Your Body on Sweets: The Alarming Impact of Sugar
Sugar is something that’s hard to avoid and therefore has a “bittersweet” reputation when it comes to your health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, and grains. These are natural sugars, and they can be found in whole, unprocessed foods. However, naturally occurring sugars aren’t the issue. The issue comes into play when you begin consuming too many foods with added sugar.
Unlike fruits and vegetables, added sugar doesn’t contribute any nutrients, only calories. If you eat a piece of fruit, you are consuming sugar, but you’re also consuming fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are found in fruits and vegetables that may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly. These things are beneficial to the healthy bacteria in your gut, as well as helping your body digest the sugar you just consumed with that piece of fruit. Added sugars unfortunately do not have nearly the same benefits.
Food manufacturers add sugar into their products to sweeten or enhance the flavor in some way and to increase shelf life. Because these added sugars don’t usually have beneficial nutrients packaged with them, there is no protein or fiber to slow down the digestion process. And food manufacturers aren’t the only ones adding sugar to our foods. Chefs at restaurants do it, and we probably even do it while we’re cooking a meal at home! Therefore, it can be difficult to avoid consuming too much extra sugar. But no matter where it’s added, sugar in excess can have negative impacts on your body.
What Too Much Sugar Does to Your Body
Sugar is the universal inflammatory. Eating a lot of sweets or other products with added sugars has been shown to worsen joint pain because sugar causes the body to release cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Not only does it make your joints feel stiffer, but studies show that it can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Too much inflammation can also make your skin age faster! When artificial and processed sugars enter our bloodstream, they sometimes attach to collagen and elastin proteins in the skin and start to break them down. When these proteins are damaged, they can no longer do their job in keeping your skin firm and youthful-looking.
The higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood, that originate from the calories that your body wants to store for later. If you have too much of this stored fat, it may lead to heart disease in the future. When our bodies digest sugar more quickly, it can cause a rapid increase in blood glucose (sugar). Over time, having consistently high blood glucose can contribute to health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Your Body Weight
Added sugar is high in empty calories and void of any nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. Products that usually contain a lot of added sugars tend to be loaded with calories as well. Strong evidence shows that being above a healthy weight increases the risk of developing different types of cancer.
As you can see, even though this is only a small portion of the negative impacts, the risks outweigh the benefits of added sugars. Consuming small amounts now and then is perfectly healthy, but it is important to try and cut back whenever possible.
Fortunately, by limiting the amount of added sugars in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising nutrition. If you are ready to cut back on those sweets, here are a few tips to try!
• Avoid sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Add lemon or cucumber to your water instead to make it a bit more flavorful!
• Reach for fruits when you’re craving something sweet instead of candy or cookies.
• Read ingredient labels! Added sugar is often in products you would never have expected, like spaghetti sauce and sandwich bread.
Although the information in this blog post is only a fraction of the potential consequences of added sugar, they still can be quite life-changing. By watching the added sugar in your diet, it can help you control your weight and more importantly, potentially avoid serious and chronic health problems. Problems like high blood pressure, risk of a heart attack, and inflammation throughout your body that affects your skin and joints can make a huge impact on not only your self-confidence but your livelihood as well. Making baby steps like incorporating these tips into your daily lifestyle will move you in the right direction of a healthy and happy mind and body.
This blog post was written by Mary, an intern with Immunize Nevada.