To the surprise of very few, I won't state that sugar is the most nutritious food item. It has no vitamins. No minerals. No phytonutrients. No protein. No fibers. Not even fats. It's pure carbohydrate. It does contains energy.
Human body, like any other body, needs energy to move (in other words, to live). We get energy mostly from carbs and fats. But one of the organs, called the brain – there's an urban legend some people actually use it – cannot use fat as a source of energy. Okay, in cases of starvation it can use ketones, which are produced from fats, but it doesn't prefer this kind of fuel so it's not exactly efficient. Have you noticed that you feel almost dumb when you're hungry? Now imagine what it's like if you're starving.
Reasons for going overboard with sugar
Sugar is tasty, and there's an evolutionary reason for this. Sweet foods are rich in energy, and energy was up until recently a limited resource for mankind. Evolution has decided to motivate people to seek energy using their taste buds – all in order to survive.
Evolution is a lot slower than human civilization. We have plenty of food nowadays, so tasty sugar is easy to lose control with. Going overboard results in one or two consequences.
Consequence No. 1. Higher energy intake results in fat storage – getting fat – which has a negative effect on health.
Consequence No. 2. High sugar intake makes us „forget“ to consume enough of food of high nutritive value, which leads to nutrient deficiency – which will have a direct negative effect on health.
And sugar... Sugar causes cavities. Without a doubt. But that is why we use toothpaste. Or at least we should.
If we accept cavity as a relatively easily preventable issue, we can conclude that sugar itself is not harmful. It doesn't make you fat. It won't poison you. It doesn't even cause diabetes. It doesn't cause addiction. I don't know about you, but I don't have very many friends who eat a bowl of sugar with a spoon. But maybe they're afraid to tell me because I'm a nutritionist.
How much sugar is too much?
There's no exact limit. A 60-year old inactive woman will have a much lower threshold than a professional athlete who trains twice a day. Ladies, I'm sorry. Life isn't fair sometimes. Actually, nature does not know justice. But I digress. I'll set a relative boundary with my next question:
What happens if we consume enough of all necessary nutrients, and eat so much sugar we don't go surpass our daily energy requirements? Nothing. We'll maintain a healthy diet, and won't be miserable due to skipping the sweet enjoyment.
In order for a diet to be healthy, it must satisfy all our nutrititional needs. But healthy diet isn’t just nutrients, and we don't expect sugar to satisfy our nutritive needs. We want it to satisfy our taste buds. To give us pleasure, joy. You don't have to be a gourmand, but it is a shame not to enjoy your food.