You may think the two teaspoons of sugar in your tea or coffee are not a cause for concern. The problem is that there is a lot of sugar and sugar compounds hidden in other foods and drinks you consume regularly under names you have to check up in a dictionary.
So let's look at some of the effects sugar can have on your health and your waistline.
1.- Sugar may cause you to overeat
Regular sugar is made of fructose and glucose. Fructose significantly increases your hunger levels because it increases your body's production of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, while decreasing levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone peptide YY (PYY, click here for more info).
When you consume sugary food and drink, your brain doesn't actually register the feeling of being full. Instead, the sugar content makes your brain release dopamine in the same way cocaine and gambling do. In Fact, research has shown that sugar is found to be as addictive as cocaine! And, as a drug, it also has withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, cravings and changes in your sleep pattern.
So sugar makes you hungrier and you want to eat more. But it is also addictive, so you need more of it to get the same level of 'satisfaction'.
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2.- Sugar affects your health
Sugar doesn't just affect your waistline, it puts your health at risk too. Over the recent years sugar has been linked to various cardiovascular diseases. A study conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the association of added sugar intake with cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and they observed “a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for CVD mortality”.
High sugar consumption also overloads your liver. Dr Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that "your liver metabolises sugar the same way as alcohol, and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat," which overtime can turn into fatty liver disease, a major contributor to diabetes and eventually a risk for your heart.
There is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk. Obesity, which is often caused by consuming too much sugar, is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes. What’s more, prolonged high-sugar consumption, including fruit juice, drives insulin resistance, which causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your risk of diabetes.
3.- Sugar is linked to depression and low energy
Sugar can also increase brain inflammation, which is linked to depression. Muffins, croissants, pastries, and all commercial baked goods may also trigger depression. Spanish researchers found that individuals who ate the most baked goods had a 38 percent higher risk of depression than individuals who ate the least number of baked goods. The study also suggested the intake of trans fats may play a role in inflammation and the increased risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Besides depression, eating lots of sugar also reduces the activity of what are called “orexin cells” that regulate wakefulness so, as a result, you end up feeling pretty sleepy. Ever wondered why your body craves midday naps? That is why.
So the next time you're feeling blue, do your body a favour and reach out for a healthy alternative to satisfy your sugar cravings.
Dr. Nish says: “If you put a banana out on the counter and peel it, what happens in 24-48 hours? It gets brown. The exact same reaction is happening in our bodies. We’re browning from the inside out.”
Dark circles, the appearance of wrinkles, increased acne, sagging in neck and chin, are some of the effects sugar has on you! Sugar reacts with protein and creates advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).
These substances actually cause your skin to form wrinkles and harden your cell structures.
When sugar is contained naturally within food, such as in fruit, you’re also usually taking in a lot of fiber, which slows the digestion of the sugar and causes less of an impact on blood sugar. Refined sugars are where the problems are.
Sugar detox plan
There are several popular sugary sweeteners that people consider healthy including coconut sugar, molasses, honey and maple syrup. However, these aren't much different from sugar and your liver really can't tell the difference.
Artificial sweeteners are often used to cut calories and won’t cause an insulin spike. However, because the body receives a sweet hit, it expects calories, so when they aren’t delivered you may seek out more food to get the energy it needs.
There are a few alternatives that are actually good for you, but read the label to make sure they are not processed with added fructose.
Stevia: it has virtually no calories and has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Erythritol: found naturally in fruit, it only contains 6% of the calories of sugar. It also doesn't cause blood sugar spikes
Xylitol: a sweetener extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables. It doesn't cause blood sugar spikes.
Yacon syrup: it's high in soluble fibers that feed the good bacteria in the intestine and can help relieve constipation.
5 Tips to quit sugar
Since sugar can be as addictive as drugs or alcohol, it is also possible to suffer from sugar withdrawal. If you are struggling to give up sugar, use the alternatives mentioned above and follow all or some of these tips:
1. Cut back on the obvious sources
Soda, energy drinks, and coffee drinks, smoothies, juice drinks, and fruit juices are loaded with sugar. Opt for still water, sparkling water (you can squeeze a lemon or lime into it), or chilled unsweetened tea instead.
2. Choose a healthy breakfast
Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving. Swap your morning cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with nut butter and fresh berries, or an omelet with fresh vegetables.
3. Pick healthier desserts
Grain and dairy based desserts are filled with sugar and simple carbs. After a meal reach for:
fresh fruit, a handful of dates or a square of dark chocolate. Swap candy for fresh fruit or naturally dried fruit.
4. Swap your sauces
Ketchup, barbecue sauce and sweet chili sauce have a shocking sugar content. Check the label even for the no added sugar varieties. Here are some other options: fresh or dried herbs and spices, fresh chili, yellow mustard, vinegar, harissa paste, pesto, mayonnaise (mind the fat here if you are trying to lose weight).
5. Read food labels
Food manufacturers frequently add sugar to savory foods like processed sauces, canned soups, and even bread to boost flavour. Check the label and sugar is one of the first five ingredients, leave the product on the shelf. Here is the list of hidden ingredients that are added sugar.
5. Challenge yourself
Get rid of all sugar items at home and eliminate all processed products with added sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet for two weeks. After that brief period of time, you just might find that you’ve reset your taste buds and no longer crave the overabundance of sugar you were eating just a few weeks before.
Added sugars aren't a necessary nutrient in your diet. Excess sugar can be incredibly harmful and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Some natural sweeteners are deceptive because your body still sees them as sugar and they have the same effect on your health if eaten in excess.
The best way to avoid added sugars in your diet is to cook your own meals at home so you know exactly what's in them. However, if you need to buy processed foods, read the label to identify any hidden sugars.
With some preparation and a little patience, your sugar habit will be a thing of the past. The benefits you gain are more than worth it.