Sugar: 7 Reasons To Reduce Your Intake
That weekend treat or that mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Most people would be guilty of falling into one, if not both of these categories at some point. Sugar is so readily available that it is pretty much impossible to avoid. Aside from its obvious inclusion in cakes, chocolates etc., it can be found hiding in some of your favourite foods, including fruits, salad dressings, soups and sauces, breakfast smoothies, breakfast bars and yoghurts, bread, and less surprisingly so, alcohol. A lot of sugary products are cheap to purchase so it’s no surprise that its consumption is so high. With the sweet and satisfying taste, however, comes the adverse health effects. Here are seven reasons you may want to re-evaluate your sugar intake:
1) Zero Nutritional Content
Granulated sugar is found in many foods, including many baked goods, soft drinks, cereals etc. Sugar is also found in other forms, for example white, brown and powdered variations, which are manufactured differently. Although sugars are found in foods that may appear to be healthy, i.e. cereals, the actual nutritional value of these sugars is zero, they are added purely to enhance the taste and appeal of the item. Added sugars contain a high amount of calories but contain no essential nutrients, hence why they are often labelled as ‘empty calories’.
2) Danger Of Over-Loading The Liver With Fructose
Sugar is broken down into two simple sugars before it enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract. The first, Glucose, is found in every living cell on the planet. If we don’t acquire this sugar from our diets, our bodies produce it. The second, Fructose, is different. This sugar is not produced naturally by our bodies in any significant amount, and there is no physiological need for it. Fructose is metabolised and sits in the liver upon ingestion which is fine as long as we don’t eat too much of it. When people do eat large amounts of sugar, the fructose can overload the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. This can lead to fatty liver and a whole host of other health problems. Although fruits do contain sugar, this is naturally produced, opposed to added sugar, meaning it is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.
3) Detrimental Effects On Hormones And The Brain, Resulting In Fat-Promoting Effects
As we know, different foods and drinks affect the body in various ways. Studies have shown that fructose (added sugar), has a negative effect on brain activity and suppression of appetite. When compared with the ingestion of glucose, it is said that fructose results in increased feelings of hunger after eating as it struggles to trigger the satiety centres of the brain that tell your body when you are full. As a result, because the calories from sugar aren’t fulfilling your hunger needs, there is an increased risk of a higher than necessary calorie intake, leaving you vulnerable to obesity, diabetes and other such health problems.
4) Sugar Is Highly Addictive And Encourages Binging
Sugar has a powerful impact on the reward centres of the brain, negatively affecting our brain chemistry, making us crave more and eat more. A large amount of dopamine is released into the Nucleus Accumbens area of the brain when we eat foods that are high in sugar. If eaten often and in large amounts, the dopamine receptors start to down-regulate, meaning there are fewer receptors for the dopamine. This in turn blunts the effect of these foods the next time they are eaten, meaning you will need more junk food in your next meal in order to get the same level of reward. This can be especially dangerous for people of an addictive nature as they can become addicted to these foods and lose control over their consumption. Due to the powerful effect on the reward centres of the brain, sugar and other junk foods function similarly to drugs of abuse and can therefore be very detrimental to health.
5) Raises Cholesterol And Promotes Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world. For many decades it has been accepted that saturated fat was to blame for this, however new studies have suggested that saturated fat is in fact pretty harmless. Therefore, something else must be causing the disease. Mounting evidence suggests that sugar, not fat, may be instrumental in its origination via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism. According to a recent study in JAMA: Internal Medicine, those who got 17 to 21 per cent of calories from added sugar had a 38 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed just 8 per cent of their calories from added sugar.
6) Rots Teeth
Sugar can be very detrimental to oral health. It provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth, meaning your teeth are at high risk of rot and decay. Prolonged exposure to sugar can result in extensive dental work further down the line.
7) Robs You Of Energy And Other Minerals
Sugar depletes numerous vitamins and minerals in our body. Magnesium is used to process it, and when our blood sugar rises, we get a surge of insulin which depletes zinc. In addition to this, when processing sugar, our bodies use potassium, chromium and B vitamins. These are vital for maintaining energy, and serotonin needed for sleep, which goes some way to explaining why, despite popular belief, sugary treats used to increase energy levels, do the complete opposite, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Furthermore, sugar also depletes stomach acid which is vital for digestion and robs your bones of minerals.
If you’re looking to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, these diet plans from Bodychef will get you off to the perfect start. How will cutting out sugar affect your lifestyle?