We have been told that added sugars pose a high risk of making us sick. Many diseases are associated with too much sugar in the body. Such diseases include high blood pressure, heart disease and many other risks.
In this article, I am going to talk about the risks of added sugars, how to overcome a high sugar consumption and a lot of information concerning added sugars.
To start with;
What is sugar?
Sugar is a source of carbohydrates and energy providing 4 calories per grams or say 16 calories per leveled teaspoon.
Sugar on its own has no nutrients however, it occurs naturally in vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables and other carb-containing foods.
What is added sugar vs sugar?
Sugars, sugar or added sugar are terms used to describe different forms of sugar. These are the meaning of those terms.
Sugars are a broad category of all mono and disaccharides which are the simplest carbohydrates.
Monosaccharides include glucose, galactose and fructose while disaccharides include sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
Sugars occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and they can be extracted.
Added sugars are a category of caloric sweeteners that are classified as sugars and they include sugar and other sweeteners.
Simply, they are sugars that are added during the processing of foods, or in the form of syrups, honey and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
Yet sugar only refers to sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose bound together. Sugar is made from sugar beets and sugar cane.
Is natural sugar healthier than added sugar?
Simply, natural sugars are inherently already in food while added sugar is any sugar that is added in food to give it a sweet taste. Natural sugars are found in fruits and some vegetables while added sugars are created or added in the manufacturing process.
To start with, our bodies don’t differentiate the difference between added and natural sugars. This is so because they both have the same chemical structure.
For instance, the glucose found in a grape will be the same as the glucose in table sugar.
We may be able to distinguish the sugars but our bodies don’t and thus digestion for both will be the same.
To our bodies, sugar is sugar, and therefore if you are limiting your sugar intake aim at looking at the total grams of sugar in the food as this will be an effective measure.
However, this does not mean that cutting off added sugar is useless. During the manufacture of foods with added sugars, many important nutrients may be stripped out of the product making the food sweeter yet nutritiously of less value.
Added sugars provide empty calories which means they provide calories with less or no nutrients.
While on the other hand, foods consisting of natural sugars are highly nutritious since important nutrients like fiber won’t be stripped out of the food.
This means that foods with natural sugars are notoriously healthier than those with added sugars.
More so, during the manufacture of foods with added sugar, the amount of sugar added into the product may be high. Meaning you can get a whole large sum of sugar in a small portion of food. Which is not the case with natural sugar foods which will have sugars well distributed.
How bad are added sugars?
You have been told that added sugars are bad for your health. But how bad can they be? Let us see the health risks involved in the consumption of too much-added sugars.
1. Added sugars can cause weight gain.
Many cases of weight gain are linked to added sugars got from foods like sodas, juices, sweet teas, candy and others.
Consuming foods with added sugars increases hunger and desire for more food increasing calorie intake.
More so, excessive consumption of fructose a compound in added sugars causes resistance to leptin which is an important hormone that regulates hunger to signal your body to stop eating.
In summary, sugary foods don’t curb hunger which leads to eating more thus a high-calorie intake leading to weight gain.
2. Increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Many reasons are linked to the development of type 2 diabetes but a common one is obesity which is often caused by the consumption of too much sugar.
Additionally, high sugar consumption leads to the resistance of insulin a hormone meant to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. Insulin resistance leads to rising sugar levels and an increase in the risk of getting diabetes.
3. Increases the risk of heart disease.
Consumption of high sugar foods is associated with an increased risk of heart-related diseases.
High sugary foods especially beverages are linked to atherosclerosis a disease that is characterized by fatty artery-clogging deposits. Clogged arteries can lead to a disturbed flow of blood to the heart causing heart attacks.
On top of that, high sugar diets lead to obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure which are all risks for heart disease.
Just facts from a study carried out on over 30,000 people revealed that those who consumed 17-21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who got about 8% calories from added sugar.
4. Increases the risk of certain cancers.
High sugar diets are known for increasing the risk of one getting cancer.
To start with, a diet high in sugar increases inflammation and insulin resistance which are both linked to increased cancer risk.
More so, obesity that may be caused by high sugar diets can lead to a high risk of getting cancer too.
Cancers like esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestines are most common to people who feed on high sugar diets.
5. Added sugars can accelerate skin aging.
Among the many causes of early aging is the consumption of high sugar foods. which accelerates wrinkles development and skin aging processes.
High sugar diets cause premature skin aging as they produce advanced glycation end products which are compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein in the body.
Collagen and elastin which are proteins that keep skin elastic and young are damaged by the advanced glycation end products. The damaged skin loses elasticity making it lose its firmness thus sagging.
6. Increased risk of depression.
Healthy diets are associated with healthy living and improved moods while high added sugars increase the chances of depression and health risks.
In a research, it was revealed that of the 80,000 people who consumed 67 grams and above of sugar for over 22 years, 23% of them were more likely to develop depression than those who ate 40 grams and below of sugar per day.
It indicated that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation, and inflammation all caused by a high sugar consumption may be the reasons for depression.
7. Tooth decay.
Taking sugary foods like candy, sweets and snacks are linked to an increased risk of tooth decay.
Studies show that a group of bacteria produce acid in your mouth whenever you eat and digest sugar. The acids produced remove minerals from the enamel which is the outer hard layer of the tooth. Though saliva helps to reverse this process, the continued cycle of acid production later manages to form cavities in the tooth.
It is common in infants because they have soft milk teeth that can be broken by the acid in a short time.
8. May lead to fatty liver.
High consumption of fructose which is a compound found in sugar has been linked to an increased risk of fatty liver.
Fructose is broken down by the liver unlike other types of sugar which are broken by many cells throughout the body.
Fructose is converted into energy or stored as glycogen however, the excess glycogen is turned into fat. This means that continued intake of fructose will cause much glycogen which will be turned into fat.
In the end, this leads you exposed to the development of fatty liver disease due to the much accumulation of fats in the liver.
How can I avoid adding sugar to my diet?
- Cut out drinking sugar-filled drinks like energy drinks, soda, juices or sweetened teas and instead go for herbal or fruit teas, coffee, water or other sugar-free drinks.
- Consuming whole fruits instead of added sweeteners fruit smoothies will save you a whole amount of unnatural sugars that aren’t healthy.
- Take plain yogurt sweetened with berries instead of flavored or sugar-loaded yogurt.
- Aim at substituting sweetened food additives with fruits instead. For instance, fresh bananas can be sliced onto your peanut butter sandwich rather than jelly. A lot like this can be done
- Substitute sweet salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar.
- Always stock grocery that is fresh and has whole ingredients. Keeping sugar added groceries away from you can help you overcome the temptation.
- Avoid sugar-loaded desserts such as ice cream, cakes or cookies and opt for fresh fruit, dark chocolate or a cup of dates.
- Getting enough sleep can help you stay healthy and eat less sugar. Lack of enough sleep causes people to crave sweets and salty foods over healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Read labels while shopping for groceries. Sugars can be hidden in various foods like cereals, dried fruit even bread. Therefore, reading the labels and ingredient list will help you choose sugar-free groceries.
- Eat whole foods that haven’t been processed or refined. They are also usually free form other additives and artificial substances.
- Try to avoid sauces that have lots of sugar. Ketchup, barbecue sauce and sweet chili have high sugar content, it’s better to opt for fresh chili, yellow mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise, pesto and other sugar-free food additives.
What happens when you stop eating sugar for a month?
Sugar is found in lots of foods and we have seen the health risks associated with excessive consumption of sugar. But have you ever wondered what would happen if cut out sugars from our diets for a week, month or more?
Here are the answers to your questions.
Improved skin elasticity.
Since sugar is known to decrease skin elasticity and accelerate premature aging through a process called glycation. Glycation is a process by which sugar molecules bind together to break collagen and elastin in the skin. Therefore, cutting sugar out of the diet will help you see effects towards healthy skin making you look younger.
You will lose weight.
Cutting out or reducing the amount of sugar we eat can help shed some pounds.
Sugar is known for causing weight since it interrupts the hormone that signals to the body to stop eating which makes you eat more thus weight gain.
However, cutting out sugar, your body will be able to regulate the amount of food you eat thus weight loss.
That said, don’t think weight loss will come easily just because you cut or limit your sugar intake. No, weight loss involves different do as and don’t, checking of diet and workouts as discussed in these articles.
Habits and foods to avoid to lose weight faster.
Weight loss of friendly foods. (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
The Ultimate guide on how to lose weight permanently.
Lower the risk of diabetes.
Cutting sugar out of your diet will help to overcome insulin resistance by the body. This will lower the chances of getting diabetes since the body will be able to regulate sugar levels.
Other effects of cutting out sugar from your diet.
- Cutting sugar out of the diet will clear your skin complexion and reduce inflammation.
- You will live longer since you will have fewer chances of getting sugar-related diseases and conditions.
- You will have a healthy dental system since too much sugar destroys the enamel. Therefore, limiting your sugar intake will save your teeth.
What are the symptoms of too much sugar?
Eating sugar is not bad but overconsumption of sugar will expose you to various diseases and conditions. Here comes a question of how can I know that I am taking too much sugar.
Below are the indicators of too much sugar in your diet.
- Weight gain caused by excess glucose which is unused and stored in the body as fat.
- Premature aging since too much sugar consumptions damages skin proteins collagen and elastin leading to skin loss of elasticity and sagging.
- Continuous cravings as sugary foods are addictive yet not satisfying. This will make you desire to eat sweet foods constantly.
- Weakened immune system: excess sugar consumption is accompanied by lots of diseases and risks that can weaken the immune system.
- Insomnia caused by a rush of energy from eating sugary foods.
How much added sugar per day is OK?
Many factors influence the amount of sugar one can take and doesn’t cause harm to the body. Factors like immunity, diabetes history, gender and others influence the amount of sugar fit for someone.
However, the maximum amount of added sugars one should eat in a day according to the American Heart Association are as follows.
Men: 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
Women: 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).
If you are healthy and active, these amounts will cause no harm to you since you will be able to burn them. However, it is important to note that the less added sugars in your diet, the healthier you will be.
What should I do if I ate too much sugar?
It is very common to eat a lot of sugar. Maybe when you are hungry, bored or it is your favorite cake.
Eating too much sugar should not worry you when you can do these simple steps to help you get rid of the sugar and the guilt.
It is possible to eat a whole packet of candy or a full cake due to boredom or as you watch a movie. Disaster? Isn’t that too much sugar to be eaten in a day?
Worry not and just do these few things to help you regulate the sugar in your body.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water and other drinks without sugar.
- Have an unsweetened smoothie.
- Don’t sleep, keep active after taking too much sugar. Going for a walk, run or a gym workout will help your muscles use the blood sugar instead of storing it as fat.
- Drink a cup of tea with lemon and this will make you have plenty of bathroom breaks. This will force your blood to pump through the kidney faster.
- Stabilize your blood sugar by eating foods rich in proteins and fiber. These will help you feel satisfied for longer to prevent you from craving for food again.
- Do some workouts or yoga to kill depression and stress. Most people always yearn for sweet foods when they are stressed. By curbing stress, you limit yourself from future sugary food cravings.
- Prepare a healthy meal for later. The presence of a healthy meal will help you avoid the temptation of eating unhealthy foods that may have a lot of added sugar.
Is honey considered added sugar?
Although honey comes from a natural source and made by bees, it is still an added sugar. To the likes of corn syrup or cane sugar, honey is categorized in this group.
Honey is still a healthy sugar compared to other added sugars that are factory-made. A lot of people find comfort in adding honey over other added sugar options.
The bottom line;
The more you avoid added sugars, the healthier you will be. For all sugars (natural sugars inclusive), aim at not going over the maximum sugar intake as seen in the article above.
Consuming natural sugars is healthier than added or refined sugars. Unfortunately, added sugars cannot be kicked out of our daily diets. It is hard to do without them as they exist in many foods that we eat like white bread. In any case, try to limit their intake.
If you happen to develop symptoms of too much sugar or related diseases and risks, consult your doctor immediately.