The Issues With Added Sugars

Consumption of added sugar is widely considered to be one of the most unhealthy parts of the modern American diet. Increased sugar intake is linked to increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cognitive decline, and some forms of cancer. According to the latest statistics from the CDC, 100 million Americans have prediabetes or diabetes. More alarming, nine out of ten people who have prediabetes are unaware of it, and if left unaddressed, it often leads to diabetes within five years.

Fructose

The first step in reducing sugar intake is to learn which foods contain naturally-occurring sugars, which contain added sugars, and in what quantities. Naturally occurring sugars occur in carbohydrates, like grains, pasta, and starchy vegetables. The sugar found in these types of foods is known as glucose. The naturally occurring sugar in fruit is known as fructose. Whole fruit contains fructose paired with fiber, nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins that can help prevent future diseases. Fructose gets broken down into glucose, which, while needed for normal bodily function, can be unhealthy in large quantities, such as drinking fruit juices that lack most of the benefits found in fruit.

Sucrose

The white sugar used for sweets and baking is called sucrose, and it is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Sucrose is extracted from sugar beets or sugar cane and can be broken down and used for energy. 

Glucose

Every cell in the human body needs glucose to function; this type of sugar is a vital part of your diet. We are equipped with an efficient system to break down foods into glucose and shuttle them into our cells with the assistance of insulin. But, we run into trouble when there is a high amount of sugar in our system, and we either can not produce enough insulin or the body can not recognize the amount of sugar circulating in our blood.

What occurs when our body is not responding to insulin?

Consuming a meal that contains a lot of carbohydrates or sugar will cause a spike in your blood sugar level. This spike will send a signal to your pancreas to produce insulin to help transport the glucose circulating to your cells. Some of the glucose is used immediately for energy. The remained is stored in the liver as glycogen or stored in the fat cells as triglycerides. When the amount of glucose needed is exceeded, the fat storage will increase and result in weight gain. Over time, consistently consuming too much glucose and having constant blood sugar spikes, will not only result in weight gain but also insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition, also known as metabolic syndrome, that causes your cells to lose the ability to use glucose for energy, causing your pancreas to produce even more insulin. The pancreas will work to keep your blood sugar at an average level for some time, but if ignored, it will become strained. When your pancreas has been exhausted, it will not be able to efficiently produce insulin, resulting in the condition known as Type II Diabetes.

Adding sugar vs. Added sugars

While not adding sugar to your coffee in the morning or using an artificial sweetener seems straightforward, the issue is more complicated.  Cutting out sugar that you personally add to your food is a great start, but you also have to monitor packaged and processed food that you buy at the grocery store. Sugar is added to nearly everything, from the obvious sugary snacks, beverages, and deserts to the not so obvious frozen dinners, pasta sauces, and condiments. There are over 50 names that manufactures can use to list sugar as an ingredient on the label. These names can be misleading and cause one to believe a product has less sugar then it does. Without reading the label on the back, claims on the front can be misleading. Vitamin water, which is thought to be a healthy alternative to sugary sports drinks, can have up to 27 grams of sugar. For comparison, a Snickers bar also contains 27 grams of sugar.

The 5 Easiest Steps To Cut Excess Sugar From Your Diet

      1. Eat fruit fresh & whole instead of juice drinks or dried fruit
      2. Avoid overeating grains, even whole grains
      3. Eat enough fiber
      4. Eat less packaged food
      5. Drink more water, fewer sports drinks