Before we delve into the reasons to avoid sugar. Let’s take a closer look at what sugar really is and where it’s lurking (Spoiler alert; most packaged foods). When you hear the word “sugar,” you probably think of a white, granulated powder that tastes really sweet. But sugar has many names (100 to be fact) and comes in many forms, making it difficult to control how much of it we eat.
Sugar is a carbohydrate and carbohydrates can be either complex or simple. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides composed of long chains of mono- and disaccharides linked together. These create fibers and starches. Since they are larger, digestion is slowed down and this is why you feel fuller for longer after eating them. However, simple carbohydrates refer to the short number of sugar molecules in a carbohydrate viz Glucose, Fructose and Galactose. Due to their small size they are easily absorbed which means that they enter the bloodstream quickly.
When we talk about the harmful effects of excess sugar, we are referring to the simple
sugars. Besides the obvious culprits like candy, pastries, donuts, soda, desserts and highly processed fast food. Many supposed health foods like most breakfast cereals, health bars, juices, salad dressings, sauces and condiments contain simple carbohydrates. Here’s 5 reasons you should cut down or eliminate these foods from your diet.
1. Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a set of health problems that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. Obesity, high triglycerides, insulin resistance (when the cells are no longer responding to insulin) are some of the main risk factors and all have been linked to over consumption of sugar and weight gain.
2. Brain Health
When insulin resistance develops, connections between brain cells are impaired, and cognitive health starts to decline. This leads to a decrease in learning abilities and the ability to recall memories. Studies are now showing that excess sugar intake can cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia. This even includes people who are not diabetic, but still consume a lot of sugar. Furthermore, sugar affects our mood. We experience a temporary high, and all the associated pleasant feelings, like relaxation and satisfaction occur. Your mood may improve for a few hours but, once serotonin levels have faded, the body and mind will crash and feel fatigued. Mental clarity will cloud over and lack of concentration will follow. The body will crave more sugar to feel awake and alive. It is for these reasons that sugar has been identified as an addictive
3. Gut Health
In recent years, scientists are realizing just how important our gut microbiome is for
overall health -from hormonal health to our immunity. Many experts believe that the bad bacteria feed on simple sugars causing gut dysbiosis or an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria. Also, people who eat a diet too high in added sugar might not be getting enough fiber. A low-fiber diet can deprive our beneficial gut microbes of the food they need to flourish, which could offset the bacterial balance and reduce its diversity.
4. Hormone Health
Excess sugar in the diet can cause a rollercoaster rise and drop in insulin and blood sugar levels. This constant rise and drop can affect the functioning of the thyroid gland especially in people who have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Furthermore, our adrenal glands are affected as well. The adrenals are responsible for secretion of many hormones including our stress hormone Cortisol. If the body is in a constant state of stress with a daily influx of sugary snacks without any fiber or starch, the adrenals can become exhausted. Our stress hormone Cortisol will raise blood sugar, increasing feelings of anxiety and nervousness. The heart starts to race; body temperature and blood flow elevate. The emotions felt during stress and anger can even physically manifest as tingling sensations in the body. Lastly, insulin resistance is one of the main risk factors of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which can cause hormonal and metabolic havoc in women.
Inflammation is our body’s natural defense mechanism to promote healing ie. the body’s immune response, meant to heal the site of injury or infection. Even though sugar and inflammation serve important functions in our bodies in moderation, the problem arises when we eat too much sugar, which results in too much inflammation or chronic low grade inflammation .Eating too many foods with added sugar and simple carbohydrates can result in long-term internal inflammation that doesn’t serve any useful function in our body and can be harmful to our health. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Now you may be thinking that all you have to do to avoid gaining weight is to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. This is exactly what large manufacturers and corporations may tell you, but it is a lie. The truth is your body needs carbohydrates to function and to be healthy. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes contain fiber and nutrients necessary for us to thrive on a cellular level.
At LKN, we focus on the science of food and digestion, and take an individual approach to health and wellness. Each plan we create is specific to each client's lifestyle and needs.
If you struggle with sugar cravings, weight gain, fatigue, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, PCOS, inflammation, gut issues, or have any nutrition questions drop us a line and we can set up a time for a free consult!