The Shocking Truth About Sugar & Why Your Body Needs It
Is sugar really as bad as its cracked up to be?
Ive always had a sweet tooth – maybe you have too! Dessert, chocolate, fruits, and more – these were my snacking go-tos. But then, as I worked in the fitness and health industry, I heard all about how bad sugar is for you and how there was far too much of it in the modern Western diet.
So, I attempted to cut it out.
Not only did this send me on a rollercoaster involving moodiness, fatigue, and more, but I also ended up with epic food binges. Friday night would roll around, and Id find myself knee-deep in chocolate, ice cream, jujubes – all the junk stuff. The no-sugar thing didnt exactly work out well for me.
And I get it – there is no one-size-fits-all for health and diet. Yet, physiologically, we are all built relatively the same.
So, whats the deal? The truth?
Your body needs sugar. In this article, well dive into exactly why you need sugar, the benefits of it, and what kind of sugar you should be eating .
Can Trigger Symptoms Of Gout
That same inflammation of the joints can also happen in those who suffer from gout, another form of an inflammatory disease caused by pain in the joints. The more fructose you consume, the more you are at risk of having a gout flare-up because fructose increases uric levels in the body, which then causes joint inflammation and pain in someone who has gout .
So How Much Can You Have
Many foods have way more sugar than you realize. The USDAs Dietary Guidelines say no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from added sugarfor a 2,000 calorie diet thats 200. The American Heart Association is stricter, with a limit of 100 calories for women and 150 for men. The term added sugars indicates sugars that are added to processed and prepared foods, as well as sugars added at the time of consumption, says Dr. Saltzman. Most research focuses on these added sugars as potentially harmful. For example, if you have a Milky Way, which contains 31 grams of added sugar, youre practically at your limit already. Bottom line? Read nutrition labels to see how much youre getting and then read up on the 40 sneaky names for sugar you may not recognize.
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What Does Too Much Sugar Do To Your Body
Everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for you. It puts you at risk of diabetes, makes you gain weight, and can cause a number of health problems. Even if you are not a diabetic, or are gifted with a naturally fast metabolism, high sugar intake is just bad news. Lets take a look at how much sugar you should be taking on a daily basis and what happens when you exceed this limit.
Youll Feel Lighter Brighter And Happier
Sure, eating your favorite cake or ice cream may make you feel better in the short term, but over the long haul, your mental health can take a beating. Did you know that eating too much sugar is linked to depression? The underlying chronic inflammation that happens when we eat a high-sugar diet negatively impacts our brain function one of the reasons we get blue with too many sweets.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate sugary foods with a high glycemic index increased their risk for depression. Another study published in 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports found that men who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar every day increased their risk for depression when compared to men who ate less than 40 grams each day. Just consider a small child after eating their Halloween or Easter stash. They often turn from little angels to pesky devils! If you want to eat to beat the blues, youll want to stop eating sugar especially if youre prone to depressive states.
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There Are Other Factors Besides Sugar In Metabolic Disease
Indeed, if we look at factors that we know for sure are related to the risk of metabolic disease, only about 3% of Americans uphold four essential healthy lifestyle behaviors consistently:
- Not smoking.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day 5 times a week at a moderate intensity.
On top of that, lets consider two other known preventative methods for metabolic disease
- Keeping stress levels moderate.
- Sleeping well, 7-9 hours per night, consistently.
now were probably at 1% of Americans.
Once again, sugar intake is probably one piece of the puzzle. But its just one pieceand probably a very small one.
It Makes Your Organs Fat
Fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, the former being found in table sugar and the latter in added sugar, cause your liver to preserve fat more effectually, and also in strange areas. Eventually, a high-fructose eating habit could result in drops of fat accumulating around your liver. This is an antecedent to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
To make sure it doesnt come to this avoid drinks with high amounts of added sugars. Steer clear of smoothies, too. They may sound healthy, but most of these have lots of added sugar. Its better if the fructose you ingest originates from natural sources such as fruits.
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Calories And Added Sugars
You have a daily energy need the amount of calories your body needs to function and provide energy for your activities. Think of your daily energy need as a budget. Youd organize a real budget with essentials and extras . In a daily calorie budget, the essentials are the minimum number of calories you need to meet your nutrient needs.
Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Sugar
The sugar statistics in the U.S. are pretty dreary. They say the typical American eats 6 cups of sugar every week. Thats 152 pounds of sugar in a year! Why are we eating so much sugar? First of all, its everywhere. As the most popular food additive in processed foods, sugar is hard to avoid. Secondly, its highly addictive. Most of us are addicted to sugar, whether we realize it or not. To stop eating sugar is a difficult task, but it can be done, and the rewards are many! Lets take a look at 12 things that happen when you stop eating sugar.
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Science Explains How The Body Reacts To Sugar
While in the south, the word sugar may be an affectionate greeting, in the world of science and food, sugar can be both dangerous and deadly.
Right now, the United States is leading an epidemic in the obesity crisis. So needless to say, sugar is causing some major issues with our health. But what is sugar and what does this look like when our body takes it in? Let’s dive in.
There are 50-plus words for sugars, and these are usually referred to as added sugars. So they are found in a lot of our products in the grocery store. However, we also have one other culprit that we have to pay attention to, and that’s called simple carbohydrates.
Sugar And Mental Health
The physical effects of sugar consumption are well known, but researchers are also uncovering information about processed sugar and its effect on mental health. In general, what we eat impacts our mood and well-beingnot only in the immediate aftermath of ingestion, but also progressively over time. One reason for this is that the greatest concentration of serotoninwhich is critical to mood and emotion regulationis found in the gut, not the brain. Sometimes called the belly brain or microbiome, this system is connected directly to the brain. Therefore, if we eat nutritious foods that promote good brain function, mental health also benefits.
But sugar has the opposite effect. What does too much sugar do to your body? Lets take a closer look.
According to research by Malcolm Peet on processed sugar and its effects on mental health, sugar suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BNDF. Low BNDF is associated with mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Moreover, sugar triggers chemical reactions in the body that promote chronic inflammation, disrupting immune system function. The negative effects of sugar on the body can be partially explained by this chain of reactions.
According to research, sugar suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BNDF.
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This Is Exactly What Happens To Your Body When You Eat A Ton Of Sugar
As mouth-watering as a sugar-laden sundae or icing-topped cupcake is, we should all know by now that sugar isn’t exactly healthy. In fact, it may be one of the worst things you can eat .
One study from UC San Francisco actually found that drinking sugary drinks like soda can age your body on a cellular level as quickly as cigarettes. The way the sweet stuff impacts your body is way more complex than just causing weight gain. In fact, when you eat a ton of sugar, almost every part of your body feels the strainand that’s bad news for your health in both the short term and especially the long term.
From an initial insulin spike to upping your chances of kidney failure down the road, this is what really happens in your body when you load up on sugar.
Eating sugar creates a surge of feel-good brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. So does using certain drugs, like cocaine. And just like a drug, your body craves more after the initial high. “You then become addicted to that feeling, so every time you eat it you want to eat more,” explains Gina Sam, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Once you eat glucose, your body releases insulin, a hormone from your pancreas,” Dr. Sam explains. The insulin’s job is to absorb the excess glucose in the blood and stabilize sugar levels.
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Reducing Sugar In Food
- Rather than spreading high-sugar jam, marmalade, syrup, chocolate spread or honey on your toast, try a lower-fat spread, reduced-sugar jam or fruit spread, sliced banana or lower-fat cream cheese instead.
- Check nutrition labels to help you pick the foods with less added sugar, or go for the reduced- or lower-sugar version.
- Try reducing the sugar you use in your recipes. It works for most things except jam, meringues and ice cream.
- Choose tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup.
- Choose unsweetened wholegrain breakfast cereals that are not frosted, or coated with chocolate or honey.
- Choose unsweetened cereal and try adding some fruit for sweetness, which will contribute to your 5 A Day. Sliced bananas, dried fruit and berries are all good options.
The Food Scanner app from Change4Life can help you check how much sugar you or your child is having. Using your smartphone, the app can scan the barcode on food packets to find out exactly how much sugar is in it. Get it on the App Store and .
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Reducing Sugar In Drinks
- Instead of sugary fizzy drinks or sugary squash, go for water, lower-fat milk, or sugar-free, diet or no-added-sugar drinks. While the amount of sugar in whole and lower-fat milk is the same, choosing lower-fat milk reduces your saturated fat intake.
- Even unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies are sugary, so limit the amount you have to no more than 150ml a day.
- If you prefer fizzy drinks, try diluting no-added-sugar squash with sparkling water.
- If you take sugar in hot drinks or add sugar to your breakfast cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether. Alternatively, switch to a sweetener.
The NHS Change4Life website has more tips to help you cut back on sugary drinks.
Were Eating Too Much Sugar
From achy joints, mood and gut issues, yeast overgrowth and acne to increased risks of autoimmunity, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, sugar takes a toll on the body. Even with all its ill effects, Americans consume around 66 pounds of added sugar per person each year. Sugar habits start early. A 2018 study found 99 percent of two year olds over-consume sugar.
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Ask Yourself What Works For You And What Doesnt
If you struggle with sugar , then its probably not a good food for YOU.
Try experimenting with lowering your sugar intake gradually , and see what happens.
Look for foods that you love, and that love you backthat make you feel good and perform well, that give you sustained and long-lasting energy, that keep your moods level, and that keep you feeling normal as an eater.
How Much Is Too Much
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. But the average American gets way more: 22 teaspoons a day . Itâs easy to overdo. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar — and no nutritional benefit.
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The Bitter Side Of Sugar
Sugar is sweet, but too much of it can sour your health. Whole foods like fruits, veggies, dairy, and grains have natural sugars. Your body digests those carbs slowly so your cells get a steady supply of energy. Added sugars, on the other hand, come in packaged foods and drinks. Your body does not need any added sugars.
You’ll Decrease Your Diabetes Risk
Studies have shown that high sugar consumption especially of sweetened beveragescan increase the odds of developing the disease. Scientists explain this in large part by the weight that people gain when they consume lots of calories in the form of nutritionally empty sugar. Being overweight or obese is often accompanied by problems with blood sugar control and reduced sensitivity to insulin that leads to type 2 diabetes.
Cutting added sugars makes it easier to manage weight and to keep blood glucose levels within healthy parameters, both of which lower your diabetes risk. This stems from the fact that added sugars help to fuel a cyclical cascade of effects that cause metabolic and hormonal changes to increase risk of diabetes. Added sugars contribute excess calories excess calorie intake leads to weight gain weight gain, along with higher blood glucose levels from consuming added sugars, leads to insulin resistance insulin resistance leads to more weight gain.
But the reverse is also true. In three large prospective observational studies of almost 200,000 American men and women published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found that people who replaced one daily sugary beverage or fruit juice with water or another type of unsweetened drink had up to a 10% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. So, cutting added sugars is a key factor in stopping this cycle and slashing your risk.
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How Much Sugar Should We Eat
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar each day for women and less than 38 grams are recommended for men.
With a 12-ounce can of regular soda containing around 9 teaspoons of sugar, you can see how easy it is to go over the recommended limits.
For children, the amounts depend on age, ranging from 12-25 grams . However, this is the upper limit. Its important to remember that what your individual body may need to thrive could mean an even lower sugar intake is necessary.
Study : Fine Lets Go Lower
For this second study, the game got hardcore: Drop the carbs and sugar much lower for the Lower Carbohydrate group, just to make sure the minimal differences found in the first study hadnt been because the carbs and sugar werent low enough.
Heres how this second study worked:
- 17 overweight or obese people participated.
- First, they followed a high-carb but calorically-restricted baseline diet for 4 weeks .
- Then, they spent 4 weeks on a very-low-carb ketogenic diet , with equal calories to the baseline diet.
So what happened?
The researchers found that everyone lost weight and fat throughout the study.
However, when subjects switched from the high-carb, 25%-sugar baseline diet to the ketogenic, 2%-sugar diet, fat loss actually slowed down for the first few weeks.
Much like the previous study, this happened because as peoples bodies adapted to the ketogenic diet, they were more likely to break down fat-free mass and protein stores .
- Weight loss went faster during the ketogenic phase, thanks to losing glycogen and water.
- But body fat loss was actually less during this phase .
Overall, the researchers stated that based on the current evidence, as well as their validated mathematical models, long-term body fat loss would likely be very similar between the high sugar diet and the low sugar diet.
In other words, the amount of sugar didnt seem to influence the results.
In the end, these, plus other studies, seem to support the idea that:
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