Sugar has a bittersweet position when it enters in your body. Studies revealed that too much processed sugar is bad for your health. (1) This article will talk about some reasons why processed sugar is bad for you.
It’s a well known fact that administrations all over the world started action against processed sugar. They are imposing taxes for sweet beverages and snacks restricting them from schools. Several dietary treatment programs are also getting open to individuals who accept they are dependent on sugar.(2)
But what is the reality? Is sugar the new foe?
For centuries Coca leaves were used in their natural state to combat several health issues or to make tea. This was normal and there were no issues. But, advancement of technology made them highly processed and turned into a risky and addictive drug known as cocaine.
The innocent poppy flower suffered the same fate. In the past a safe and effective tea, frequently used for relaxation and pain, got super-processed and became a strong, dangerous and addictive opiate.
Sugar was first processed from sugar cane – a healthy stalking plant. In its natural form you can’t consume enough to make you sick. But once it processed and super-concentrated it becomes like a drug. In fact, in laboratory tests with rats, sugar outperformed cocaine as the drug of choice.
Different Types of Sugar
You should know that there are various types of sugar, some natural and some very processed. However, the natural sugar no longer remains 100% natural after processing, even they started natural. (3)
Fructose is mainly found in fruits, honey and in lesser amounts in tuberous vegetables such as onions and potatoes. Processing makes it a highly concentrated form of sugar. You can eat fructose from natural sources as it is safe and should not be avoided. But once processed, though, it becomes something else entirely and causes a lot of health problems.
This is the sugar that’s in your blood and is the major store house of energy. Nearly all carbohydrate containing foods, from fruits to bread contains glucose, especially the starchy ones. Glucose plays a vital role in metabolism and cellular respiration to maintain a healthy and active life. It supplies almost all the energy to the brain. You must have the right amount of glucose to think clearly and wisely. Glucose is created industrially by using corn, rice, wheat, and other starchy plants.
Lactose is found in milk which is made up of galactose and glucose. Industrially it’s produced as a by-product of the dairy industry. The enzyme that digests lactose is called lactase. The human body produces lactase to help digest this type of sugar. But some people, especially from eastern and south-eastern Asia and some parts of Africa cannot properly digest this type of sugar in adulthood which causes lactose intolerance.
This sugar is found in the germination process of seeds. As the seeds break down their starch stores for food to sprout and grow, maltose is formed. This type of sugar can cause much intolerance as well as weight gain, kidney stones and more. However, eating it in its natural form such as in sweet potatoes, soybeans, barley and wheat (other than those who suffer from gluten intolerance) is healthy.
This type of sugar is derived from cane and beetroots. The form of sugar that you add to your coffee or tea in the morning is the sucrose. Modern processing technology makes it table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, refined sugar, or just plain sugar. Before it’s been processed it has a lot of health benefits due to vitamins and minerals present in it.
As you see, most sugars start in a very natural state and aren’t bad in their natural state until they undergo super-processing. Super-processing made it bad for your health, as it makes natural sugars into highly addictive drug-like substances.
Why Processed Sugar is Bad for You
Your Immune System
Too much consumption of processed sugar cam make your immune system weak and your ability to kill germs inside your body. Sugar weakens your immune system. It doesn’t take much, either. Just two soda drinks can stop the ability to fight off that flu bug and lead to falling ill. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get vaccines if you don’t eat sugar, but when it comes to health, avoiding added sugar can boost your immunity exponentially.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, are constipated and having other problems, you could be having trouble with your mineral deficiency. If you eat a lot of sugar, you are likely depleting your magnesium stores of your body to process all of it. Additionally, you will lose more chromium through your urine if you consume a lot of processed sugar.
Processed sugar has no health benefits at all. When you eat processed foods like chocolates, jams, ice creams and soft drinks, you’re actually eating “empty calories” that will cause weight gain and elevated blood lipids. The fact that sugar often combined with fat and salt makes the effects even worse. So, for prevention of diet-related chronic diseases, it’s better to avoid added sugar when you can.(7)
Elevated Insulin Responses
Insulin is an important hormone that regulates your blood sugar level. When your insulin response is healthy, your cells will release the right amount of insulin. But, if you regularly consume sugar, especially in “overdose” amounts, your body will become confused about when to release insulin and when to not. Thus, extra insulin in the blood can causes hypoglycaemia while a little or no insulin can causes hyperglycaemia.
Behavioral Problems in Children
Research indicates that intake of foods rich in refined sugar significantly impact children’s behaviour. If a child has an overdose of refined sugar, they will become restless and aggressive. Besides, if a child is hungry and their blood sugar is low, they will be sleepy and grumpy. Children overindulging in chocolates and candies are also prone to dental carries. Hence, the key to better health of a child is to keep the balance of blood sugar with natural fruits and vegetables
Damages Cells and Tissues
The tissue in your eyes, kidneys, and nerves carry sugar a lot longer than other organs. The remaining sugar silently damages the cells, nerves, small blood vessels and of course your eyes. Taking lot of processed sugar may make your eyes more vulnerable to vision loss.
Anxiety and Poor Concentration
Processed sugars enter as well as leave the blood stream of your body quickly. This process can overall manifest in more anxiety and poor concentration. Some people often eat sugar to suppress anxiety, but it’s just making the problem much worse. You have to provide a balanced level of glucose to feed your brain, not short bursts of sugar in the form of soft drinks or other sugary items.
Feeds Some Cancers
Sugar is one of the contributors to increase the risk of tumour cell growth as cancer cells love sugar. That’s because like other living things cancer cells too need sugar to grow. They love super-processed white sugar, white flour, and high fructose corn syrup. The good thing is that if you simply cut your consumption of processed sugar from your daily meal, you can reduce your cancer risks.
Processed sugar is very acidic. The more alkaline you can make your body, the healthier you’ll become. If you have health issues like chronic acidity, heartburn or GERD, intake of processed sugar will worsen your symptoms.
However, every person is affected differently. So, it’s better to look at your own symptoms and health issues. If you have any of these problems, try eliminating processed sugar first to see if you notice any changes in your health.
How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
The sugar intake recommended by FDA for an adult should not be more than 10 percent of daily calorie intake. However, WHO has reduced this percentage from 10 to 5 percent. An adult with normal BMI can consume only 6 teaspoon of added sugar, which is approximately 25 grams. (8)
Your doctor is usually concerned about these added sugars and not the naturally occurring sugar. So how much of that you want to be natural and processed sugar is up to you. But obviously, keeping the amount of processed sugar lower is better for your health.
Tips for Breaking Your Sugar Habit
Fortunately, you don’t need to work that hard to cut your sugar addiction. It’s only hard if you try for totally zero sugar. That would not be healthy. Instead, try for a reduction slowly, and then cut it back more and more through non sugary food items.
Avoid Processed Food: The biggest culprit when it comes to sugar in food is processed food. Keeping yourself away from processed food can eliminate almost all of the added sugar you’re eating.
Get Plenty of Sunshine: It might seem strange, but one reason people like to eat sugar is serotonin, the feel-good hormone. When you eat a lot of sugar your serotonin level will increases. But, there are some better ways to increase serotonin levels; one is the sunshine. You’ll also get vitamin D from sunshine which can improve your mood too.
Get Plenty of Sleep: If you have trouble sleeping at night, then you need to get to the root cause of why. Stop taking sugars, caffeine, and other stimulating stuff before two to three hours going to bed. You should go to sleep on an empty stomach for the best sleep.
Drink Enough Water: Staying hydrated is important to avoid any type of cravings, including sugar cravings. Therefore, measure your water to ensure that you’re drinking a minimum of 64 ounces to 100 ounces of water a day depending upon your weight.
Focus on Stability: One way to keep your sugar balanced is to have regular meal times. For you, that may be six meals a day; for others that may be the traditional three meals a day. It depends on what works best for you. You should eat when you feel real hunger pangs.
Eat More Greens: When you eat more greens like turnip, beetroot, sweet potato, spinach, yam and so forth, your sweet cravings will go away. So, instead of eating something sweet when you get the craving, try eating a bowl of steamed spinach, dahi or chass (buttermilk) and your cravings will disappear. They comprise a lot of essential nutrients such as vitamin B6, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 which help curb sugar cravings.
Incorporate Fermented Foods and Drinks: Not only are they good to help keep your stomach acid and bacteria balanced, fermented foods and drinks are also great sweet tooth killers. You can buy prepared fermented foods or make your own. Keep in mind a very small amount of sugar is used in fermentation, but that is okay.
Meditate: Sometimes sugar cravings are just a sign that you need to slow down and center yourself. Stress can play a huge part in appetite and cravings. Take the time to meditate, at least 10 minutes per day. If you don’t want to meditate, prayer or sitting silently also works.
Including the above tips into your daily routine can make a huge difference when you’re trying to stop sugar cravings. But remember that it’s not going to take place overnight either. Just focus on adding in more and more good stuff to your life rather than on what you’re eliminating.
If you really want to get rid yourself of sugar cravings, lose weight and get healthier, the best way to do it is to avoid refined sugars. Remember, sugar that is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk and honey are usually okay, although you should try to limit super-sweet fruit like dried fruits and dates. Take it one day at a time. Get enough hydration, exercise, meditation and sunshine and you’ll kick that sugar habit to the curb in no time.