It has been described as toxic, addictive, and even a killer among some scientists, yet we’re consuming it every single day. Sugar: it’s not as sweet as you might think.
First Thing’s First… What Kind of “Sugar” Are We Talking About Here?
Sugar is composed of two simpler parts called sucrose and fructose. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day, while for men that number is nine teaspoons. Think about that for a minute! Six to nine teaspoons… That’s it!
Added sugar isn’t the natural stuff found in fruits or milk; it’s the stuff that companies inject into almost every item at your grocery store to make it taste better and last longer.
It’s for this reason that people around the world are consuming an average of 17 teaspoons of sugar and high fructose corn syrup per day according to a 2013 report. That’s almost 1/3 cup and 280 calories worth of sugar! Every. Single. Day.
What’s the Big Deal?
Here are some of the obvious—and not-so-obvious—reasons why you should avoid sugar:
Sugar can make you fat.
In healthy people, your liver and muscles can store extra glucose (or sugar) without a problem in case you need a little energy boost later (like between meals or when you’re working out). But if you bombard your body with glucose constantly, your liver and muscle cells become bouncers at a club who simply can’t let any more in. Result: excess glucose gets stored as fat.
2. Sugar suppresses your immune system.
Sugar depresses white blood cells that eat and kill bacteria (a.k.a. neutrophil phagocytes) for up to five hours. That’s why if you’re sick especially, the last thing you should be doing is consuming sugar.
3. Sugar gives you mood swings.
Foods that give a steady supply of glucose contain carbohydrates that are broken down into simple sugars slowly, meaning we’re fuelled for a long period of time. Foods high in simple sugars like cookies or pop are broken down super quickly, sending a ton of glucose into our bloodstream at once. This gives us a big energy kick, but not for long; that same sugar that took no time to enter your bloodstream takes just as little time to leave, and suddenly you feel hungry and irritable all over again. In fact, many mood issues that people have are likely linked to blood sugar fluctuations to at least some degree, though this is rarely acknowledged. In fact, when I see clients as a therapist who are complaining about constant mood swings, I often wonder what the effects of a proper diet would be on them. My guess is that if I could help stabilize their blood sugar levels, it would have a tremendous effect on their moods for the better.
4. Sugar can give you diabetes.
When you eat sugar, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. But eat too much and your cells will become resistant to this important hormone and your cells won’t be able to absorb the glucose from your bloodstream.
Case in point: Mexico ranks first in the world for type II diabetes while ranking second globally in added sugar consumption per person. Coincidence? I think not.
5. Sugar can give you PMS.
A 2013 study concluded that “excess intake of sweet-tasting food items such as chocolates, cakes, and desserts had a significant influence on the occurrence of PMS” in a study of 253 female college students.
Reduce sugar intake two weeks before menstruation and you’d be amazed… I know from experience!
6. Sugar gives you brain fog by feeding bad bacteria.
Candida is a type of yeast that resides in your mouth, intestines, and gut. Since candida loves sugar, eating too much of it will feed this bad bacteria, causing it to multiply and take over. Problem: Candida releases aldehyde into the body — a toxic chemical for us — that can also be converted into ethanol by the liver, a type of alcohol. If you experience that “hungover” brain fog feeling consistently, you might have too much yeast in your system. Cut back on the sugar to stop feeding those guys!
Yeast overgrowth can also cause you to crave carbohydrates and sweets, only making staying healthy harder!
The Bottom Line
I’ve only scratched the surface of why sugar is bad for you. Aside from the points above, it can lead to tooth decay, worsen the symptoms of ADHD (especially in children), cause headaches, and affect a whole host of bodily processes. Avoid added sugars as much as possible and see how it affects your body! Additionally, it’s incredibly important to become aware of all of the many hiding places of sugar. Check out my other blog post to find out where that sneaky stuff is hiding. You'd be amazed!
You Tell Me!
Do you have any sugar-free recipes or snacks that you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!