6 Ways Sugar Wreaks Havoc On Your Body And Mind
Your body and brain need glucose for proper cellular fuel. Glucose is a component of sucrose, which is table sugar. Even though your system uses glucose for fuel, it doesn’t mean that you should use sugar as your main food source.
Glucose can be gotten from complex carbohydrates that provide us glucose along with healthy nutrients your body needs to survive.
According to the American Heart Association, the US population is eating much too much sugar. The average US citizen eats about 130 pounds of sugar per year. This translates to about 22 teaspoons of sugar eaten each day.
This doesn’t mean we’re actually scooping this much food out of the sugar bowl but instead, much of the sugar we eat comes from foods where sugar is listed in ways that make it difficult to determine whether or not they contain sugar.
What does sugar do to the body?
It’s well established that too much sugar is bad for you. But in what ways is sugar your enemy?
Let’s take a look at the things that sugar does that are contributing to poor health:
- Sugar is fattening. All types of sugar are fattening for the body. This includes sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and glucose. Things like high-fructose corn syrup do not automatically scream “sugar”; they are actually hidden sources of sugar that you should stay away from. Instead of eating foods high in sugar and drinking beverages with a high sugar content, you need to switch to low sugar beverages. Better yet, buy a smoothie machine and make healthful smoothies out of ingredients that aren’t high in sugar and won’t add a lot of fat in your diet.
- Sugar can cause diabetes. According to a study out of PLoS, every 150 calories you take in from sugar increases the prevalence of diabetes by 1.1 percent. About 33 percent of your sugar intake comes from sweetened beverages. The rest comes hidden in processed foods. Rather than mindlessly eating processed foods that are high in sugar, read the food labels looking for total sugar intake and things like “high fructose corn syrup”, which is where the other 2/3 of the sugar comes from. By reading food labels, you can avoid the hidden sources of sugar that can contribute to diabetes if eaten in excess.
- Sugar is bad for your heart. There is a strong connection between diabetes and heart disease. About 65 percent of the deaths from diabetes are related to having some type of heart disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. In order to avoid a negative effect on your heart, you need to stick to the American Heart Association recommendations, which is to eat no more than five teaspoons of sugar (in women) or 9 teaspoons of sugar (in men). Children should eat no more than three teaspoons of sugar per day. All of this sugar adds to your risk of diabetes and ultimately increases your risk of heart disease.
- Sugar wreaks havoc on your blood vessels. Excess sugar causes the pancreas to release excess insulin into the blood, which negatively affects your blood vessels. Under conditions of high insulin, the smooth muscle that surrounds your blood vessels become thicker and less elastic. This increases blood pressure and ultimately damages your heart and brain. One tip to decrease the negative effect of sugar on your blood vessels is to watch out for hidden sources of glucose. One hidden source of glucose is whole grain foods. While they contain more fiber than white bread and foods made from white sugar, they are still high in refined sugars and will put undue stress on your blood vessels.
- Sugar increases cholesterol levels. There appears to be a close connection between sugar intake and cholesterol levels. According to a research study out of the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who had the greatest spike in glucose levels after eating also had high LDL cholesterol levels and low HDL cholesterol. The study theorized that an overload of sugar causes the liver to make more LDL cholesterol while blocking the liver from making good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) that is healthy for your system. One way around this is to eat a diet high in protein, particularly at breakfast time. While it would seem like skipping breakfast would result in weight loss, it actually causes you to eat more sugar during the rest of the day and results in an increase in weight rather than a decrease in weight.
- Sugar is bad for the brain. Even though your brain uses glucose for fuel, too much sugar can negatively affect cognition and you’ll find yourself in a “sugar fog.” Instead of eating refined sugar, eat complex carbohydrates that gradually increase blood sugar, allowing the brain to get a steady but low amount of sugar throughout the day.