Sugar has been around for thousands of years, and let’s face it, sugar is not exactly easy to avoid, it`s in practically everything! Everything tastes better with sugar, right? Most people will agree with that as it`s also very addictive. Sugars are carbohydrates that provide energy for the body. The most common sugar in the body is glucose which your brain, major organs and muscles need to function properly. Some sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and milk, while others are used during processing and cooking.
Common types of sugar
Sucrose is often called table sugar. Made up from glucose and fructose, it is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beet and naturally present in most fruits and vegetables. Fructose and glucose are found in fruits, vegetables and honey. Lactose is commonly called milk sugar because it is found in milk and dairy products. Maltose is also known as malt sugar and is found in malted drinks and beer. Granulated sugar is a traditional sugar used for cooking. Caster sugar is a little bit finer than granulated sugar; caster sugar is perfect for making cakes. Icing sugar is used for dusting cakes and desserts and making butter icing. Demerara is a brown sugar with a rough texture that is great for crumble toppings. Light brown sugar is often used to make fruit cakes and puddings with a fuller flavor. Muscovado sugar A dark treacle like flavor used in gingerbread.
Sugar can cause weight-gain
Rates of obesity are rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar.Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods. In other words, sugary beverages don’t curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain.
Research has consistently shown that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who don’t. Also, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease
Sugar can increase risk of heart disease
High-sugar diets have been associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide. Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, all risk factors for heart disease.
Additionally, consuming too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits. Just one 16-ounce (473-ml) can of soda contains 52 grams of sugar, which equates to more than 10% of your daily calorie consumption, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
This means that one sugary drink a day can already put you over the recommended daily limit for added sugar. Hooked on energy drinks? These are some of the worst things you can drink, addictive for sure, but the more you drink them the less effective they seem to be, basically, a bad habit to fall into.
Sugar can increase risk of diabetes
The worldwide prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Though there are many reasons for this, there is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk.
Obesity, which is often caused by consuming too much sugar, is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes. What’s more, prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your risk of diabetes. Studies have shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, are more likely to develop diabetes.
Sugar can increase risk of cancer
Eating excessive amounts of sugar may increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Firstly, a diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises your risk of cancer.
Furthermore, diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk.
Research on the link between added sugar intake and cancer is ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully understand this complex relationship.
Sugar can increase risk of depression
While a healthy diet can help improve your mood, a diet high in added sugar and processed foods may increase your chances of developing depression. Consuming a lot of processed foods, including high-sugar products such as cakes and sugary drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of depression.
Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health.
Sugar can accelerate skin ageing
Wrinkles are a natural sign of aging. They appear eventually, regardless of your health. However, poor food choices can worsen wrinkles and speed the skin aging process.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body. They are suspected to play a key role in skin aging.
Consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which may cause your skin to age prematurely. AGEs damage collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help the skin stretch and keep its youthful appearance.
When collagen and elastin become damaged, the skin loses its firmness and begins to sag. In one study, women who consumed more carbs, including added sugars, had a more wrinkled appearance than women on a high-protein, lower-carb diet.
The researchers concluded that a lower intake of carbs was associated with better skin-aging appearance.
Sugar can drain your energy fast!
Foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to increased energy. However, this rise in energy levels is only temporary. Remember crashing after that initial `high` feeling after consuming a sugary drink?
Products that are loaded with sugar but lacking in protein, fiber or fat lead to a brief energy boost that’s quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar.
Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels. To avoid this energy draining cycle, choose carb sources that are low in added sugar and rich in fiber.
Pairing carbs with protein or fat is another great way to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. For example, eating an apple along with a small handful of almonds is an excellent snack for prolonged, consistent energy levels.
Sugar can cause fatty liver
A high intake of fructose has been consistently linked to an increased risk of a fatty liver. Unlike glucose and other types of sugar, which are taken up by many cells throughout the body, fructose is almost exclusively broken down by the liver.
In the liver, fructose is converted into energy or stored as glycogen. However, the liver can only store so much glycogen before excess amounts are turned into fat.
Large amounts of added sugar in the form of fructose overload your liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by excessive fat buildup in the liver.
A study in over 5,900 adults showed that people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily had a 56% higher risk of developing NAFLD, compared to people who did not.
Other negative issues sugar causes
Increase kidney disease risk – Having consistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the delicate blood vessels in your kidneys. This can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease
Negatively impact dental health – Eating too much sugar can cause cavities. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and release acid byproducts, which cause tooth demineralization.
Increase the risk of developing gout – Gout is an inflammatory condition characterized by pain in the joints. Added sugars raise uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the risk of developing or worsening gout.
Accelerate cognitive decline – High sugar diets can lead to impaired memory and have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Helpful advice on reducing sugar intake
Although consuming small amounts now and then is perfectly healthy, you should try to cut back on sugar whenever possible. Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas for water. Drink your coffee black or use a natural sweetener.
Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries instead of buying flavored, sugar-loaded yogurt. Consume whole fruits instead of sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
Replace candy with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts and a few dark chocolate chips. Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings. Choose marinades, nut butters, ketchup and marinara sauce with zero added sugars.
Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving. Swap your morning cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with nut butter and fresh berries, or an omelet made with fresh greens.
Instead of jelly, slice fresh bananas onto your peanut butter sandwich. Use natural nut butters in place of sweet spreads like Nutella. Avoid alcoholic beverages that are sweetened with soda, juice, honey, sugar or agave.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh, whole ingredients. The best way to limit your added sugar intake is to prepare your own healthy meals at home and avoid buying foods and drinks that are high in added sugar.
Apart from the addictive taste, there really isn’t anything good about sugar. The bottom line is this; Consuming too much sugar will lead to many negative health issues. An excess of sweetened foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease, among other dangerous conditions.
For these reasons, added sugar should be kept to a minimum whenever possible, which is easier when you follow a healthy diet based on whole foods. One of the biggest issues is the fact this is a mental thing; people are so used to eating and drinking everything loaded with sugar it’s hard to comprehend living without sugar.
But, before you know it, your sugar habit will be a thing of the past and you’ll be feeling a whole lot better. Give it a try and see if you don’t feel different, I bet you will.