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Which sugars are bad for gut health?

One of the most discussed topics in nutrition and gut health has undoubtedly got to be sugar. To have a healthy gut does not mean we need to stop eating sugar altogether, though sugar alternatives could actually be harming our gut health, as Nutrition Editor Eve Kalinik explains…

by Psychologies

Sucrose (as in straight up white sugar) is broken down pretty high up in the digestive tract so it doesn’t reach the large intestine where most for your gut microbes live and contrary to some opinions have such a negative impact on our gut health. However excessive consumption of any sugar still carries chronic disease risks, most notably type-2 diabetes. And the fact that something is labelled a ‘natural’ sugar such as coconut blossom, honey, maple syrup, agave or such like doesn’t really make much of a difference. Sugar is sugar at the end of the day and it amounts to the same thing.

 “All things considered, especially for the health of our gut, when it comes to sugar I would go straight-up rather than opt for the artificial stuff.” 

The no-added sugar line might seem favourable but it comes with a host of issues. The idea that artificially sweetened foods and drinks can satisfy our taste for sugar without negative consequences is highly questionable. Evidence is emerging that links certain artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, to metabolic diseases and crucially they also appear to negatively impact on our gut health. Research indicates these ‘fake’ sugars may alter the metabolic activity of gut microbes and the positive substances they produce that help to manage inflammation in the entire body. Even some of the more recent plant-derived versions such as stevia and xylitol can be highly processed with many people reporting tummy troubles after consumption.

I wholeheartedly believe when it comes to sugar a little bit of what you fancy does you good. One thing is for sure, we shouldn’t feel guilt around sugar as the self-imposed judgement and anxiety that comes with restriction is far more detrimental than having a bit of cake or chocolate here and there. Sugar should be part of an overall whole-food and nutrient-dense diet. We just need to be smart about it and enjoy it mindfully and for the treat that it is.

Eve Kalinik is a Nutritional Therapist and Author.