We consume massive amounts of sugar in our diet each day even though it has been linked to a slew of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Sugar is a carbohydrate that is naturally found in many foods, including lactose (in milk) and fructose (in fruit). These aren’t necessarily the big problem for your health; it’s the processed and added sugars that pose the biggest dangers. It’s not as easy as you may think to avoid them.
Sugar is everywhere! Be sugar-aware! Read on to learn what it does to your health, and what to look for to reduce sugar in your diet.
Where do we find sugar? Soda and other soft drinks are the obvious culprits, with just one can of soda having as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar – but that’s not all you need to watch out for.
Low fat “diet” meals often contain plenty of sugar to make up for the lower fat content and to stop it from tasting bland. Processed foods, in general, have added sugar, including canned soups and ready-made sauces. You may not realize, but even bread can contain a high amount of sugar! This is why checking your food labels is key to ensure your diet isn’t falling victim to hidden sugars.
What Does Sugar Do to Your Health?
Too much sugar spikes your blood sugar levels and then leads to a big dip. That crash affects your mood, and ironically, makes you crave more of it. This vicious cycle is one of the main reasons why sugar is so heavily linked to obesity, as it encourages you to keep eating more of it! It gives energy, but not nutrition, which is what your body is craving!
The health problems associated with sugar can go far beyond this though. Watch out for high fructose corn syrup. Fructose in fruits isn’t all that bad and this can fool you into thinking that high fructose corn syrup can’t be that dangerous either. In reality, it’s one of the worst types of sugar you can consume. It’s a major ingredient in a lot of foods these days as it’s cheap to produce, so it’s definitely one to watch out and stay away from as much as you can.
Why is it a problem?
Our ancestors didn’t eat fructose other than the amount that was naturally occurring in fruit and some vegetables. Your liver can metabolize fructose to a large extent but when it reaches the tipping point, it starts turning it into fat instead and this is where the health problems begin. In the modern world, a lot of us eat more fructose than the body can handle. It’s unlikely that we’re eating too many fruits and veggies. The kinds of fructose that we’re getting is most often added to the foods we are eating. This is where the problem lies.
Eating too much fructose can make your liver inflamed and start building up fat. It also encourages uric acid production, which raises your blood pressure and even leads to gout. More worryingly, it also affects blood lipids and cholesterol levels, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes.
Even fruit juice can contribute to this as it is high in added fructose. According to studies, its high fructose content can encourage the body to store abdominal fat, especially the type that surrounds organs, or visceral fat.
You’re better off choosing whole fruits (rather than fruit juices) or juice your own fruits as the fructose in these is naturally occurring and in no way a danger to your health. You’ll also get more fiber from whole fruits and you’d have to eat an unrealistic amount for their fructose content to become a cause for concern.
TIP: Mix natural sweeteners with protein to balance your blood sugar levels. This also stops sugar absorption into your bloodstream too quickly. For example, team a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or some yogurt. This can also help to curb cravings too!
What to Look For
Sugar often won’t be included on the ingredient label as sugar. Food manufacturing companies are getting crafty when it comes to labeling their products. Sugar can be called other things making it can be hard to understand what you’re eating. Anything ending in “ose” is an obvious giveaway, including glucose, sucrose (better known as table sugar), fructose and maltose.
Less obvious signs that something contains sugar are syrups such as rice syrup and corn syrup. And then there’s the big one – high fructose corn syrup.
“Sugar free” foods generally contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. Studies have suggested that these don’t do a lot to satisfy cravings and may actually make you overeat. There are also concerns that they may pave the way for other health problems.
There is a good amount of sugar hiding in the food if these type of ingredients are among the first 2 or 3 ingredients listed on the label.
Today, go through your pantry and check your labels. What has hidden sugar in it? Comment below! We want to hear from you!