What is sugar? Most people would say it's a sweet, white powder that can be used as a spice in cooking or to sweeten drinks and food. It is said to be derived from cane or beet molasses, but what most people don't know is that modern sugar is highly processed and refined. The final product isn't anything like the natural product that comes from plants. It's been so heavily processed that it barely resembles its original form. It's no secret that sugar isn't good for you. It's been dubbed "the sweet poison of our time." But what is sugar, exactly? And why is it so harmful to our health? In this post, we'll take a look at what sugar is, the dangers of too much sugar consumption, and how to reduce your intake. Read on if you're interested in learning more about one of the biggest threats to our health today.
The Reward System
You know how you get texts on your phone and it dings. Upon hearing notification sound impacts your brain chemistry. It gives you this brief moment of pleasure when you hear that tune.
Interestingly enough, drugs like cocaine hijack the brain and cause dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to be released. Dopamine is a part of that reward system associated with addictive behavior. Sugar activates that same reward system in our brain.
There were a few studies done where they investigated animals that were hooked up to IVs of sugar and cocaine. Believe it or not, the animals were working hard to select the lever with the IV that had sugar in it.
Sugar is very powerful and it makes our brains feel good and rewarded. We want more of it once we have some. Just think of those animals wanting the sugar even more than the cocaine, I think it’s kind of scary, isn’t it?
What worsens the cravings?
Genetics can play a role. Some people's brains are different and need more stimulation to feel pleasure. Variations in the receptor sites in their brains for dopamine might be the case for this.
If you're overweight, those receptor sites are downregulated. This means that the more overweight you are, the less your pleasure center works. You will be needing more sugar to stimulate those receptor sites.
The vicious cycle of sugar cravings is perpetuated by the very thing it recommends - sugar. The more you eat, the worse your body feels and hormones get out on a limb until they finally give in with an excess amount that will never be satisfied or go away completely because there are always more wants than what's available.
Sugar Impacts on our Health
So, what's the big deal about sugar? It can contribute to symptoms of:
Insulin resistance and Diabetes
Cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease
High blood pressure
Weight gain obesity
Autoimmune disorders like Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus
This list of the impacts of sugar on our health could go on as there are more of it not mentioned here.
Cancer and Sugar
We know that cancer thrives off sugar.
The PET (positron emission tomography) scan is a great way to see how much cancer one has. If you ever think about someone who has had one of these tests, they may be on a diet away from any carbohydrates or sugary items for days leading up until their examination date. On the day of the test, doctors will inject the patient with radioactive sugar which makes it easier for them to see exactly where cancer dwells within because they will be lit up. Cancer loves sugar.
Diabetes and prediabetes have all been linked to cancer. There is a direct link between cancer incidence and sugar consumption. Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. However, prediabetes still increases your risk of cancer. If you have diabetes, your chances of developing cancer are two to four times higher than someone without diabetes.
Controlling the Intake
One is getting past the marketing.
There are so many different names for sugar. There could be over a hundred different names for it:
Corn solid syrups
Therefore, we need to read through the ingredient list and pay attention to what is in it. There is a rule of thumb I like to follow: If you pick up a box, look at the ingredient list and you see something in the list that maybe you don't have in your cupboard or in your kitchen, then it probably should go back on the shelf.
In other words, if you can't recognize what is on the ingredient list, then put it back. You don't want those synthetic chemicals in your kitchen anyway, do you?
How much sugar should we take in daily?
The American Heart Association, recommends six teaspoons (about 20 grams) daily for women, which is about 20 grams. For men, it should be a little bit more around 9 teaspoons (about 36 grams). Kids should have even less sugar, which should be about 12 grams.
A basic yogurt we would find at the grocery store contains a total sugar content of about 13 grams. That's already a lot of sugar, almost what the American heart association would recommend as your daily serving.
An eight-ounce glass of orange juice has about five and a half teaspoons of sugar, which equates to around 20 grams.
We need to pay attention to the labels and make sure that we're using the right amount. We need to look at the serving size. For example, in a bowl of cereal, a fruit juice box, or a fruit drink such as orange juice, the serving size might be two per container.
Artificial Sweeteners, anyone?
Are artificial sweeteners okay? No.
You’re probably familiar with Splenda, Sweet ‘N Low, Nutrasweet, and aspartame. There are probably a few others more that are approved. However, they shouldn't be because of the following reasons:
They can alter the gut microbiota.
Too much use of artificial sweeteners has been linked to changes in the microorganisms in the gut that are associated with obesity.
Impair your glucose tolerance, therefore, increases your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It can impact the hormone balance.
There is a connection between the use of artificial sweeteners and impaired neurological function. Aspartame, in particular, has been known to cause headaches, seizures, and migraines.
Are there artificial sweeteners that are acceptable?
Liquid Stevia has been shown to have some impact on insulin sensitivity and contains antioxidant properties.
Monk fruit can be used to bake with. It has some anti-inflammatory benefits.
Some people are okay with sugar alcohols. But some people have a sensitivity to them. If you have a problem with your digestive system, like SIBO, then you might be better off with monk fruit or stevia.
Keep an eye on some of the hidden sugary foods such as:
Yogurt. It’s better to choose plain yogurt that is coconut or almond milk
Sports drinks and sodas
All of your pastries
Lots of your favorite drinks and flavored coffees
Sauces and condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce
Anything dried like dried fruit
All of these should be taken in moderation. The best option is still the natural sugars found in real whole foods.
So, what is sugar? It’s a simple carbohydrate that provides energy for the body. The problem is that we’re consuming too much of it and our reward system is getting overloaded. This can have some pretty serious consequences for our health, including cancer. But don’t worry! There are things we can do to control our intake and safeguard our health. If you want help putting together a plan tailored specifically for you, please reach out to us. We would be more than happy to schedule a discovery call and see how we can help you break your sugar addiction for good!
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional