The typical adult consumes 15 to 20 teaspoons sugar a day, which works out to an average of 60 lbs over a one year period! While it is often easy to spot in common treats like cakes, cookies, and candy, sugar is also lurking in foods that we may not recognize. For instance, did you know that a tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar?
Sugar is everywhere!
Any of the following ingredients listed on a food label, should be considered as added sugar: white sugar (sucrose, a.k.a table sugar), brown sugar, cane sugar, sugar in the raw, maple syrup, molasses and high fructose corn syrup. But products high in carbohydrates such as refined flour, white bread, chips, pretzels, muffins, white rice, cereals and pasta end up as sugar in our body as well. Since sugar typically gives us an immediate rush, most products labeled as an “energy” drink or food normally contain a very high amount of sugar. Even sugars in their natural, unprocessed forms such as maple syrup or honey – possess similar health risks.
16 negative side effects of sugar
When we consume foods high in sugar or carbohydrates, the sugar enters our bloodstream, causing blood sugars to rise. Our pancreas responds by secreting insulin. The greater the amount of sugar, the greater the insulin release. Insulin allows for the surge of sugars in the blood stream to enter our cells to either be used as energy or stored as fat. An excess of insulin is the main cause of weight gain, especially belly fat and those dreaded love handles. An understanding of this connection between sugar and insulin, then, is the primary reason why becoming “sugar conscious” offers lasting effects on our body composition. Too much sugar will, however, also cause the following side effects:
• Suppress the immune system
• Contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties
• Produce a significant rise in triglycerides
• Reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs) and raise harmful cholesterol (LDLs)
• Increase the risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure
• Increase fasting levels of blood glucose and contribute to diabetes
• Promote tooth decay
• Speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair
• Contribute to weight gain and obesity
• Cause toxemia during pregnancy
• Increase the risk of fatty liver disease
• Increase the water retention and bloating
• Cause headaches, including migraines
• Increase bacterial fermentation in the colon
• Increase risk of certain types of cancers including breast, colon and prostate
• Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Kick your sugar habit
There is little doubt that repeatedly eating sugar throughout the day eventually leads to chronically high insulin and ultimately to insulin resistance, the underlying metabolic disorder for heart disease and diabetes. Clearly taking steps to reduce your sugar intake offers both immediate and long term health benefits.
Four tips to help you quit the sugar habit:
1. Avoid products with any form of added sugar listed in the ingredients as often as possible. If you need to sweeten your foods or baking, replace the sugar with natural alternatives such as date paste, fruit, raisins, apple sauce, brown rice syrup, coconut sap and stevia. Spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, or cocoa can also add flavour and sweetness to your recipes.
2. Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, splenda, saccharin, or acesulfame potassium. Although these products do not increase blood sugar levels upon consumption they still trigger insulin release, which increases cravings and the tendency to overeat. Select products that are sweetened with xylitol, erythritol or stevia instead.
3. Maintain consistent blood sugar as this is one of the most important steps to reduce your carbohydrate intake and ensure that your metabolism stays in high gear. You can do this by balancing your meals and snacks with a blend of protein, fats and low glycemic carbs. Fruits, for instance, fruit should always be consumed with a protein and fat source such as nuts or low fat yogurt. When you eat is also important. Eat every three to four hours and at the same times daily. This will keep your insulin lower than if you eat at irregular times daily.
4. I often recommend and have seen the positive effects of taking 200 to 400 mcg of chromium per day. This simple mineral helps to balance blood sugar and assists in the transition from a high to low sugar intake.
How are you doing?
Try this simple test to see how you’re doing on your quest for a sugar-free existence: If you can last for three to four hours without feeling hungry and remain free of cravings, it is a good indication your intake of carbohydrates (or sugar) has not been excessive. Less PMS, increased energy, weight loss, a healthy immune system, and improved mental focus are just a few of the lasting health benefits you can expect to enjoy.