Why glucose is essential for your brain
There is a lot of conflicting information about sugar – it’s good! It’s bad! It’s confusing! Yes, it is.
Sugar is a broad category that has been branded as ‘bad’, and while it’s true that too much sugar isn’t good for you, it doesn’t mean ALL sugars are bad. Glucose, a type of sugar, is actually vital brain food, and a key element of honey. But before we get into that, let’s cover the basics:
What is glucose?
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and glucose is the simplest of the carbohydrates, known as a monosaccharide (which means it only has one sugar). Glucose is one of the body’s preferred fuel sources, along with good fats, and is often called ‘blood sugar’.
Where do you find glucose?
Glucose comes from a variety of foods – bread, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and honey.
Now we’re all on the same page, let’s break down some of the common sugar myths.
Myth #1: All Sugars Are Created Equal
There are different types of sugars, and they aren’t all the same. Glucose, along with fructose, galactose, and ribose, are monosaccharides. They’re natural sugars, but even they aren’t the same. For instance, fructose doesn’t affect your blood sugar level, while glucose does.
Processed or refined sugars – such as white sugar – are natural sugars that have been modified, combined and processed. They’re often extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets, and they contain sucrose, which is a ‘complex’ sugar containing glucose and fructose.
One big difference between processed and natural sugars is how they deliver glucose and fructose into your body. Your body loves glucose and digests it with ease, while your body becomes overwhelmed with processed sugar. (Ever had a sugar high then felt really flat? Yep, that’s why.)
Natural unprocessed sugars are better for you as they are naturally occuring and contain other minerals and acids that are good for the body. Honey is an example of a natural unprocessed sugar that contains glucose and fructose. Flower sugar, while processed from raw honey, is still a natural sugar and healthier alternative to refined sugar.
Myth #2: You Don’t Need Glucose
Wrong. Your body needs glucose, it’s your cell’s main source of energy. The most important of these cells being your brain cells. That’s right – our brains run on sugar. They have the highest energy demand and are the main consumer of glucose. (The adult brain is only on average ~2% of a person’s body weight, yet it consumes ~20% of glucose-derived energy.)
Cognitive functions such as attention, thinking, learning and memory, require brain fuel and have been directly linked to glucose levels. Glucose enhances, improves and maintains cognitive functions. The more challenging a mental task is, the more glucose required.
The brain’s nerve cells are always active, even during sleep, which means our brains constantly require energy. This energy comes from a continuous supply of glucose in the bloodstream, as unlike muscles and the liver, our brains cannot use fatty acids directly. Glucose is a ready-to-go energy source, as opposed to other types of sugar which have to be converted before the brain can use them.
When you don’t have enough glucose, your brain doesn’t function properly. Communication between neurons breaks down as your brain isn’t producing enough neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers. If it happens repeatedly over time, it can cause permanent damage. Cognitive impairment, which happens prior to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, has also been linked to low glucose levels.
In other words, our bodies – particularly our brains – need glucose. 
Myth #3: Glucose is Bad For You
Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that benefits from glucose, particularly the glucose found in natural honey. Health benefits include:
- Energy for the body – The body stores glucose in the liver as glycogen, which acts as an energy reserve that meets sudden energy needs, such as physical exercise.
- An array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and dietary antioxidants
- Antibacterial action, as well as anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects
- Helps prevent metabolic stress and achieve restful sleep
- Helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes
- Counters oxidative stress (an imbalance in the body that’s often linked to ADHD, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, among others)
So, how do you get the right kind of sugar in your diet?
Too much sugar isn’t good for you – there is a fine balance, as with everything, to ensure your body gets enough but not too much. Honey is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get the right amount of sugar- glucose into your diet. Natural honey is low GI, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free, and contains good carbohydrates, water, and vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
The amount of sugar you need is based on your age, weight, gender and health issues. If in doubt, refer to the Eat For Health guidelines.