What do dried fruit, marinara sauce, granola, and low-fat yogurt have in common?
Well, put them all together and it wouldn’t make a very good meal now would it?
All 4 of these have added sugar.
These days, sugar is hiding in just about everything, and with so many relying on quick, highly processed foods for meals and snacks, sugar now makes up a large proportion of the daily caloric intake.
Get this – 17% of the total daily caloric intake for adults is sugar.
But wait, that’s up to 14% for the average child.
With the rates of obesity and chronic disease higher than ever before, dietary guidelines recommend less than 10% of our total daily caloric intake come from sugar.
But you know this.
You’ve heard how bad obesity and chronic disease rates are.
You’ve heard about the concerns for the average Americans health.
You’ve likely even heard about how damaging sugar is to your health.
Yet, you still add it to coffee, eat a diet of heavily processed foods, and finish the day with a sugary nightcap.
Until you understand just how detrimental sugar is to your health, you won’t know experience the oh, so sweet feeling of dietary and fat loss success.
Can Cause Weight Gain
Added sugar, specifically from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the major contributors to the obesity epidemic.
Now, it’s not the direct consumption of this added sugar but what it does to the and triggers within the body.
Juices, pops, sugary coffees, and even the “healthy” fruity drinks or smoothies are LOADED with fructose.
Fructose is a simple sugar that on consumption, increases hunger and the desire for more glucose-filled, starchy foods.
On top of that, chronic over-consumption of fructose leads to leptin resistance, which is the hormone that regulates hunger and signals the body to stop eating.
Finally, the research has found the chronically high consumption of sugar to be linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a deep belly fat linked to many obesity related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Increase Risk of Heart Disease
Speaking of sugars link to heart disease…
Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.
A high-sugar diet leads to the top risk factors linked to heart disease – obesity, bodily inflammation, high triglycerides, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
Linked to Acne
Sugary foods and refined carbs have a high glycemic index, which means they raise your blood sugar more rapidly than low glycemic foods.
The rapid increase in blood sugar and insulin levels sparks an increase in the secretion androgens (male sex hormones – yes, ladies you do have them too), oil production, and body wide inflammation. Each of these are big time contributors in acne development.
A variety of studies have been conducted on the relationship of sugar consumption and acne. Research has found teens classified as consuming a high sugar diet showed a 30% greater risk of developing acne. In addition, studies of rural communities more likely to consume majority minimally processed foods to have near non-existent rates of acne.
Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
The rates of diabetes have skyrocketed around the world, and while there are MANY causes, excessively high sugar consumption and obesity have been identified as the clearest links.
If you understand diabetes and the body’s response to sugar, it’s easy to see how the two are related.
A diet chronically high in sugar leads to the body’s resistance of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas designed to regulate blood sugar levels.
As the body builds a resistance to insulin, blood sugar levels continue to rise, thus increasing your risk for diabetes.
Increase Risk of Cancer
At this point you know, a diet high in sugar leads to a greater chance of obesity, but both of these factors increase your likelihood for developing cancer.
High sugar diets increase inflammation throughout the body and the likelihood for insulin resistance – again, both factors increase your risk for developing a form of cancer.
The relationship between sugar and cancer continues to be studied, but research has found an increased risk of esophageal, pleural, small intestine, and endometrial cancer.
Increase Risk of Depression
Healthy foods are well-known for the positive effects on your weight and bodily functions, but its effect on mood and mental health is nearly as important.
The research shows that individuals regularly consuming added sugar and processed foods increase your risk of developing depression.
The consumption of sugar sparks blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulations, and body inflammation which are all detrimental to hormone regulation, mood, and mental health.
Accelerates Skin Aging
For many, this could be enough to cut back on sugar…
Take a look at TV, social media, or advertisements – who isn’t trying to clean up or slow the aging process of their skin?
The problem is that the BEST fix is NOT new products or supplements; it’s cutting back on sugar!
A diet primarily filled with low quality food choices worsens wrinkles and speeds up the aging process.
When sugar is consumed, it reacts with the proteins in your body to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which happen to be a key contributor to skin aging.
A diet high in refined carbs and sugar results in a high production of AGEs, which damage the collagen and elastin within the skin. Collagen and elastin are proteins that allow for the healthy stretch and retraction of the skin, and when that is damaged, the skin loses it’s firmness and begins to sag.
Increase Cellular Aging
On the surface, you may care a lot less about your cells aging than your skin, but let’s dig a little deeper and that may change.
The cells house our genetic information in chromosomes. At the end of each chromosome there are protective caps called telomeres, which are designed to prevent deterioration or fusion of the chromosomes.
As we age, our telomeres naturally shorten, which leads to cellular aging and improper functioning.
While this process is natural, your lifestyle choices influence the speed of this process.
Research has found a diet high in sugar to be a lifestyle choice the accelerates telomere shortening and cellular aging.
Energy Highs & Lows
As a kid, my parents never liked when my sister and I had Pixie sticks. We’d scream and run around on our sugar rush, but when it was over, we’d crash HARD.
Every parent or adult jokes about it, while at the same time hates these highs and lows.
But nobody ever talks about these highs and lows in adults…
Sugar quickly spikes blood sugar and insulin levels – that’s what causes the rapid increase in energy.
But then there’s the crash…
High sugar foods lack protein, fiber, or fat which are the nutrients that can help to stabilize blood sugar levels; therefore, without those, you’re left with a sharp drop in blood sugar levels.
Now think about all those high lows if you’re consuming 3 to 4 high sugar meals in a day…
What an energy-draining cycle!
Detrimental to Dental Health
This alone was enough to make me pay attention to my sugar intake!
Does anyone like going to the dentist?!?
If eating less sugar keeps me out of that chair, I’m in!
A diet high in sugar feeds the bacteria living inside your mouth (yes, it’s gross, but it is healthy and necessary), which causes a release of acid byproducts that leads to tooth demineralization and cavities.
Accelerates Cognitive Decline
Teeth are one thing, but sugar can hurt my brain functioning??
When sugar is consumed, the rapid influx in blood sugar takes away from your cognitive focus.
Beyond initial focus, a high sugar diet has been found to impair memory, recall, and one’s risk for dementia.
Increase Risk of Kidney Disease
The kidneys are one of the organs you don’t necessarily think about taking care of on a daily basis; however, a high sugar diet dramatically impacts your day-to-day and long-term kidney health.
Your kidneys are delicate organs, and the consumption of sugar can dramatically damage the blood vessels within them.
Periodic consumption of high amounts of sugar allows them the opportunity for repair, but it’s the long-term high sugar diet that increases damage and risk for kidney disease.
Detrimental to Gut Health
Just as there’s bacteria in your mouth, there’s also bacteria in the rest of your digestive tract.
Similar to the mouth, sugar feeds bacteria living in the gut, but the problem is that it feeds the BAD bacteria. The good bacteria end up damaged or starved; therefore, they’re unable to take in nutrients and maintain a healthy gut flora.
Pair this with sugar’s natural tendency to increase inflammation, a high sugar diet is bound to wreak havoc on your overall gut health.
Strategies to Cut Back on Sugar
Believe it or not, those aren’t the only reasons sugar’s not so sweet; however, these are likely to have the most impact on your overall health.
But now what?
You know a high sugar diet poses some HUGE health risks, so how do you cut back?
The simplest and most successful strategy is to follow a diet 85 to 90% whole, minimally processed foods and reduce the sugary goodness into the 10 to 15% of your processed, whatever you want types of foods.
To expand on that a little more, here’s a list of simple swaps to reduce your overall sugar intake.
- Swap pops, energy, drinks, and juices out for water or unsweetened seltzers.
- Sub sweetened teas and sugary coffees for black coffee, naturally sweetened teas, or a milk-substitute.
- Buy plain greek yogurt and sweeten with berries instead of buying artificially sweetened flavors.
- Consume whole fruits or homemade smoothies instead of purchased dried or sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
- Swap olive oil and vinegar out for salad dressings and dips.
- Substitute candy or treats with homemade or minimally salted trail mixes or nut mixtures.
- Find marinades, nut butters, sauces, and dips with 5 grams of sugar or less.
- Substitute breakfast cereals with oatmeal, overnight oats, or higher protein breakfasts.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages mixed with pops, juices, or sweeteners.
A little sugar isn’t BAD, but too much not only derails your fat loss progress but hurts your goals for a on, healthy life!
If you’re looking for more help managing your sugar intake and taking your nutrition to a new level for success, CLICK HERE to get started!