The Science of Sugar


Let's have a science lesson and as a bonus you'll get a delicious recipe!
This smoothie is packed with goodness in flavor and nutrition but is it healthy?

It contains 717 calories, 14 grams of fat, 133 grams of carbohydrates, and 34 grams of protein. It also contains 69 grams of sugar but only 8 are added sugar, 28 grams of fiber, and various vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B6, C, iron, calcium, and magnesium. So is it healthy or is that way too many calories, carbohydrates, and sugar?


First off, while this could be one very large and filling meal (yes a smoothie) due to its volume and richness (it tastes pretty much like a dessert) and the amount of calories and fiber, I believe it would be difficult to drink this in one sitting. It would be best to enjoy two-thirds of it as a meal and the rest for a snack later or share it with a friend as a small meal or a quite filling snack. Okay, now onto the science!

The National Academy of Sciences set the Acceptable Daily Macronutrient Range (ADMR) for a 1,800 calorie diet as approximately 55 grams of fat, 245 grams of carbohydrates, 100 grams of protein, 26 grams of fiber, and 0-30 grams of added sugar. The reason the grams of added sugar starts with zero is because added sugar serves no physiological purpose in our body and therefore we do not need any. However, added sugar is in so many things that it is known we will all have some throughout our day but the fewer added sugars we consume the better! So while I wish this recipe had zero added sugars, the fact that it only has 8 grams is not a concern. But what about the other 61 grams of natural sugar, isn't that too much?! In short, no... but if you would like a brief lesson on natural sugars keep reading!

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Natural sugars, such as the 42 grams from the bananas and the 18 grams from the dates in this smoothie recipe, come in a package that also includes water, minerals, vitamins, and most importantly fiber! The fiber helps to slow the absorption of the sugar in our bloodstream. Because the sugar is more slowly absorbed our body has time to use the sugar appropriately and as it is needed to fuel and energize our body. When we have added sugars, which are often found in processed sugary foods without much nutrient value or fiber, we get a surge of sugar in our bloodstream and because there is more than is needed to fuel our body our liver converts the excess sugar into triglycerides and then the triglycerides are stored in our fat cells. This makes our fat cells fatter and therefore us fatter. So because foods that contain natural sugars also contain fiber, foods like bananas are able to be used as energy rather than stored as fat. While there is a lot of sugar in this smoothie it is mostly naturally occurring and therefore will not result in the same unfavorable consequences (increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease) as having too much added sugar. Do you want to test out the science? Enjoy two bananas and see how you feel and later enjoy one Butterfinger candy bar and see how you feel. Each has 28 grams of sugar and approximately the same amount of calories, however, one will leave you with a short-term sugar high but not nutritionally or calorically satisfied while the other will be sweet and delicious but also calorically and nutritionally filling. When a food keeps you satisfied and full for several hours it is a good indication that it was full of fiber. I personally would be happy to enjoy two bananas for breakfast and would stay full throughout most of the morning. A Butterfinger bar, however, could not be considered a meal for me and more than likely would just leave me craving more sweet treats. Two bananas could be enjoyed as a small meal and allow you to wait awhile for your next while the a Butterfinger would only add weight to your hips and thighs!

Bonus fun fact – many studies are now showing that cinnamon also helps to slow the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream! I bet you could guess what other ingredients are in this smoothie.

Enough about sugar though, what about all the other macronutrients? Well, if you enjoyed a half or two-thirds serving of this recipe for breakfast and had a sensible lunch and dinner you could very easily fall within the National Academy of Sciences ADMR. But for fun let's say you went smoothie crazy and just wanted three of these smoothies to enjoy as your meals. The 2,151 calories you would enjoy from three smoothies fall perfectly within the recommended calories per day for a woman or man, which is 1,600–3,000. The protein, fat, and carbohydrates, would fall very close to if not right within the ADMR.

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Fat would be just slightly (6 grams) less, which is not a concern but if you are an athlete or a man and therefore should be on the higher end of all of these ranges then I may recommend adding 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds to the below recipe, which would not only add some extra fat but also protein and calories. Carbohydrates would be just a bit high, however, with a fiber intake of 84 grams from the three smoothies the slightly higher carbohydrates and natural sugars would not be an issue and would not cause a sugar spike in your bloodstream but instead keep you energized and fueled throughout the day! Now remember to drink plenty of water throughout your day because although fiber is great for various reasons including helping to keep you regular, too much fiber without enough water can well… clog you up a bit. This recipe alone adds 3 cups of water but remember to drink plenty more!

So there you go, a few fun facts and an awesome science lesson for your Friday! You now are fully informed on sugar, fiber, and the recommended and healthy ranges of all of your macronutrients. You have a gained the information now use it! Remember to read labels so that you know what you are putting into your body! Or abundantly enjoy a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables! You don't even have to try hard or make complicated recipes and you can easily fall right within the ADMR. Cheers!

Banana Peanut Buster Parfait
3 frozen bananas
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 cups water
4 dates
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
8 tablespoons PBfit
2 teaspoons cinnamon

This is a decadently delicious smoothie recipe. If you like things a bit less sweet than I recommend omitting the dates and perhaps using 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter instead of the PBfit. If you have a sweet tooth this recipe is perfect just the way it is or to kick it up a notch use only one cup of water to get an even thicker consistency and then freeze and serve as chocolate peanut butter ice cream! Enjoy!


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