Addicted to Sugar
Updated: Aug 9
Sugar. It is everywhere. It is literally embedded in our diet and our lives. The choice to consume sugar on a regular basis is becoming more and more in your control.
Sugar is not a required nutrient in your diet.
But why limit sugar? It's "so sweet" and "gives me energy," you say. Read on.
Sugar can negatively affect your health and body in many ways.
What is "natural" sugar?
Sugar occurs "naturally" in carbohydrates.
What are carbohydrates?
Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy are carbohydrates.
Your body digests these whole foods slowly. This "natural" sugar provides energy to your cells. Diets based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are healthy. It reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Plant-based foods have fiber, antioxidants, and essential minerals. Dairy has protein and calcium. The key is balance and portion control when consuming "natural" sugars, carbohydrates, and dairy.
The key is balance and portion control when consuming "natural" sugars, carbohydrates, and dairy.
What is "added" sugar?
The problems occur with too much "added" sugar. This "added sugar is the sugar "added" to food products to extend shelf life and/or increase the flavor.
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Should I read labels?
Yes. We consume way too much "added" sugar. Look at the labels and ingredients of soups, bread, processed meats, tomato sauce, protein bars, and even ketchup, for example.
Look for the "added" sugar. Try to avoid, or reduce, your consumption if it.
Try to avoid, or reduce, your consumption of "added" sugar.
Where does your "added" sugar come from?
Corn sweetener/corn syrup/high-fructose corn syrup
Fruit drinks/fruit juice concentrates
Sugars/brown sugar/honey/invert sugar/malt sugar/molasses/agave nectar/palm sugar/cane juice
Anything ending in "-ose" (i.e. dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Note: About half of the added sugar comes from beverages, including coffee and tea, if using sweeteners.
Source: CDC, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–06.
How much "added" sugar am I eating?
Adult men consume about 24 teaspoons of "added" sugar per day, or 384 calories, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Americans overall average about 20 teaspoons of "added" sugars per day.
The American Heart Association suggests that men consume no more than around 9 teaspoons of "added" sugar per day, or 150 calories. That is close to one 12-ounce can of soda.
How much "added" sugar is actually recommended?
6 teaspoons for women
9 teaspoons for men
This doesn't include "natural" sugar found in foods like fruits and milk.
So, we are basically choosing to consume more than twice the "added" sugar as recommended. I emphasize the word "choice."
What does sugar do to my body?
Sugar provides your brain something called dopamine. This naturally produced chemical, called dopamine, makes you feel "good." There is less dopamine released with whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Thus the sugar "craving" we get from "added" sugar.
Blood sugar levels rise fast when eating candies and sweets causing a “sugar high." That sugar is absorbed in cells. Then sugar levels drop. You can feel jittery and anxious because of this “sugar crash." There is also a greater risk of depression with high sugar intake.
There is a greater risk of depression with high sugar intake.
Insulin is made in the pancreas. When you eat excess amounts of sugar, the pancreas eventually cannot keep up producing enough insulin, and it will stop working as it should, causing your blood sugar levels will rise. You develop resistance to insulin. This leads to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart, eye, kidney, and vascular disease.
Your Heart and Cardiovascular System
Insulin (from the pancreas) enters your bloodstream when you eat sugar. Insulin helps regulate sugar levels. However, excess sugar, leads to excess insulin, eventually insulin resistance, which leads to the "hardening" of your arteries in your circulatory system.
Sugar contributes to high blood pressure (hypertension). Your blood pressure will also remain lower when you consume less sugar.
Sugar increases chronic inflammation.
All of the above contributing factors (insulin resistance, hypertension, and chronic inflammation) increase your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
This plus the other effects of sugar, such as weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease—all of which are linked to increased risks for heart attack and stroke.
Your Body Weight
The more sugar you eat, the more you will weigh. Known fact.
The more sugar you eat, the more you will weigh.
Although you think it is healthy...the "empty" liquid calories in sugary beverages are not as satisfying to your body as calories from solid foods. So grabbing that "energy" drink is actually turning off your "appetite-control system" and you are adding "empty" calories.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, heart attacks, cancers, fatty liver, and strokes, for example.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) age your skin. AGEs are harmful compounds that are formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. This process is called glycation. The inflammation may make your skin age faster causing the dreaded "wrinkles" and "saggy skin."
The liver metabolizes (breakdowns) sugar and alcohol. The liver also converts dietary carbohydrates to fat. The more sugar (carbohydrates) consumed, thus the greater accumulation of fat in the liver. This causes fatty liver disease. Fatty liver leads to insulin resistance.
Insulin manages sugar in your bloodstream and helps direct normal amounts into energy. With fatty liver and insulin resistance, your body cannot control your blood sugar level and causes type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms. Insulin resistance, as noted above, also increases your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms.
The kidneys filter out toxins, waste, and blood sugar. Diabetes, caused by excess sugar, causes kidney damage. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, it can lead to end-stage kidney (renal) failure, requiring dialysis.
Your Sexual Health
Your circulatory system, or blood flow in your body, is what allows men to develop and keep an erection. As above, excess sugar can negatively affect your circulatory system and lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).
The inflammation in your body caused by sugar leads to worsening joint pain. Sugar also increases the risk of developing the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The bacteria that cause cavities to eat sugar. Sugar and candy will cause enamel and dental decay to teeth.
I eat a high fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.
"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🥬 🌾 🥦"
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