Why is Sugar Bad for You and How Can You Curb Your Addiction?
Why is Sugar Bad for You?
This is a loaded question with good reason. To start with, sugar (glucose) serves an important function in the body, since your cells require energy to survive and glucose is generally the energy source of choice. At the same time, it seems that the American diet has taken processed sugar consumption to the extreme. The high intake of sugar has its consequences and it can lead to tooth decay, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, liver problems, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity and blindness. These are just a few conditions that have an association with excess sugar consumption, which is why it is generally considered bad for your health.
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
Currently, the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association recommend that adults limit their added sugar intake to about 5 percent of daily calories. For men, this translates to less than 38 grams of added sugar per day. For women, it’s less than 25 grams of added sugar.
Now that you have a bit of information on how much you ought to consume each day, consider certain choices that you may have in a particular meal. One glass of soda typically has more sugar than you should have in a day (a 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar), not to mention many coffee drinks have even more added sugar. What are the immediate effects of too much sugar and how does it affect the body and health?
The Consequences and What Happens if You Eat Too Much Sugar
There are some negative consequences to eating too much sugar on a regular basis. While not every individual may experience the same consequences, the consumption of too much sugar in the diet can lead to an increased risk of poor health. Continue reading to discover some of the long term and immediate effects of too much sugar.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a growing issue in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 75 million American adults have hypertension, a condition that leads to heart problems. Also, excessive sugar in the diet may lead to obesity, especially when the daily sugar intake is increased over a prolonged period of time. Obesity can then lead to an increase in blood pressure, which can have additional negative impacts on heart problems and vascular health.
Blood Sugar Highs and Lows
A downside to consuming too much processed sugar generally involves your energy levels, which are also known as your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are adequate for your body’s needs, your energy levels are generally optimal. However, following a meal that contains too much sugar, your blood sugar levels increase in a short time, insulin is released, and then blood sugar drops a short time after that. This process can cause what is known as sugar highs and sugar crashes, and it can play a negative role in your energy levels as well as your mental health.
One of the most common things you may have heard when you were a child was to not eat so much candy because it would destroy your teeth. Now as an adult, this may be popping back into your head because sugar can increase the rate of tooth decay. Tooth decay is a slow process that is caused by increased bacteria in your mouth. Generally, your mouth contains a fair amount of good bacteria; however, when you consume sugar, it encourages bad bacteria to multiply. When this happens, the bad bacteria break down your tooth enamel and begin to form cavities.
Poor Joint Health
Young adults may not think much about joint health. However, years of eating too much sugar can contribute to inflammation in the body, which is strongly associated with many health conditions, including arthritis. Arthritis is a debilitating and painful condition in which the tissues in your joints are under attack or break down. Typically, arthritis causes pain that leads to a decrease in joint mobility as well as a reduction in activities of daily living.
Eating too much sugar can increase inflammation in your body, which is not something that you can easily see. Since it tends to go unnoticed, inflammation often only shows itself after it has caused more acute symptoms, such as in cardiovascular disease or a heart attack.
High amounts of sugar in the diet can affect your mental health in a number of ways. It can lead to depression, and it can hinder your ability to learn new things. This decrease in cognitive function has everyday implications, and it can even get in the way of your career goals. Not to mention, many children who over consume sugar can have behavioral issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
One of the biggest issues with eating too much sugar involves your nutrient profile. Typically, foods that are high in sugar tend to be the lowest in nutrient density. This means that you get very few valuable nutrients for what you are ingesting. In comparison, foods that are low in sugar content, like vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes and grains, tend to be high in nutrient density. To accurately determine what is healthy and unhealthy, pay attention to how much sugar is in a particular food.
Signs You May Be Eating Too Much Sugar
There are some signs and symptoms to be aware of if you are consuming too much sugar on a regular basis. For starters, it’s likely you are eating too much sugar if you notice you are eating poorly. However, this is not always easy to pick up on, which is why it is important to know what to look for.
1. You Have Sugar Cravings Throughout the Day
One of the first immediate effects of too much sugar consumption is that you crave sugar often. It is a tough cycle to be in, considering eating sugar will only make you crave it more. This is where sugar addiction tends to take effect.
2. You are Sick Often
A sign that suggests that you have been eating too much sugar is if you have been sick often and recently. Sugar promotes the buildup of inflammation in your body, and when it reaches high levels, your immune system can take a hit. Considering your immune system is in charge of defending your body against infections and illnesses, a reduced immune system caused by excess sugar consumption may be a reason why you are getting the common cold regularly.
3. You're Gaining Fat
One of the immediate effects of too much sugar or too much of any nutrient is an increase in your body weight, especially your fat mass. Eating too much sugar is a quick way to decrease your metabolism and increase the amount of fat your body stores. Your body stores sugar as glycogen, and usually glycogen stores are reasonably filled throughout the day. Once your glycogen stores are filled to the maximum, the remaining sugar you eat is then converted to fat. Your body can store endless amounts of fat so if you notice any weight gain, especially fat gain, then there is a chance that you have been eating too much sugar.
4. Your Energy Levels are Drained
Another sign that you have been eating too much sugar is if your energy levels are lower than usual. Sugar in your morning coffee, your sweetened cereal and in the chocolate you had mid-morning could be causing your blood sugar levels to increase and then drastically decrease as well. These fluctuations in your blood sugar more than likely leave you feeling drained by lunchtime, which could be causing you to get another cup of coffee or crave a sugary pick-me-up.
5. Acne is Setting in
Adults are not supposed to get large amounts of acne, and one common sign that you have been eating too much sugar is if you notice you are having frequent breakouts. While acne can be caused by a number of factors, it usually occurs due to an influx of hormones in your blood. When you have a sugar binge during a meal and a couple of days later you notice a breakout, it could be a sign of too much sugar and it could suggest that you have some inflammation affecting your skin as well.
What Can You Do to Avoid Eating Too Much Sugar?
Now that you have information on how much sugar to eat, how much is considered too much, and some of the signs of eating too much sugar, this is where you can make a change. Remember that the typical American diet contains much more sugar than what is considered healthy, which means it may take a bit of effort to avoid sugar as much as possible. Below, we've listed some tips on what you can do to reduce your daily sugar intake while making healthy choices.
Make Alternative Choices
It's hard to know what to eat when you're craving sugar. With that in mind, making better choices is one of the most significant things you can do to reduce your intake of sugar. Generally, swapping sugary treats for fruits and vegetables is a great start. While fruit and vegetables have fructose in them, they have less of it while also being nutrient dense. Rather than having a jar of candy sitting on your desk in your office, consider having a bowl of fresh apples or oranges to help encourage yourself to choose better options when you want a snack.
Be Mindful of Ingredient Lists
Another important tip for reducing your sugar consumption is to be aware of everything you put into your body. Taking a little extra time to read ingredients on the package label should tell you if you are consuming something that has added sugar or sweeteners. In addition to reading the ingredient list on your food label, it is important to be aware of other names for sugar on labels on the front of the packaging as well. This is where many products advertise a supposed benefit, but it can be misleading. Many sugar-free products tend to have some sort of artificial sweetener in them, which can create more problems in your fight to reduce your daily sugar intake.
Avoid Sugar Alternatives and Sweeteners
One common misconception is that artificial sweeteners can combat fatigue, obesity and sugar addiction. The downside to these artificial compounds is that many of them are about 180 to 13,000 times sweeter than common table sugar. The problem with this is that you are tricking your mind into thinking you just consumed an incredibly sweet food when you actually did not. This can cause your brain to have a strong craving for sugar as a result, and it could cause a sugar craving quicker than ever.
Be Aware of Alternative Labeling for Suga
One of the trickiest ways that companies have hidden sugar is to find alternative products to sweeten foods. Here are some common names you can expect to see that are just other names for sugar: dextrose, fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, maple syrup, honey and molasses. The point of knowing the various names for sugar is so that you can be informed when you read a food label. Plus, it’s sobering to see the lengths that companies go to just to make something more appetizing.
Avoid Dried Fruit Options
Dried fruits may seem to be a healthy alternative to sugary treats; however, many dried fruits are coated in sugar to enhance their flavor and increase the shelf life. While not all dried fruits have added sugar, they are still packed with natural sugar, so it’s easy to get more than the recommended daily amount of sugar when eating them.
Trick Your Taste Buds
When you want something sweet, consider having a cup of tea instead. Mint, ginger or chai can help satisfy your taste buds when you want something sweet. However, make sure you refrain from adding sugar or sweetener to your tea.