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Today I would like to expand on the topic of sugar. It is an important topic that we cannot ignore. Sugar is one of the reasons that we are overweight and cannot lose the weight we need to lose.
Most of us are drowning in sugar. On average, Americans are eating and drinking about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day – that is about 335 calories. That equals about 150 pounds of sugar per year.
Let’s get started!
What Is Sugar?
For starters, there is simply nothing good about sugar. It contains no protein, essential fats, vitamins or minerals. There really is no need for us to consume sugar.
In fact, there is a long list of reasons, which I will give below, as to why you should avoid it.
Also, sugar interferes with hormones in your body that regulate hunger and satiety. This can lead to an increase in calorie intake and possibly weight gain.
Sugar also harms your metabolism, which can lead to increased insulin and fat storage. In fact, many studies have found a strong link between sugar and obesity.
Simply put, if we compare the people who consume the most sugar with those who consume the least, those who consume the most are far more likely to become overweight or obese
High sugar intake may also be associated with some of the world’s most deadly diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer (see below for links to studies).
What’s more, sugar is addictive. It causes the happy hormone, dopamine, to be released in the reward center of the brain, which is the same response activated by addictive drugs. This leads to cravings and can drive overeating.
In short, sugar is incredibly unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs.
Sugar – All the Names of Sugar
It seems a simple thing to do – just say no to sugar. We get rid of the containers of white and brown sugar in the house, we stop adding it to our foods, and we are good.
Not so fast.
Sugar comes in many forms and has many names.
There are more than 200 types of added sugars used in processed foods and beverages. Added sugars are used in more than 75% of the products sold in supermarkets – often in unexpected items, such as bread, salty snacks, salads, and condiments.
The five most commonly used sweeteners are: corn syrup, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and sorghum. If you see these ingredients on an ingredient list, just read sugar.
The list on the left is 50 more names for sugar. Again, if you see these on an ingredient list, just read sugar.
So much sugar, all the time, in every product.
That being said, we also get “sugar” in our bodies through other foods, especially carbohydrates. There are three types of carbs: simple, complex, and fibre. For a complete discussion on carbs, check out this article!
Suffice it to say here, we can process all types of carbs. Simple carbs are process quickly, give us a burst of energy, release the insulin needed to deal with the sugar, and then we “crash.” we feel the need for more food energy, we have more simple carbs (sugary foods) and the cycle begins.
Complex carbs take longer for the body to process, and are better for us, as we feel full longer. Here is an excerpt from the article I wrote on carbs describing “good” and “bad” carbs:
- vegetables – all of them, a variety of them, every day
- whole fruits – the closer they grow to the ground the better (same for veggies)
- legumes – peas, kidney beans, lentils, etc
- nuts – almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts
- seeds – chia, pumpkin
- whole grains – oats, quinoa, brown rice (limited quantities)
- tubers – potatoes, sweet potatoes (again, limited quantities)
The Bad Carbs
- sugary drinks – colas of any kind, energy drinks of any kind
- french fries and potato chips
- fruit juices – same amount of sugar as cola
- candies and chocolates – perhaps dark chocolate once in a while
- pastries, cookies, and cakes – high in sugar and refined ingredients
- ice cream – again, high in sugar
Keep in mind that our body reads carbs the same as it reads sugar, and uses them for energy. Not a bad thing, until we have too much sugar in our system. When this happens, our body takes the excess sugar and stores it as fat.
That is why we need to be cognizant of the amounts of sugar we are putting in our bodies. Keep in mind the chart above that lists the amount of sugar in fruit. The sugar in fruit is in the form of fructose, a simple sugar. But it is still sugar. Just beware.
Of course sugar from fruit is better than processed sugars. Just be sure you aren’t overloading your body with sugar, as all excess sugar gets stored as fat, even the sugar from fruit.
Side Effects of Sugar
There are many reasons to not have too much sugar in your daily diet.
First of all, too much sugar in our diet can lead to a sugar addiction (1). Our brains use the most energy of all systems in our bodies, and our brain functions on glucose. When we give the brain glucose, it rewards us with good feelings. This reward may cause us to want to give the brain more energy, in the form of glucose. What is the easiest way to get glucose? Simple sugars found in processed foods. Not the best form of energy, as mentioned above, and can cause that poor cycle of calorie overload, crash, overload, crash, etc.
That is just the first side effect of sugar. There is a great article here that discusses in detail the side effects of sugar. I will just list the side effects for you.
1) Can cause weight gain (2)
2) Increase your risk of heart disease (3)
3) Has been linked to acne (4)
4) Increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes (5)
5) May increase your risk for cancer (6)
6) May increase your risk of depression (7)
7) May accelerate the skin aging process (8)
8) Can increase cellular aging (9)
9) Drains your energy (10)
10) Can lead to a fatty liver (11)
11) Can increase risk for kidney disease (12)
12) Negatively impacts dental health (13)
13) Can increase the risk of developing gout (14)
14) Can accelerate cognitive decline (15)
Wow. Any one of those should because for alarm and a good enough reason to limit the amount of sugar we consume.
Put all together, it can be seen that sugar has a very negative effect on our bodies. Every system in our body is effected by excess amounts of sugar.
We need to be aware of our sugar intake.
But what can we do to satiate our sweet tooth>
There are options, as you’ll see below.
Wikipedia defines a sugar substitute as:
A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy than sugar-based sweeteners, making it a zero-calorie or low-calorie sweetener.
There are a variety of sugar substitutes available. Some are natural, and some are artificial.
1) Stevia is a natural sweetener that’s extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub. It is 100% natural, contains no calories and has no known adverse health effects. Stevia has been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
2) Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar. Xylitol is extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables. It is a sugar alcohol that contains 40% fewer calories than sugar. Eating xylitol may offer dental benefits and protect against osteoporosis.
3) Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, just like xylitol, but it has fewer calories. It tastes just like sugar but only has 6% of the calories.
4) Yacon Syrup tastes sweet, is dark in color, and comes from the yacon plant in South America. It has a consistency of molasses It has one third the calories of sugar and is gut friendly, that is, it feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
The following substitutes are slightly less bad forms of sugar. They are still sugar, but a little better for you.
5) Coconut Sugar contains a small amount of fiber and nutrients. It is slightly “less bad” than regular sugar. However, it is still quite high in fructose and should be used in moderation.
6) Honey is the sweet, golden nectar produced by honey bees. It contains a few antioxidants and a small amount of vitamins and minerals. Honey may offer some health benefits, but at the end of the day, it is still sugar and should not be used excessively.
7) Maple Syrup is the thick, sugary substance you get when you boil down the sap of maple trees. It contains a few minerals and over 24 different antioxidants. It is slightly “less bad” than regular sugar, but you should not go out of your way to use it.
8) Molasses is made by boiling down sugar cane or sweet beet juice. It is thick and dark. Molasses contains nutrients that may support bone and heart health and may help regulate your blood sugar levels. It is still high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly.
There is a lot of information available elsewhere about these sugar substitutes. Feel free to research on your own and find the one or two that you like the best.
The bottom line is that we need to eliminate as much, if not all, sugar from our diets. We should only be getting our sugar from natural sources, never added to our foods.
So there you have it.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!