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Is sugar really that bad for you?

A student, quietly studying a textbook, is rarely aware of what’s happening in their brain cells. There are billions of glucose (aka sugar) molecules that are splitting to provide the energy to allow for their concentration and learning. Did you know that glucose provides nearly all of the energy the human brain uses daily?

Similarly, a marathon runner, surging across the finish line in an explosion of sweat and triumph, infrequently gives credit to the glycogen fuel that is devoured to help them finish the race.

However, together these two carbohydrates (CHO) – glucose & it’s storage form, glycogen – provide about half of all the energy that muscles and other body tissue use. The other half of the body’s energy comes mostly from fat (cue shock factor). We will do another post on fat later.

People eat very little glucose and glycogen in their foods directly. When they eat foods rich in CHO, their bodies receive glucose for immediate energy and convert the remainder into glycogen for reserve energy. All plant foods – wholegrains, vegetables, legumes and fruits – provide ample CHO. Milk also contains CHO.

Many people mistakenly think of CHO as ‘fattening’ or ‘bad’ and avoid them while trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Teaching our children that sugar is ‘bad’ is not necessarily correct as they don’t understand exactly what this means. It’s a little more complex than that. This strategy may be helpful if the CHO are the simple sugars of discretionary foods such as soft drinks and lollies (these are okay in small amounts, let’s be honest here, we just don’t need them everyday. We also don’t want to shame anyone’s food choices as that doesn’t align with our philosophy here at LLL), but teaching that all sugar is 'bad' is counterproductive if the CHO are the complex CHO of the wholegrains, vegetables and legumes.

Not all CHO are created equal and if we use blanket statements that sugars and fats are bad for you then we are sending out an incorrect message, especially to our children. CHO (aka sugar) and fat IS necessary for optimal health. Learning these fundamentals and encouraging variety in your children’s everyday diet with the correct sources of nutrition is what’s key.

Lilly's Little Lunchbox meals are planned by a Dietitian and prepared by our lunchbox legends team to help you and your family on your journey to instilling healthy eating habits for all generations, present and future.

When planning our meals and communicating with our community we love frequently referring to peer-reviewed journals and our favourite text books.

Some of the above facts are quoted from Whitney, E. Rolfes, S. Crowe, T. Cameron-Smith, D. Walsh, A. 2014. Understanding Nutrition: Australia and New Zealand 2nd Edition. Australia: Cengage Learning Australia Pty Ltd.

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