One of the dietary fads that are currently a rage is to eliminate sugar from the diet. This isn’t likely to actually happen, but most people don’t realize how good this substance is. Sugar is exceptionally important in a lot of ways and it can be helpful to understand a little more about it.
What sugar is
Sugar is a substance that is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. For instance, glucose, which is a very common sugar, is made up of six atoms of carbon, 12 atoms of hydrogen, and six atoms of oxygen. This gives it a chemical formula of C6H12O6. There are other kinds of sugar as well, like fructose, dextrose, and maltose, but all of them contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The difference is in the amounts of these three elements that they contain.
The source of sugar
All plants that photosynthesize produce sugar, naturally. The sugar is a combination of carbon dioxide or CO2 and water or H2O. Sunlight provides the energy for these two compounds to combine and the product of the combination is sugar. This is the natural source of sugar.
When animals eat the plants, some of the sugar ends up in the animal’s cells. When other animals eat the plant-eating animals, some of the sugar ends up in their cells, too. Still, it all starts with plants, which produce the sugar, to begin with. This is what is meant when it is said that plants are the base of the food chain. Without plants, there would be no sugar. Even plants require sugar in order to grow.
Energy from sugar
The energy from sunlight is used by plants to produce sugar, as already explained. The energy doesn’t just go away after the sugar is produced, though. It is locked up in the sugar molecule. When sugar is digested and broken down, the energy is released. It is this energy that powers every cell in your body. In fact, it is this energy that is what is referenced when people talk about how many calories a given amount of food contains. ‘Calorie’ is a measure of energy.
Sugar becomes other substances
The cells of the body also use sugar, combined with other elements, to produce other substances that are needed for animal life. For instance, most people have probably heard the term, “amino acid”. An amino acid is a combination of sugar with an amine. An amine contains nitrogen and oxygen.
An example of an amino acid is glutamine. Glutamine has a chemical formula of C5H10N2O3. That is, it contains five carbon atoms, 10 hydrogen atoms, two nitrogen atoms, and three oxygen atoms. This is basically sugar combined with nitrogen. Amino acids are also necessary for animal life to exist.
Importance of sugar
It all starts with sugar. The breakdown of sugar provides the energy for survival. It also can and is recombined into substances such as amino acids, which are also essential for survival. Without sugar, we couldn’t survive. Nearly all plants produce sugar as a product of photosynthesis, though. The few exceptions are just those plants that don’t use photosynthesis.
Sugar and diet
A person might wonder, given all of this information, why a ‘sugar-free’ diet is a fad in the first place. The reason is that not only do all fruits, vegetables, and meats contain sugar and sugar derivatives, most that are processed and sold in the store have additional sugar added to them. Putting it mildly, most people have far too much sugar in their diets.
A sugar-free diet doesn’t actually exist since there is sugar in virtually everything we eat. However, lowering the amount of sugar in the diet is normally a good idea. Sugar is important and it is essential. Too much sugar isn’t a good thing, though. Thus, this is a fad that is misnamed, but it has a solid reason behind it. We do need sugar in our diet, we just don’t need it in the quantity that it is normally consumed.