I have a sweet tooth, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Give me cookies, and I could probably eat a dozen easily if I lacked any will power. However, I do have will power that I have developed over time and part of the reason for that is knowing what sugar actually does to my body when I ingest it. Primarily added sugars, or manufactured sugars.
So what happens exactly when you eat sugar? And what is it?
Sugar when eaten is broken down by your digestive enzymes into glucose and fructose. Glucose is something our body uses for energy, but too much of it can cause harmful side effects. We are going to go over what each is, how it impacts our body, and what we can do to help avoid the bad side of it. (Remember everything in moderation is key).
- Glucose’s role
- As it is absorbed (from foods or drinks we consume) initially causes our pancreas to release insulin which in turns takes the glucose to your cells to be used as energy. However too much insulin can cause the blocking of leptin (the hunger hormone) which makes you feel hungry even though you just ate… this can also cause your body to be tricked to storing glucose as belly fat because it thinks it is in starvation mode (when you don’t eat).
- It can also cause serotonin to be released which causes sugar crashes because false indicators are going off to the brain. The crash comes because serotonin is also one of your sleep regulating hormones.
- Too much insulin can also cause your body to not release enough dopamine over time (dopamine is the feel good hormone)… this can also lead to cravings and can cause addiction because you get a short jolt after consuming sugar, so you keep going back for more. (btw this is also what happens by the brain when you do cocaine ).
- Over time your bodies cells can become resistant to insulin which causes an overload of it in your blood stream which leads to different forms of diabetes.
- Acts and is absorbed in a similar manner to glucose but is metabolized in your liver
- Your liver can easily be overwhelmed if you eat too much fructose containing foods and cause fat to grow within it…. aka fatty liver disease
- It also can cause your “good” cholesterol to lower (HDL) which in turn increases triglyceride levels. And that fat can actually be carried to your arteries from your liver which leads to increased heart attack and stroke risk
Inflammation can stem throughout our body as a result of too much sugars being released and not used optimally in our body.
So what can you do to help yourself not get any of these side affects?
Pay attention to labels –
SOOOO many of processed foods contain both forms of sugar. About 74% of packaged foods contain added sugars.
If you look at a food label (you can read more on how to do that here) you can see just how much sugar something contains. It says straight up sugars and added sugars. The added sugars are really what you want to consume as little of as possible. These are not natural to the product and are what really lead to inflammation and the issues mentioned above.
You can also look at the ingredients – (there are about 61 types of added sugars (most are chemicals btw) that can be listed here. The most common – dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, rice syrup, and sucanat. You really want to avoid these. You can read more of the others here.
Eat more NATURAL AND REAL WHOLE FOODS
This doesn’t mean whole foods don’t contain sugar, most fruits and veggies do! BUT they are natural sugars without the chemicals or processed junk that your body cannot process. We do not want that on top of too much sugar.
A good rule of thumb is to stick to more lower glycemic (meaning lower sugar fruits) like berries and cherries and only have the others sparingly.
Aim to load your meals with more veggies (green, red, orange colored ones) and lean proteins. Healthy fats are good too of course but be sure to look at labels of things like nut butters as they can be high in added sugars too! Some of my favorite low sugar brands are – 88 acres (seed butter) and Maranatha .
DRINK YOUR WATER!
It is PROVEN that the more hydrated you are the LESS you will crave sweet things. Read more on that here.
Also try to DECREASE your consumption of higher sugar foods for 3 weeks. When you do this you will notice a difference in your cravings start to decrease.
In a nutshell…..
Every day we each have choices to make. We can choose to opt for healthier stuff eating out, we can opt for not processed junk at the grocery store but YOU>>>> No one else has to choose to do these things. I promise the more we take that step to make smarter choices, the easier it will become and the better we will feel.
Our bodies are machines and fueled right they will look and perform right, fueled wrong and they will perform like crap and look like crap. Just like you wouldn’t put cheap gasoline in a Ferrari, you shouldn’t put cheap stuff in your body either ;).
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http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(10)00644-9/abstract womenshealthmag.com http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/850S.full