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The Importance of Sugar in Your Diet

By Rhonda Alexander, MS, MA, CFT

Sugar has a reputation for causing health problems such as obesity, which can lead to diabetes, which can lead to heart disease. The list of complications seems endless. The ends of the spectrum include those who can't get enough sugar and those who avoid it as much as possible. No matter how strict your diet is, however, there is sugar in just about everything you eat -- and for good reason. Sugar is essential for your survival; it provides the energy your body needs to function.

Sugar Is Energy

If used properly -- and in moderation -- sugar provides the source of energy your body uses for fuel, known as glucose. If your body runs out of stored energy, and there's no immediate fuel available, it begins to look for other sources of energy to use, such as protein. You don't want your body to use protein as a source of energy because of the possibility of damage to your kidneys, as a result of unnecessary stress.

Healthful Sources of Sugar

Sugar from carbohydrates plays an important role in making sure you have energy to go about your day, to exercise and to carry out the most basic functions of your body, including brain activity. You have control over the kind of sugar you put in your body, which means you can use forms of sugar that your body will use over a period of time, such as a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. If you eat these types of foods, your body will process them more slowly than foods that contain added sugars. This means that your body will shore up its glycogen stores and you'll have plenty of fuel for your body to use, without being in danger of depletion, which puts you at risk for impaired brain function, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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