Let's talk about sugar. There's no denying that sugar is delicious and a staple in many of our favorite treats. However, the question of whether sugar is bad for you has been a hot topic for many years. So, is sugar really bad for you? Well, the answer is not so simple.
First, let's define sugar. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that is naturally present in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. It is also added to many processed foods to enhance flavor and sweetness. There are different types of sugar, including glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body and is found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. Fructose is found naturally in fruits and is also used as a sweetener in many processed foods. Sucrose is the type of refined sugar that we typically think of as table sugar, and it is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose.
Consuming moderate fructose and glucose from healthy whole foods in a balanced diet is good for you - we need sugars to have energy and live! However, taking in too much free refined sugar (i.e. cane sugar or brown sugar), too much free fructose (i.e. agave), or too much free glucose (i.e. brown rice syrup) on a daily basis can lead to numerous health issues. You can also think of these as “added” sugars. Added sugars are sugars without any additional fiber, nutrients, or enzymes to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
Refined cane sugar is an added sugar and has a high glycemic index, meaning the sugar is released into the bloodstream very quickly and causes a blood glucose spike. Too much refined sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. A diet high in refined sugar can also lead to higher blood pressure, inflammation, fatty liver disease, and an increased risk of tooth decay. Sugar is broken down by bacteria in the mouth, which produces an acid that can dissolve the enamel on your teeth. Over time, this can lead to cavities and other dental problems. Dental problems lead to many serious health issues like cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, pregnancy complications, cancer, kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, consuming too much refined sugar can also lead to a phenomenon known as sugar crashes. This happens when your blood sugar levels spike after consuming a lot of sugar and then quickly drop, leaving you feeling tired, irritable, and sluggish. This can interfere with your ability to concentrate and be productive throughout the day. Experts have also found a link between high levels of refined sugar intake to increased anxiety and depression.
However, it is important to note that sweetness is not inherently bad for you. In moderation, sweets can be a part of a healthy diet. The key is to limit your intake of added sugars, which are the sugars that are added to processed foods and any table sugar that might be in baked goods or in your coffee, for example. According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their daily intake of added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams), while men should limit their intake to no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).
So, how can you reduce your intake of added sugars? One way is to read food labels and look for foods that are lower in added sugars. You can also opt for healthier sweeteners, such as date sugar or date syrup, which are natural sweeteners with fewer calories and which don't raise blood sugar levels as much as traditional cane sugar. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to sugar, and a little bit of sweetness can be a delicious and enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle.
Ready to learn more about adopting a low-sugar lifestyle? You may enjoy these articles: “Say Goodbye to Sugar Cravings: Just 10 Days for Your Taste Buds to Reset” and “From Sugar Addiction to Healthy Living: How to Begin Your Low-Sugar Lifestyle”