We have all seen the news and heard the data revolving around refined sugar. It is bad, plain and simple. The problem is that sugar resides in almost everything we eat in modern society. Companies crank out candy, chocolate, pastries, soda, and candy coated anything like it’s going out of style. But sugar also hides in our canned/bottled sauces, condiments, creamers, milk, protein bars, jerky, juices, granola, breakfast cereals, pastas, and breads.
We can consume 50-100 grams of sugar in a day without even realizing it. Even if we cut back on “bad foods” we will still, somehow, exceed the recommended daily dose of sugar (25 grams/6 teaspoons). There is literally no escaping the sweet stuff. Ingesting too much sugar, over an extended period of time, has been linked to a multitude of harmful side effects such as:
- Cardio vascular disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Liver Damage
- Metabolic Dysfunction
- Immune Dysfunction
This is just a short list. Each of these issues can be expanded on at length, along with an alarming number of other problems that excessive sugar intake can cause. We don’t think about these problems and diseases because they don’t affect us immediately. That cookie won’t kill you today, but 20 years of cookies will most certainly lead to something that will. I wanted to give a top down view of the effects that large amounts of sugar can have on the body. My ultimate goal is to give you enough knowledge to help you navigate nutrition effectively, without getting too deep scientifically.
When you eat sugar, your blood sugar level rises (obviously). Your pancreas proceeds to release insulin. This hormone is used to transport the sugar, which is toxic in high amounts, out of the blood stream and into your muscles. The catch: your muscles can only hold so much sugar at one time for energy output.
If you haven’t done any sternous exercise right before you ingested your treat, the excess sugar is then carted off to your fat cells. These cells gobble up the remaining sugar and store it for later use. Because your blood was flooded with insulin to remove the sugar, your body enters hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and your brain hates that! You are instantly sent signals, even if you’re full, to ingest more sweetness and the process starts over again.
Over time, your body becomes tolerant to the effects of sugar and you require more to produce the same energy and euphoric feelings you used to get from that one donut. This creates addiction like symptoms. Your body and brain constantly crave sweets with a vengeance and, if you go cold turkey, you can experience similar withdrawals akin to an avid opiate user (to a lesser degree).
This cycle of highs and lows will continue until you cut refined sugar and process carbs down to a minimal level. Your body sees processed carbs (bread, pasta, and pastries) as if they were sugar in disguise. It simply doesn’t know the difference between a slice of toast and a snickers bar. With our diets revolving around these types of carbohydrates and dessert like snacks, it becomes extremely difficult to remove our sweet teeth.
If we continue to eat the way we do, we are destined for more and more of our population to enter into the realm of obesity. The way we eat is slowly making us sick. Companies want their food to be sold because it tastes great, but if their products are inevitably killing off the population, who will be left to buy cereal or twinkies?
We have to adopt a different style of eating that benefits our bodies and our minds. Rewarding yourself with a sweet cheat meal once in a while is fine and even beneficial to your sanity in our society. It is when you wash down your bag of chips with a 20oz coke, followed by a honey bun on a daily basis, that the grim reaper starts to take notice.
Try to taper your reliance on sugar over a few weeks. Replace a dessert with fresh fruit and some whipped cream. Cook three dinners a week at home with your family, with an emphasis on healthy meats and good greens. Keep a healthy nut mix (almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts) by your side throughout the day and focus more on good fats (coconut, almond butter, butter, olive oil) and minimize the processed carbs.
If you feel a sweet craving coming, grab your significant other and go for a stroll in the neighborhood. You could even keep a journal dedicated to your food intake and reward yourself with a treat after 5-6 days of honest eating. The possibilities are truly infinite. Be creative and learn from your mistakes. Don’t feel bad for cheating. Use it as a reward and slowly add more days before a cheat meal. You will be amazed by how quickly small tweaks will catapult you further and further from sugar town.
Remember, you are not just doing this for your waistline, which will inevitably shrink once you cut out the processed crud, but you are also doing this for your health. You don’t want to be in a hospital regretting every piece of cake you destroyed or skittle you popped.
The risks of sugar and processed carbohydrates are real and catastrophic. Do yourself and your family a favor. Eat better, live longer, and enjoy the time you have been given. Don’t let your sweet tooth check you out too early.
If you have about 45 minutes and want a more in-depth look at sugar and its effects, here is just one documentary on youtube by CBC News: The Secrets of Sugar.