20 Nov Sugar: How Does Added Sugar Affect Your Body?
‘Just’ a spoonful of sugar?
The average adult in the US eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Hopefully, you won’t have a sack of white sugar sitting in the kitchen cupboard. But if you do, take it out and measure out 22 teaspoons into a bowl. That little pile – or not so little – is what’ss added to the foods you eat every single day.
Where do we find the most added sugar? The number one culprit is soda. And we all know that candy and sweets are full of it. We know all of the obvious ones: pastries, donuts, breakfast cereals with sugary toppings, ice cream. We call these ‘treats’ and they are easy to find, quick to prepare and we tend to crave them. A lot. We know they have added sugar, because we can see the sugar crystals all over them, and they taste very sweet.
But did you know that the only difference between a breakfast muffin and a cupcake is the frosting?
And although you probably know that a packet of cookies contains a lot of sugar, you might be forgiven for not being aware that the single frankfurter sitting innocently in your hot dog (and not counting the bun) contains nearly 2 grams of processed sugar. That’s almost half a teaspoon. But it’s a very shy half a teaspoon that doesn’t like to be noticed.
And you probably don’t want to believe that a single serving of Raisin Bran has the same amount of sugar per serving as a Snickers bar.
So why is added sugar such a big deal?
Sugar is the new fat. From the 1950s we were told about the dangers of fat consumption and offered low-fat products. To make these products tastier, the manufacturers added more sugar. And now, the damage done by this extra sugar has finally caused the medical world to wake up and smell the coffee cake.
Not only does processed sugar cause damage to every organ in the body, it also leads to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Which to be honest, we probably all knew. But high amounts of sugar will also give us heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer (cancer loves to feed on sugar), leaky gut syndrome…and sugar will also make us obese for good measure.
Sugar wipes out the healthy, necessary bacteria that lives in the gut and pokes tiny holes through the stomach and intestinal walls before seeping out into the bloodstream. This is known as leaky gut. Sugar exits your digestive system and enters your blood stream without being properly broken down in the gut first, leading to a variety of health disorders.
Sugar has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So why not cut out the majority of added and processed sugars? After all, this is the one thing most of our modern-day health experts recommend, and probably the only thing they will ever actually agree on.
Simply said, cutting out added sugar is not so easy. Especially when you consider that the only difference between molecules of sugar and cocaine, apart from their shape, is that cocaine contains slightly more nitrogen. In other words, that white powder that makes you very happy in the short-term – whether it’s sugar or cocaine – is highly addictive and extremely damaging.
We’ve all heard about high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is the crystal meth of the sugar world. Fructose might mean fruit sugar, but once something natural has been processed, it loses whatever beneficial effect it might have. High fructose corn syrup is a highly processed, highly concentrated form of sugar. It is nothing more than that. Although a piece of fruit also contains fructose, this is a natural, more complex and less concentrated form. And a piece of fruit also contains a lot of water, indigestible sugar called fiber which is great for our digestive systems and won’t add to our waistlines, and a host of vitamins. Fructose syrup and fructose in its natural, unprocessed form are nowhere near the same thing.
Learning how to cut out added sugar takes commitment
Imagine you go to buy a carton of orange juice from the supermarket so you can start your day in a healthy way. You think a glass of fruit juice for breakfast will give your body a boost due to the vitamin C content and the fact that it comes from fruit.
As fruit juice can be expensive, you go for the cheapest brand.
When you read the label, you are shocked to see that one cup contains nearly 30 grams of sugar. You also notice that some of it comes from concentrated apple juice, and some of it from high fructose corn syrup. Added or processed sugar comes in a wide range of disguises. It is sneaky stuff.
According to the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association guidelines, women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar every day, while men are permitted 9 teaspoons a day. And these guidelines are probably on the high side.
One glass of this brand of orange juice therefore contains a woman’s entire daily sugar allowance.
When you realize this, you pick out another carton from a ‘health-conscious’ brand which promises no added sugar and extra fiber. But when you read the label, you see that one cup still contains 8 grams of sugar. So if you happen to be female, that’s a quarter of your daily allowance and it’s still only breakfast time.
And, of course, your body won’t get any protein from a carton of juice, not unless that has been processed and added, too. No fats have been added. Eating meals with higher levels of protein and fat and less sugar will give your body the nutrition it is desperate for. Eating properly balanced meals will gradually put an end to your sugar cravings and make you feel much fuller for much longer.
So by reading the label and understanding the information it contains is probably the most life-changing step you will take on your sugar-free journey.
Not all sugars will affect us in the same way. There are healthier choices you can use to replace white sugar and corn syrup, such as coconut palm sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup. You can easily replace table sugar with coconut palm sugar and always halve the quantity, especially if you are using it for baking. You won’t notice the difference.
Natural sweeteners are always the best option. Stevia and dates are popular alternatives. Keep your eyes open for new products and recipes and keep the quantities as small as possible. Your body will love you!
Find the time
Modern life is fast. Grabbing a granola bar to eat in the car as you take the kids to school makes life ‘easy’. But how many things are wrong in that sentence? Kids don’t walk or ride a bike to school any more. They sit at school, eat lunch from a vending machine, come home (in the car) and sit at the computer for the rest of the evening with a pack of chips. And how are you giving them a good example by starting your day under stress, and eating sugar at the wheel? How is any of this making your life ‘easy’?! It’s time to take the time to think about what you eat.
Modern life also means modern technology. Electric crock pots with timers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, steamers, ovens you can turn on using a smartphone app. Show the kids how to boil a batch of eggs that you can keep ready in the fridge. Make large portions of healthy meals and freeze them into portions you can take with you to work, or eat at home. Use a large thermos can for your freshly prepared soup that you can help yourself to throughout the day.
Change the entire family’s way of thinking. Who says you should eat cereal for breakfast? If you want salmon, go for it. How did eating sugar for breakfast become the acceptable thing to do?!
It’s time to start. Time to cut out all of that added sugar. Find healthier alternatives and lower the quantities. Retrain your sweet tooth. Find the time to acknowledge food and don’t just grab the easiest (sugary) item from the supermarket shelf because you haven’t made time to plan a simple family cooking regime into your busy schedule. Make sure fat and protein are a major part of every meal to counteract the addictive effects of sugar. The benefits of this new way of life will amaze you.