Do you cringe when you think about the real repercussions of sugar? Maybe you should.
Though we love this delicious treat, is extremely addicting, and is one of the biggest enemies to your health.
There is no doubt that sugar is one of the main causes of obesity and wide reaching health problems. Cutting down or cutting sugar out of your diet completely, could do wonders for your fitness and health goals. You might be asking yourself why is sugar bad?
You might have been expecting a more elaborate solution, but the fact is sugar should be consumed as sparingly as possible for any diet.
Here are some of the questions I get about sugar:.
- Is sugar really THAT bad for you?
- Are there different kinds of sugar? Are some worse than others?
- Is it possible to truly be addicted to sugar?
- Is there such thing as healthy sugar?
- What’s the story with natural sweeteners?
We’ll take a look at these questions and examine the effects of sugar and how it may be affecting your everyday life.
Know About Sugar And The Love Affair
You may already be aware that nearly 70% of Americans are overweight. Back in 1822, the Americans on an average consumed 45 grams of sugar for a period of 5 days. Now, if you move to 2012, you will find that the consumption of sugar every 5 days is nearly 756 grams which roughly translates to 130 pounds of sugar a year. Now, that is a massive figure and it does help us get some insight into why the obesity epidemic is on the rise.
Sugar is contained in a huge amount of the food that we eat. Even many foods that you may not consider ‘sweet’ contain high amounts of sugar.
What Is Sugar?
You may think that it is a silly question to ask but don’t worry. Sugar, is essentially a carbohydrate. However, there are different types of sugar. The simple ones are monosaccharide and these include: glucose, fructose and even galactose. You also have complex sugars which include sucrose and lactose
Let’s look at the natural sugars:
- Glucose is mainly found in plants and in fruits. Glucose is actually a product formed during the chemical reaction we call photosynthesis. The glucose which is present in our body gets converted into glycogen to be used as energy.
- Fructose is very sweet and is also known as fruit sugar so you can guess where this is found.
- Sucrose is a complex sugar and is found in sugar cane, sugar beet roots and in some other fruits as well.
- Lactose is known as milk sugar and is created with the help of chemical reactions occurring inside the body. Our bodies’ enzymes play a role in breaking down chemical molecules into lactose.
Effects of Sugar on The Body And What Happens When You Eat Sugar?
You must already know that eating sugar can impact your teeth and cause decay. However, there is so much more to the sugar story.
Sugar is either burnt down to yield energy or it gets stored in the form of body fat. Those who have a faster metabolism are much more likely to burn sugar than store it.
Now, think of the situation where there is a lot of sugar in your body and it is also present in the blood stream. So, what happens next? Whenever the pancreas detects high levels of sugar, insulin is released to act upon it.
Insulin is a hormone that works to regulate sugar levels. When sugar levels increases, your level of insulin is increased too. Insulin stores all the extra sugar in the form of glucose in the liver and also in muscles. Stored sugar is converted to glycogen and also in the form of triglycerides as fat.
Our bodies struggle to find the perfect balance of sugars and hormones, this is when the problem of diabetes arrises. Sometimes there may be too much sugar in the body and on other occasions, not enough, when the body struggles to regulate this, diabetes may occur.
How Should You Cut Down On Your Sugar?
I know some of you might be thinking; this is easy. All I need to do is make sure that I do not eat sugar at all and that would be it. There’s a bit more to it than that.
Have you ever heard of glycemic index or glycemic load? This is actually a measure of how quickly different types of food can increase your sugar level. The calculation is made on a scale of 1 to 100.
Research shows that if a food is more refined, it is more likely to be converted faster. So, yes; there are specific types of food which makes you get fat faster.
Does All Food Contain Sugar?
Sugar comes hidden in a lot of food. As more and more people become aware of the repercussions of sugar, it is no surprise that you can find many companies hiding the presence of sugar in their products. You definitely need to know the details and these are some other names which companies can use to disguise the presence of sugar. Watch out for these hidden names.
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Cane crystals
- Crystalline fructose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Raw sugar
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Malt syrup
- Invert sugar
This is not an exhaustive list and it just goes on to show you as to how much sugar you actually eat because it has become an indispensable part of our diet. All these items break down to sugar in your body.
If you are wondering why companies change the name of sugar, look no further than the truth. As more and more media attention focuses on the toxic side effects of refined sugar, companies look to rebrand the sweet killer. When companies use different names, they find it easier to spread the total sugar content in the product and thus it creates a skewed image in the mind of buyers and they are more likely to trust the stuff.
Is Fruit Bad For You and What About Sugar From Fruit?
I am asked this question often. In my opinion, this can sometimes be the toughest question to answer. While I love fruit, there is such a thing as too much fruit sugar.
When you are eating a lot of fruits, the amount of fructose you are going to consume will be high; however, it is in the natural form. While fruit sugar will have some kind of an impact on your body, the kind of sugar spike that is caused will be much less as compared to ingesting other kinds of sugar. Further, fruit helps you get your fiber, minerals and a lot of important vitamins as well.
The answer is simple. You should try and look for fruits that come with a low glycemic index. This will cut down the blood sugar spikes and also limit the total insulin secretion that your body produces. When you are looking to lose weight, you should cut down on fruits and concentrate more on vegetables. However, when you are debating whether to go for fruits or candies and sugar drinks, fruits will always be the smart choice.
The Truth About Fruit Juices
Generally, I recommend smoothies over juices. This is because even fresh squeezed juice robs you off the fiber you’d be getting from eating the fruit whole. The other issue is that when you squeeze juices, you will be eating more sugar and less nutrients.
As for bottled juices, just look at the sugar content. Most of that is added sugar for taste, to catch our spoiled taste buds. Don’t be fooled. So ask yourself next time is fruit juice good for me?
Are There Sugar Alternatives That Taste Good?
Companies use different sugar alternatives for the sake of promoting a “healthy” image. Unfortunately, these sweeteners are not all created equal and many fall short.
Honey: Honey is my favorite natural sweetener. It contains more than just glucose and fructose, but is comprised of other minerals and beneficial compounds as well. Other benefits of local honey include immunity-boosting pollen. Honey is also known to have little effect on blood glucose levels.
Aspartame: No. Nearly 90% of diet soda contains aspartame which is an alternative for sugar created in a laboratory. Aspartame may cause cancer and has well documented negative effects on your body. Many companies are now removing aspartame from their ingredients as media continues to harp on its negative implications.
Sucralose: this is another artificial sweetener that has been formulated as a calorie-free sweetener. It contains 600 times more sweetness than sucrose. This should infer that a little goes a long way, but the health community does not support sucralose. As with all artificial sweeteners, make your own informed decisions.
Saccharin: this sweetener was made back in 1890s and is as artificial as they come. It is a lot sweeter and thus consuming it in low quantities is going to help you get the same taste. Several studies have deemed this compound unhealthy.
In my opinion, regardless of what the effects of sugar are and despite understanding why is sugar bad for you, it’s almost impossible to completely avoid the consumption of sugar. If you cannot avoid sugar, the best thing to do is to opt for raw sugar or natural sweetener like honey. Chemical sweeteners just have too many question marks..
Even if companies tell you that they have healthy sugars; you should always scrutinize any food that tastes sweet. Refined sugars still present the biggest risk for obesity. However, if you veer toward natural options and keep a balanced diet rich in foods with a low glycemic load, you can control your sugar intake and reach your goals.
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