As a whole, we consume massive amounts of sugar in our diet every day. And we do this even though it’s been linked to a slew of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer just to name a few.
But most of us aren’t aware we’re actually doing this.
In this article, we talk about what sugar is, what it does to your health and why it’s a problem. We also go over what to look for and what you can do to minimize the amount you consume.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that is naturally found in many foods, including lactose (in milk) and fructose (in fruit). These aren’t necessarily the big problem for your health.
It’s the processed and added sugars that pose the most significant dangers, and it’s not as easy as you may think to avoid them.
Sugar is in so many foods – much more than you probably realize. Soda and other soft drinks are the obvious culprits. Just one can of soda has as much as seven teaspoons of sugar. But that’s not all you need to watch out for.
Low-fat “diet” meals often contain plenty of sugar to make up for the lower fat content and to keep it from tasting bland. Processed foods, in general, have added sugar, including canned soups and ready-made sauces.
You may not realize it, but even bread can be a victim of sugar! This is why checking your food labels is key to ensuring your diet isn’t falling victim to sugar.
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What Does Sugar Do To Your Health?
Too much of it essentially spikes your blood sugar levels and then leads to a significant dip. In the short term, you might get a sugar high, but you’ll soon experience a crash that makes you crave more of it and affects your mood.
If you’ve heard the term “sugar addiction,” it’s because of this vicious cycle. And it’s one of the main reasons why sugar is so heavily linked to obesity as it encourages you to keep eating more sugar.
Sadly, the health problems associated with sugar can go far beyond this. One of the most significant concerns is centered around high fructose corn syrup.
Fructose in fruits isn’t all that bad. Because of this, you can be easily fooled into thinking high fructose corn syrup isn’t that dangerous. But in reality, it’s one of the worst types of sugar you can consume.
And it’s a major ingredient in a lot of foods as it’s cheap to produce, so you definitely want to watch out for it and stay away from it as much as you can.
Why Is It A Problem?
Our ancestors didn’t eat fructose other than the amount that was naturally included in fruit and some vegetables. Your liver can metabolize fructose to a large extent, but when it reaches the tipping point, it starts turning it into fat instead.
This is where health problems begin. In the modern world, a lot of us eat more fructose than our bodies can handle.
Eating too much fructose can make your liver inflamed and can cause your body to start building up fat. It also encourages uric acid to be produced, which raises your blood pressure and can lead to gout.
More worrisome is that fact that it also affects blood lipids and cholesterol levels, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Even fruit juice can contribute to this because of its high fructose content. Studies have shown the amount of fructose in fruit juice can encourage the body to store abdominal fat, especially the type that surrounds organs.
You’re better off choosing whole fruits (rather than fruit juices) or juicing your own fruits as the fructose in these is naturally occurring and in no way a danger to your health.
You’ll also get more fiber from whole fruits, and you’d have to eat an unrealistic amount for their fructose content for it to become a cause for concern.
What To Look For
Sugar often won’t be included on the list of ingredients as plain old sugar. Food manufacturing companies have gotten crafty when it comes to labeling their products. So it can be labeled as a long list of other names which can make it hard to really know what you’re eating.
Anything ending in “ose” is an obvious giveaway, including glucose, sucrose (better known as table sugar), fructose and maltose.
Less obvious signs that something contains sugar are syrups such as rice syrup and corn syrup. And then there’s the big one – high fructose corn syrup.
“Sugar-free” foods generally contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. Several studies have suggested that these don’t do a lot to satisfy sugar cravings and may actually make you overeat. There are also concerns that they can pave the way for health problems.
If these type of ingredients are high up on the list, meaning they are in the first few ingredients listed, then you know that there’s a good amount of sugar hiding in the food!
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What You Can Do
One thing you can do is mix natural sugars with protein to balance your blood sugar levels and to stop the sugar from being absorbed into your bloodstream as quickly. Doing this can also help to curb cravings too.
Here are some ideas you can try:
- Team fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or bananas with yogurt.
- Pair cottage cheese with fruit like peaches.
- Eat a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts. A great combination to try is apple slices with a handful of almonds or some almond butter.
- Combine protein powder and fruit in a smoothie.
- Add a protein like chicken or egg to your meal or snack if you have fruit. Here’s a good one to try: Grilled Chicken with Fruit Salsa
The most important thing you can do is to check your labels before you make your purchase.
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What you should do today
Go through your pantry and fridge and check your food labels. What has hidden sugar in it? Share what you find in the comments below.