It’s sweet. It tastes good. And it is one of the things that threatens our health the most: Sugar.
The Danger of Eating Too Much Sugar
The list of the negative effects that sugar consumption has on our bodies is long and, quite frankly, scary. These potential dangers of chronic high-sugar intake include:
- Reduction of the body’s ability to process carbohydrates. The eventual consequence of poor carbohydrate tolerance is borderline or full-blown diabetes.
- Excessive fat gain due to chronic high levels of insulin (this fat likes to show itself especially on the upper back and ‘love handle’ areas), and the reduction of insulin sensitivity, which increases insulin’s response when meals are consumed.
- High blood sugar can cause the binding of sugar molecules to blood proteins, which is called ‘glycation.’ This causes decreased biological activity of the proteins and has been linked to premature aging, cancer, altered vision, cataracts, retinopathy, Alzheimer’s, vascular disease, joint pain and arthritis, erectile dysfunction and kidney disease – and more.
Pretty scary stuff!
Unfortunately, added sugars are found in so many of our foods, under many different names, and often in very high quantities. For example, a single bowl of breakfast cereal can contain four or five teaspoons of sugar. One can of soft drink/soda has up to 9 teaspoons of sugar; ½ a cup of fruit juice has three or four teaspoons of sugar, and one cup of chocolate milk contains six teaspoons of the sweet substance. That bowl of ice cream you enjoy after dinner on a warm summer day boasts a whopping 23 teaspoons of sugar. When you consider that recommended sugar intake is 40 grams per day – the equivalent of 10 teaspoons – you can see how this can easily become a problem, especially for someone trying to lose weight, who would need to consume even less.
WOW! That’s a lot of sugar!
Make sure you are reading the labels
Sugar goes by many different names on our food labels, so it’s important to know what to look for. Foods that contain five grams of sugar per 100 grams of food is considered to be ‘low sugar,’ so it’s important to look for foods that contain zero grams of sugar as much as possible. Some of the ingredients you’ll see that actually mean ‘sugar’ include:
- Anything ending in ‘OSE’ (such as dextrose, glucose, fructose)
- Hydrolyzed starch
- Invert sugar
- Corn syrup
- Cane sugar
- Agave nectar
- Sugar beets
- Maple sugar
- High fructose corn syrup/sweetener
You’ll find these items in all kinds of foods including breads, frozen fruit, dressings, sauces, juices and more. Make sure you read the labels!
There is hope!
For some, just increasing your protein intake with your meals helps with the cravings of sugar. One of the reasons your body craves sugar is because it can change it to energy so easily. If you start feeding your body the nutrients it needs on a regular basis it will not need the sugar to use for energy. It will take some time for the addiction to sugar to subside, but it does.
In addition to decreasing your overall sugar intake, if you’re actively exercising and watching your nutrition, there are a few things to consider. Instead of having sugar in the form of a sports drink after exercise, you are better off just drinking water to replenish your body. The exception to this is if you work out at a very high intensity over a long time period. For people who are interested in muscle gain, a small daily amount of sugar can be beneficial, and carbohydrate tolerance is improved immediately after exercise than during other times of the day. If you’re interested in losing weight (fat loss), sugar should be minimized or completely cut out of your diet.
If you’re curious about how much sugar you’re consuming, track your food and beverage intake for two days, making note of the grams of sugar for each item and then adding it up for a daily total. You may be surprised at how much sugar you’re consuming without even realizing it!