Negative Effects of Sugar

Sugar’s Reputation

Sugar and spice and everything ... not so nice? Sugar is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about substances that are bad for you and cause disease. Sugar has long been touted as “natural” and the least of your worries when thinking about health and weight loss.

However, a lot of damage can be done when you consume sugar on a regular and excessive basis. And, besides the fact that sugar calories really do add up, sugar also causes a cascade of additional problems in your body from immune system suppression to aging.

Sugar “only” has 15 calories per teaspoon. That doesn’t really sound like much of a problem until you realize that hardly anything has just one teaspoon of sugar in it.

Sugar is in practically everything we eat. Although some sources do occur naturally, like the sugars found in milk products and potatoes or fruit, it’s still a good practice to limit your sugar intake and seek out the hidden sugars in your diet.

Natural

Is sugar really “natural”? If you really want natural, you’d have to break off a piece of sugar cane and eat that for the true natural version of sugar.

The white, granular, powdery stuff that comes out of huge factories, after it’s been processed and manipulated by man with various chemicals and additives, is not a natural substance. And the effects of sugar on your body, health, and well-being are far from “natural”.

Big Business

Sugar is big business and big business means big money. The website www.sugar.org advocates bringing the family together by baking with sugar. They say, “Family means everything and baking is an easy way to show just how much you care.”

It’s kind of like the scenario where your grandmother cooks all kinds of delicious foods for you and you “have” to eat them to show your love and appreciation for her. Although, truth be told, if you truly cared for each other, you’d find ways to eradicate sugar from your baking and your lives.

The website goes on to say that “Sugar is more than a "fun" food ingredient, it's an essential one as well. Because it's all-natural, you can consume it with confidence.” Well, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. And, don’t believe everything you grew up believing. When you start to research sugar, and it’s real effects on your body and your health, you will uncover some shocking facts.

"It is our government support of big sugar that keeps the prices of junk food cheaper than real food, and that is part of the problem" says Leslie Cerier of The Organic Gourmet

Sugar is also the number one food that's ruining your diet!

Decode the Code

Most labels list sugar in “grams”. This can make it very confusing for most of us. A teaspoon of granulated white sugar is equal to about 4 grams.

Therefore, take the grams of sugar listed in the food item and divide by 4 to get an approximate number of teaspoons. For example, a bottle of innocent-looking Snapple “All Natural” Lemon Tea has nine teaspoons of sugar in it.

One of my old favorites, a Starbucks Venti Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato, has 44 grams of sugar in it, which translates to about 11 teaspoons of sugar.

That’s a whole lot of sugar for something we think of as a benign and healthy low fat or fat free drink.

Sugar Aliases

Sugar is everywhere. It’s in places that you’d least expect to find it, like ketchup and other condiments, peanut butter, sauces, yogurts, deli meats, soups, juices, cereals and more.

Many foods also have a high natural sugar content and these should also be avoided for the most part.

Just because something is labeled “fat-free” or “low fat”, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or sugar free. A lot of “diet” foods are actually sugar-laden health traps. Things that are fat-free are generally over-loaded with sugar to give you extra “taste” because the fat has been removed.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is another fancy name for sugar and something that should be avoided at all costs. This substance is found in almost everything.

Some other hidden sources of sugar are items like yogurts, milks, and other various dairy products. They contain milk sugars (lactose). While you wouldn’t expect a glass of milk to have any negative side effects, the sugars found in dairy products still count as sugar to your body.

Alcohol, a particularly sneaky culprit, has 7 empty calories per gram. And, another reason not to go overboard with alcohol is that it’s converted to sugar in your body when you drink it.

Some other, lesser known aliases for sugar include: malt, fructose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltodextrin, sorbitol, sorghum, sucrose, mannitol, and many others.

The Bad and the Ugly

Sugar does nothing good for you. In fact, it weakens your immune system. When you’re fighting illness or trying to avoid sickness, sugar is not going to aid you in any way. It has no nutritional value at all. All it is is “empty” calories; calories that don’t provide your body with any benefits whatsoever.

It’s also very addictive and one of the main causes of obesity. You get de- sensitized to the sweetness of foods when you consume too much sugar. Then, predictably, you need more and more sugar over time to have the same sensation of sweetness that you used to get from a smaller amount of sugar.

Worse, when you consume sugar, it is easily converted into glucose (sugar in your blood). When your blood glucose levels are high, your body releases insulin to deal with it. Why is this important? There are several reasons that it’s significant, but the main reason, for our purposes, is that fat burning comes to a complete halt in the presence of insulin.

When you’re trying to lose weight, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by eating low fat or non-fat foods. But, in reality, if those same foods are sugar-laden, then you won’t be burning fat at all. So, it makes sense that if you want to rid your body of fat, then eating sugar is going to undermine your goal. You shouldn’t be afraid of healthy fats, but you should be afraid of the long term and short term negative effects of sugar.

Aging

Believe it or not, sugar ages your skin and causes wrinkles. According to Elle magazine, researchers say sugar molecules in your body become part of an aging process known as glycation. Glycation occurs when sugar attacks collagen and elastin structures in your skin.

These structures are what keep your skin firm and youthful. Advanced glycation products (called “AGEs”) are produced when sugar molecules inundate collagen and elastin, causing it to become brittle and break down. This also causes inflammation.

And the effects of glycation don’t stop at skin destruction. The persistent inflammation caused by sugar can also increase your risks of developing a host of diseases, including, but not limited to, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, pancreas and liver problems, and cataracts.

Alternatives

Luckily, there are some sweet alternatives to sugar. While there have been, and continue to be, many artificial sweeteners on the market, there are some choices that are better than others.

First and foremost, satisfying your sweet tooth with the goodness of fruits and berries is a good option. But again, too much of a good thing is still too much. You don’t want to consistently fill your diet with high glycemic foods, even healthy choices like fruits. Your goal should be to keep your blood sugar low and stable.

Try stevia for a great sugar substitute. Stevia comes from a leaf and does not affect blood glucose levels. It is a great sugar alternative, especially for those with diabetes. Stevia comes in various forms like liquid drops or powders. You can purchase it in packets as well. Some of the brand names for stevia are Truvia, Sweet Leaf, Stevia In The Raw, and PureVia.

Read also: What is the best tasting Stevia?

Splenda, also known as Sucralose, is another popular sweetener. Although it doesn’t share the healthy reputation of stevia, splenda has been used for years. It’s not a natural sweetener. It’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener, so user beware.

Xylitol is yet another sweetening option. It is a "sugar alcohol”. Sugar alcohols often cause diarrhea and bloating, so test your tolerance first with xylitol before consuming large amounts of it.

Break the Addiction

How do you free yourself from your addiction to sugar? It’s not as hard as you think. According to Jackie Warner, Celebrity Trainer, you can break your sugar habit in five short days.

She says stop eating refined sugar and also foods that contain refined carbohydrates as well. Refined carbohydrates quickly turn to sugar once they enter your blood. Again, this causes your insulin levels to spike in a sugar-like manner.

Therefore, it’s best to limit or avoid refined foods. As part of your “recovery” from your sugar addiction, Jackie also recommends limiting your sugar intake to less than 5 grams per serving. She says your body doesn’t even register that amount of sugar.

Again, beware of refined carbs. They are found in most packaged and prepared foods. Breads, cereals, granola bars, and other processed foods contain refined carbs and can derail your progress toward a sugar-free lifestyle.

Jackie says to start by adding healthy foods to your diet, such as apples, berries, and citrus. These will incorporate the sweet flavors you’re looking for, while helping you get over the hump of learning to feed yourself without sugar. She also recommends getting plenty of healthy vegetables and proteins.

Including these good foods in your diet will help your body naturally cleanse and balance itself.

Once you’ve included healthy choices in your diet, you can really start to ditch the sugar filled foods of your past. Replacing the sugar with tasty healthful alternatives will become easier as you adjust to new levels of sweetness. And, when you start to notice how good you feel and how great you look, you’ll think again before reaching for the sugar.

Related- Cutting Carbs to Lose Weight

Summary

To conclude, the best thing to do, if you’ve been on a sugar binge for most of your life, is to start phasing sugar out of your life. You don’t have to go cold turkey.

If you don’t believe sugar is all that bad for you, just eliminate it from your life for a while and see how you feel, watch your energy levels soar, your immune system come to life, and your skin glow. Then, decide for yourself.

The bottom line is, try to wean yourself from sugar. And, learn to enjoy the truly natural sweetness of fruits and berries. And, if you must use sweeteners to make your food more interesting, there are many alternatives from which to choose. However, if your goal is to be as healthy as you can, your best choice is stevia. Moderation is key. Make the best choices you can most of the time, and your life can be pretty sweet.

You might also like: The 21 Day Sugar Detox

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-warner/sugar-diet_b_1244673.html

http://nutrition.about.com/od/askyournutritionist/f/gramconversion.htm

http://www.stevia.com/

http://www.truthaboutsplenda.com/resources/faqs.html

http://www.dietriffic.com/2009/03/26/names-for-sugar/

This Is Why You're Fat (And How to Get Thin Forever): Eat More, Cheat More, Lose More--and Keep the Weight Off by Jackie Warner

Here's a very good infographic I have found at hotzehwc.com

Helen Sanders
 

Chief editor here at Health Ambition, I'm a proud mother of two passionate about nutrition and ways to live healthier with more energy!