As the rate of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease continue to rise, we are finding ourselves talking more and more about what to eat and what not to eat. By now I’m sure you’ve heard of people talking about sugar and that you should try to avoid it…But why?
Research continues to show that increased sugar consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease, increases in visceral adiposity, increased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and decreased insulin sensitivity. To put it simply, sugar affects our body’s metabolism in a variety of ways…all of which lead to increasing our chances of developing chronic illnesses that affect our quality of life.
Fructose, or as it’s more commonly used, high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS) is especially toxic to our bodies because of the damage it does to our liver. And our liver has an estimated 500 functions to keep our bodies working properly! So it’s no wonder damage to our metabolic factory can have such a vast range of negative outcomes! In fact, as our consumption of sugar (specifically fructose) continues to increase, doctors are starting to see new diseases in the liver that are affecting people other than alcoholics such as non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Sugar is not just table sugar. It also comes in the form of flour. We always say “Flour is sugar that’s not sweet.” Although we say the word sugar, it comes in many forms: table sugar, honey, agave, flour, bread, pasta, white rice, potatoes, and even too much fruit.
So what can you do to avoid a high intake of sugar?
- Drink more water….not sugar sweetened beverages. Plus water fills you up allowing you to eat less.
- Be your own sugar detective and read food labels! Sugar is hidden in almost all packaged foods….and sometimes in more than one form! Know the terms dextrose, maltose, maltodextrose, agave, coconut nectar, any syrup…
- Get more whole foods in your diet. By eating foods in their original forms, you are automatically decreasing your chances of eating hidden sugars
- Try experimenting with other flavors like spices in lieu of sugar! Not only are you avoiding the toxic effect of sugar…but you’re also getting the many benefits of spices! Cinnamon, the warming spices like allspice, cardamom, nutmeg for example.
- Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners! While these tricky chemicals may not have calories because our bodies can’t metabolize them, they have a whole host of other issues associated with them, such as triggering your body to want sugar (see our previous blogs on Diet Sodas). So take this opportunity to challenge your taste buds and try new flavors!
- If you are craving something sweet, reach for nature’s most natural form of sweet…fruit! This way you also get the healthy fibers, vitamins, water, and more.
Remember, sugar is addictive! Our brains literally light up when we eat it! For those of you with a high sugar intake, take baby steps to decrease your consumption by increasing your intake of fiber rich foods like beans, veggies and fruits and put a little extra focus on protein. Protein helps curb carb cravings.
For more information on your sugar intake, how to identify hidden sugars, and how they may be affecting your health, schedule an appointment today with Starkel Nutrition!
- Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders W, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med.2014;174(4):516-524
- Stanhope, K. L., Schwarz, J.-M., & Havel, P. J. (2013). Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: Results from recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 24(3), 198–20
- Stanhope, K. L., Schwarz, J. M., Keim, N. L., Griffen, S. C., Bremer, A. A., Graham, J. L., … Havel, P. J. (2009). Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 119(5), 1322–1334
- Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women. JAMA.2004;292(8):927-934