Sugar, friend or foe?

Sugar, friend or foe?

Sugar is a very interesting topic, on a nutritional point of view. Every day we hear about it,  there is someone talking good and others even categorize it as toxic.  

So, are sugars good or evil?

Let’s try to shed some light on this really relevant topic which has become critical to our health. (SUGARS ARE A BASIC SOURCE OF ENERGY, SUGARS ARE ESSENTIAL TO OUR HEALTH, SUGARS ARE GOOD, EVERYTHING IN EXCESS IS BAD)

The truth is that it depends, as the great German physician Paracelsus once said:

“The dose makes the poison.”

Let’s take a closer look at what sugars really are

What are sugars?

Sugars are biomolecules consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). Biochemically they belong to a group called carbohydrates, and they are further divided into simple and complex. Remember, that carbohydrates are a simple, quick available source of energy.

Simple sugars have 2 categories: 

  • Monosaccharides: they are the simplest form of sugar and the most basic units of carbohydrates. Examples of monosaccharides include glucose, fructose (glucose and fructose are found mainly in foods like fruits and their derivatives like juices) and galactose (a sugar found mainly in dairy products).
  • Disaccharides: the union of 2 monosaccharides is called a disaccharide. Examples include sucrose (a molecule composed of two monosaccharides: glucose and fructose) and lactose (composed of galactose and glucose).


Complex sugars have 2 categories:

  • Oligosaccharides: is a large molecule of sugar-containing typically from 3 to 10 molecules of simple sugars.
  • Polysaccharides: is the largest molecule of sugar-containing more than 10 molecules of simple sugars, these are the most common carbohydrate in the human diet and is contained in many staple foods. The major sources worldwide are rice, wheat, maize, potatoes many kinds of beans, such as favas, lentils, mung beans, peas, and chickpeas.


Based on this, we need to understand that almost everything in our diet contains a type of sugar, and we need to start to discern between natural containing sugars in food and the added sugars that come with many processed or frozen foods. Taking these into account now we can figure out where excess sugar consumption comes from; it is mainly not from whole foods but rather the abuse of industrially processed foods that takes a toll on our health.


PART 1/2 - Written by Antonio Reyes, RDN.
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