Your Body on Sugar: Separating Truth and Lies
There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding diet and nutrition, but one thing is clear, the sweet stuff is wreaking havoc on our health. It’s no secret that sugar consumption has multiplied over the years. According to Science Daily, Sugar consumption has increased over 30% in American adults since 1977 and that number continues to rise, but it’s not just grown-ups getting heavier, kids are gaining weight too.
One of the issues we face is that sugar is in just about everything we eat, and for children who are consuming it early, it can influence food preferences and set a pattern for eating that can lead to unhealthy habits into adulthood.
The True Danger in Consuming Sugar
In a study by Princeton University researchers, they posed the question of whether the consumption of sugar could lead to neurochemical changes in the brain, much like what could be expected with any addictive substance. They studied four elements of addiction that included cravings, binging, withdrawal, and sensitizing and found evidence that consuming sugar does indeed support their theory and can be considered addictive.
Where Sugar is Found
When we talk about sugar, we have to make it clear that there is more than one type. We can find natural sugars in fruits, some vegetables, such as carrots and beets, and in some dairy products. Although some healthy foods contain some natural sugars, they also contain a lot of nutrients as well.
Then, we look at added sugars. These simple sugars are added to all types of processed foods and beverages and when consumed, boost your blood sugar. When you ingest too much added sugar, you take in empty calories that, if not burned off, turn into excess body fat.
How Sugar Affects the Body
Most of us understand that if our diet focuses on processed foods, sugary soda, and desserts, we may find ourselves carrying some extra weight. What you may not know is that sugar can also cause additional health problems that most of us never would have considered.
High Blood Pressure
According to Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan school of public health, “the effects of added sugar intake lead to higher blood pressure, weight gain, and fatty liver, which are all linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.”
Dr. Frank Hu adds that, “…one area that may surprise many of us is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on heart health.”
Blood Sugar Levels
One of the problems in consuming sugar is that our energy levels rise and fall giving us the feeling of a sugar high or a crash. Either way, these feelings can affect us negatively, both physically and mentally.
When our energy levels rise and fall, it can be hard to get and stay focused on any activity, leading us to a loss in the ability to concentrate.
There is no way around it, foods that contain large amounts of sugar are nutrient deficient and can’t give you what you need for a healthy, well balanced diet. When we don’t get enough nutrient dense foods, health issues aren’t far behind.
Our smile is one of the nicest things that we can offer someone, but sugar can wreak havoc on the health of our teeth and gums.
How to Cut Back on Added Sugars
Ditching sugar isn’t easy. If you read food labels, you know what I’m talking about. Foods you never expected to contain added sugars like pasta sauce, sports drinks, and granola contain added sugars and sometimes in large amounts.
So, what can you do?
Choose nutrient dense foods like vegetables and dark leafy greens – these are the foods that should make up the bulk of your diet.
Read labels – marketers are sneaky. No matter what the label says, start reading the list of ingredients. There are over 60 ways to say sugar and most of them will end in “ose” like fructose and sucrose, so be aware so you can make an educated decision about what you buy.
Watch beverages – So many beverages contain sugar or artificial sweeteners that it can be tough to navigate. Water and unsweetened drinks are always a better choice.
End your relationship with artificial sweeteners – when we enjoy sweet foods and drinks, it makes it tough for our bodies to let go. By saying no to artificial sweeteners, you can detox from craving something sweet which will change your taste buds and end your cravings.
We all want to be able to indulge a little, especially on special occasions. But we aren’t doing anything to support our other healthy habits, like working out and taking care of our overall health, by continuing our relationships with sugar.
It can be tough at first, but you won’t have to do it alone. There are books and websites all dedicated to offering help in breaking up with sugar. Start small and set goals and you’ll be feeling better in no time at all.
Health & Wellness Writer Bio
Maria Pease is a freelance health & wellness content writer based in Southport, North Carolina. She has written about health & wellness for more than twenty-five years and has partnered with a variety of companies doing the most amazing work. She loves being able to write about health topics that can change lives for the better.