars. Agave syrup is 25% sweeter than ordinary sugar. So you need less of it to get exactly the same flavour. Natural sugars have a lower glycemic index, indicating to what extent the product is affecting the blood sugar levels. This index is particularly interesting to people with diabetes, because having too many swings is not a good thing.

Maintaining a 100% sugar-free diet is impossible. Because sugar naturally exists in products like fruit, bread and milk. Here’s an example: a banana contains glucose and fructose among other things. You can consume these sugars by eating the entire banana or you could refine these sugars instead. It is all the same as far as your body is concerned, because it is sugar no matter what. This doesn’t make sense, you might be thinking right now. But the main difference is that a banana also includes all kinds of nutrients that will actually serve your body. Also you will feel perfectly saturated having eaten a banana (unlike the case with a glass of fruit juice). Of course you can avoid products to which sugars have been added as much as you possibly can.

Sources: Voedingscentrum (Nutritional Centre), Diabetes Fund, Optimal Health, Man and Health