It’s All About Sugar
We’ve all heard that too much sugar is bad for you. But what does that really mean? What kind of damage is it doing? And how much is too much? Is all sugar consumption equal?
Let’s break it down: What all does “sugar” encompass?
There are 2 main types of sugar: The sugar that occurs naturally in our food and the sugar that is added during processing.
- Natural Sugar–found intrinsically in food such as:
- Fruits and Vegetables (fructose)
- Milk and Milk Products (lactose)
- Added Sugars/Sweeteners—found in many forms in our food:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose) (1)
Added sugar is found in almost all processed foods regardless of whether or not those foods taste sweet. Things like breads and cereals, yogurt products, condiments and sauces, and dried fruit are ridden with added sugars. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day with the highest contributor being soft drinks. The American heart association recommends keeping sugar intake below 9 teaspoons of 150 calories per day for most men and 6 teaspoons or 100 calories per day for most women. (2)…. however if you ask us this is still WAY too much (especially if it is from white, processed sugar!)
Tips and Tricks:
Read the ingredients list
Reading the ingredients list can help us find out what’s really in our food. The higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of that product is in your food. This can be especially helpful in products packaged with multiple servings, where the nutrition facts list is often misleading.
As always, the healthiest way to shop is by sticking to fresh products with only one ingredient but when this is not an option, opt for things with little or no sugar in any of it’s forms above.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Don’t be fooled by “No sugar Added” foods and drinks—these often contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners like the ones listed above”
What’s the Damage?
Too much sugar affects both our short and long term health. On a daily basis, sugar can make us gain weight and feel sluggish. When too much sugar is circulating through our bloodstream our bodies experience a roller-coaster of energy levels, inflammation, and brain fog. (3) A lifestyle of a sugar heavy diet often means neglecting more nourishing foods (4) and can lead to the development of many chronic diseases (5)such as:
- Cardiovascular Disease (6)
- Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Diabetes (7)
- Leaky Gut (8)
- Premature Aging
- Infertility (9)
Does this mean I can never have sweet things again?
Absolutely not! When it comes to sweeteners, the key is to make healthier choices. This means making small changes like swapping out Soda for sparkling water flavored with fruits or kombucha, buying all-natural peanut butter, or asking for your salad dressing on the side to avoid over-saucing.
Your best bet? Cook at home. When doing so, try swapping out your white sugar for one of the sweeteners bellow. Remember, these sweeteners still have sugar and should be consumed in moderation. But what sets them apart is that they are also filled with vital nutrients and antioxidants that our bodies need, unlike refined sugar, which has been stripped of it’s nutrients. (10)
- Maple Syrup
Read more about the best sweeteners to use and when here.
Ready to start baking? Here are some of my favorite recipe sites:
Sugar intake creates a dopamine response in our bodies, which is what makes it so addictive. Dopamine release is associated with “motivation, novelty, and reward” (11) and is the same neurotransmitter released during drug use, gambling, or sex.
Some people are more susceptible than others to strong cravings and an inability to say no to sweets. If this is you—consider giving up sugar/sweetened foods altogether. It may seem impossible at first, but if you stick to it, your cravings will soon disappear, your mind will clear, and your body will grow healthier. (12)