“You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does, “Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco, tells Women’s Health.
Dangers of Added Sugar
Contains no essential nutrients. Nutritionists disapprove of added sugar for two reasons:
- It leads to weight gain and cavities
- Sugar delivers empty calories – calories that are unaccompanied by vitamins, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients.
Plenty of sugar can crowd healthier foods from your diet. When you eat 10-20 percent of calories as sugar, it can become a major problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies.
High in fructose. Before sugar enters your bloodstream, it gets broken down into glucose and fructose.
- Your body can produce glucose even if you don’t get it from your diet.
- On the other hand, your body does not produce fructose. There is no physiological need for fructose in your system.
Be known that only your liver could metabolize fructose. It is not a problem until you eat a little of it. In such a case fructose is turned to glycogen and stored in your liver.
The problem arises when you eat a lot of fructose, and already your liver is full of glycogen. It overloads your liver forcing it to turn fructose into fat. When you repeatedly tend to eat a lot of sugar, the process leads to fatty liver and other diseases. All of this does not apply to fruits.
Causes metabolic dysfunction. If you overeat sugar, it leads to a barrage of symptoms called as a classic metabolic syndrome. It includes
- Abdominal obesity
- Weight gain
- Increased LDL
- Decreased HDL
- Elevated triglycerides
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
Tricks body to gain weight. Fructose starts to fool your metabolism by turning off your body’s appetite control system. It fails to stimulate your insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin or the hunger hormone. Ghrelin, in turn, fails to stimulate leptin the satiety hormone. This process causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance may progress to Type 2 diabetes. When your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the beta cells in your pancreas create more of it. If you have chronically elevated blood sugar levels, it may cause you harm.
Eventually, as insulin resistance becomes progressively worse, your pancreas cannot keep up with the demand of producing sufficient insulin, to keep your blood sugar levels down.
At this point, your blood glucose levels skyrocket, and your doctor tells that you have diabetes.
Increases uric acid levels. If you have high uric acid levels, it significantly increases your risk of heart and kidney disease. The connection between metabolic syndrome, fructose, and your uric acid is now so clear that professionals use it as a marker for fructose toxicity. The safe range of uric acid is between 3 to 5.5 milligrams per deciliter. If your uric acid is higher than this, then you’re at a risk of adverse health impacts of fructose.
Risk of cancer. Scientists believe that constantly having elevated insulin levels are a consequence of sugar consumption. It can contribute to cancer growth. Also, the metabolic problems related to eating sugar is also another potential cause for cancer.
Causes massive dopamine release in brain. Like the abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of your brain. Sugar and junk foods can cause massive dopamine release, much more than you were ever exposed to foods from nature. For this reason, if you have a susceptibility to addiction, you can become strongly addicted to sugar and other junk foods.
Raises cholesterol and gives heart disease. Research studies show that significant amounts of fructose increase the levels of triglycerides, LDL, oxidized LDL, insulin levels, blood glucose and also abdominal obesity in as little as ten weeks. These are all the key risk factors for heart disease.
Alzheimer’s disease. You’re at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease if you consume too much sugar. Researchers have found a powerful connection between your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a high fructose diet. It is through the same pathway that causes Type 2 diabetes. Experts say that Alzheimer’s disease may be due to the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome. In women with PCOS, high levels of insulin cause ovaries to make more male hormones such as testosterone. It leads to increased body hair, acne and irregular periods.
Strategic Steps to Eating Less Sugar
The American Heart Association, states that women should eat no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. That’s roughly six teaspoons or 100 calories.
And men should eat no more than 38 grams of added sugar per day.(about nine teaspoons or 150 calories)
So here are nine steps to help you reduce your sugar intake.
Mentally prepare yourself and keep a food diary. “Just prepare yourself that this is going to be a little bit of a challenge at first,” “We’ve created these habits over years, and it’s hard to break them — and it’s especially hard with something like sugar, which can be almost like an addiction for some people,” Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, tells BuzzFeed Life.
But you can teach your body to stop craving sugar. Avoid going cold turkey on sugar; it isn’t realistic for most people. You can cut back slowly. It will require some willpower and determination, and it will get easier with practice.
Before you start your “cut-back” plan, write down everything you eat for three days. This will help you to pinpoint your biggest sources of sugar, daily. Now start thinking about ways you can make substitutions.
Read your food labels. Here’s a shocker: the average person takes 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, even without realizing it. “Even things that you don’t think are sweet, like tomato sauce, crackers, condiments, and salad dressings can be packed with sugar,” Diane Sanfilippo, certified nutrition consultant and author of The 21 Day Sugar Detox tells Health.com
In a research review of over 85,000 packaged food products from 2005-2009, scientists found that 74% of those products contained sweeteners. Some surprising major offenders include pasta sauce, low-fat yogurt, salad dressing and protein bars to name a few. The manufacturers usually list the ingredients according to the amount it is present in the product. So if you find sugar near the top, then that’s a big no-no.
Learn sugar aliases. When you read the food labels, you have to look for more than just the word sugar, because it hides under several sneaky names such as
- Agave nectar
- Barley malt
- Blackstrap molasses
- Buttered syrup
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Corn syrup solids
- Date sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl Maltol
- Florida Crystals
- Fruit juice
- Glucose solids
- Golden syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Maple syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Barbados sugar
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar crystals
- Caramel caster sugar
- Corn syrup
- Crystalline fructose
- Demerara sugar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Golden sugar
- Grape sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Organic raw sugar
- Raw sugar rice syrup
- Treacle yellow sugar
(source: Women’s Health.com)
These several names can be listed separately on the ingredients list. Manufacturers often list different types of added sugars, as sixth, seventh and eighth items, on an ingredient list. You’ll be fooled thinking there’s not a significant amount of sugar. But when you add all these up, it’s no 1. If several such sugars appear on the food label, it’s a sign that the food product is less healthy than you may think.
Avoid artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners may cause dangerous side effects. The symptoms range from headaches and migraines to weight gain and even more severe conditions like cardiovascular disease. Some common artificial sweeteners include:
- Acesulfame potassium
- Sweet ‘N Low
These dangerous artificial sweeteners hide in:
- Toothpaste and mouthwash
- Children’s chewable vitamins
- Cough syrup and liquid medicines
- Chewing gum
- No-calorie waters and drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Salad dressings
- Frozen yogurt and other frozen desserts
- Baked goods
- Breakfast cereals
- Processed snack foods
- “Lite” or diet fruit juices and beverages
- Prepared Meats
- Nicotine gum
Out of all these artificial sweeteners, the top five worst ones include:
- Acesulfame K
- Xylitol, Sorbitol
Give up sugary drinks and ditch simple carb treats. Coffee beverages, soda, sports drinks, bottled teas, and energy drinks fall into the sugary drinks category. Check the label clearly before buying a bottled drink.
You may be surprised by the amount of sugar in it. One can of cola racks up nine teaspoons of sugar, already a third more than six tsp daily limit. It is wise to stick to black coffee, water, unsweetened tea, sparkling water or milk.
Cookies, pastries, muffins, and white bread, refined flour treats are dense with sugar but offers little nutrition wise. They mess with your blood sugar levels. Instead, you can get your carbs from whole grains.
During digestion, these carbs get converted to sugar. Since they are complex carbs rather than the simple type, they’re absorbed more slowly and produces steady energy. Beware of fat-free products, because they may be loaded with sugar, to make them better.
Try to avoid sugary restaurant food, many types of “take-out” or “eat in” cuisines are spread in sauces or coated with sugar-laden coatings.
Think protein and healthy fat. Snack on healthy fats and lean protein, like pear slices and almond butter, hard-boiled egg, shrimp cocktail and Greek yogurt with berries.Proteins and healthy fats will keep you feeling energized and satiated, preventing blood sugar rise and fall that can lead to sugar cravings.
Unhealthy carbs loaded with sugar can cause your blood sugar to rise rapidly. To reduce, this rapid rise and fall, combine proteins, healthy fats and fiber with your meals. These will slow down the blood sugar in your body and keep you full for longer. Fats are an essential player because they increase your satiety value. So you’ll snack less often.
Go natural and add more flavor. So, what are your choices when you have a sweet tooth? Include natural sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup, fruit purees, stevia, and raw honey. Keep packets of stevia with you. So you don’t have to use artificial sweeteners provided by restaurants and cafes.
You can train your palate to enjoy the natural sweetness of foods, no added sweeteners. Include other flavors like tart, tangy, warm and savory to please your palate. You can add vanilla bean, spices, vanilla extract, and citrus zest to add more sweetness to your foods without having to add sugar.
Vanilla, cocoa, licorice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, boost the flavor of your foods. When you crave a sweet drink, try homemade infused waters. Sweeten your iced tea with honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.
Sleep. Many research studies point out that sleep deprivation leads to overeating and junk food cravings.Even if you get two hours of reduced sleep from the recommended 7-8 hours, you’ll suffer food cravings.
- Poor sleep also leads to sweet foods becoming more appealing to adolescents with the consumption of sweet servings up to 52 percent higher,
- Increases cravings for calorie-dense foods in adults
- Increases intake of food in men.
So fight your sugar cravings by sleeping soundly.
Designate a sweets drawer and shop wisely. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry because it’s easier to lose sight of your goals. If you go shopping when your stomach is full, you’ll be better able to pick up healthy food. Focus on loading your cart with veggies, fruits, nuts and lean meat, mainly aim for foods that are processed minimally.
If you’re the one cutting back on sugar in your house, then make a drawer or shelf in your kitchen where you store all the sweet stuff.
So you won’t be tempted seeing the sugary treats all around the kitchen. Most of us go to the food we see first, so if you don’t see thesugary treats, you won’t crave them. Try to keep more fruits outside in your kitchen, so you can snack when you’re hungry.
You can buy foods labeled “unsweetened” or“no sugar added.” You’ll find the unsweetened versions of almond milk, soy milk, nut butter (made with only nuts and salt), applesauce, oatmeal, and canned fruit (packed in juice, not syrup) in most grocery stores.
You can still enjoy occasional treats after you’ve resolved to slash sugar. The idea is to avoid wasting your daily sugar quota on non-dessert foods like ketchup, cereals, and bread. Set specific rules on when you may enjoy dessert, only after dinner on the weekends or at restaurants as special treats.