Sugar gets a bad rap, but the truth is, it’s a vital source of energy and essential to our survival. Of course, not all sugars are the same. Fructose found in fruits and vegetables and lactose found in foods rich in dairy products are natural sugars and we don’t need to worry because these foods contain fiber and calcium. Added sugar is often found in processed foods, and many of us consume too much of it.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, the average American consumes 270 calories per day, or 17 teaspoons of added sugar.
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Added sugar is anything added to food to make it sweeter, including natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. “Although they’re healthier than table sugar and provide more calories, they’re not as rich in vitamins and minerals,” says Jessica Cording, a New York City-based health coach and author of The Little Playbook. Changers.
According to the University of California, San Francisco, sugar is mysterious and can hide under 61 different names. Despite your best efforts to make healthy food choices, you may be consuming more sugar than you think.
Negative effects of sugar in the body
According to Harvard Health Press, when we eat sugar, most of it is broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. Specialized enzymes attack the larger molecules and convert them into three simple sugars: glucose, galactose, and fructose. The liver and muscles store some of the glucose as glycogen, which is converted into glucose when your body needs it.
When glucose enters the bloodstream, blood glucose levels rise. In response, the pancreas secretes insulin to transport the glucose to where it is needed in your body. If you add a lot of sugar, your cells become insulin resistant, a risk factor for systemic inflammation, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
A November 2016 study published in the journal Nutrients found that excessive sugar consumption is associated with risk factors such as weight gain, obesity, heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer.
“Excessive consumption of added sugars affects our energy, mood, weight, and risk of disease,” says Cording. “It affects our physical and mental well-being.”
“We need our blood sugar to operate in the energy Goldilocks zone in order to function as smoothly and as normally as possible,” says William W. Lee, MD, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based physician and author of Eat. overcome illness.
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Are you eating too much sugar?
Recommendations for limiting added sugars vary among industry groups. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommends no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars each day. For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, that’s a maximum of 12 teaspoons.
However, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories a day for women and children and 150 calories for men. It will be 6 teaspoons for women and children and 9 teaspoons for men.
Both groups agree that infants and toddlers under 2 should not have added sugar.
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If you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet, and don’t eat a balanced diet that includes fats, healthy fats, and unrefined carbohydrates, added sugars can replace other healthy foods. Not only are you missing out on vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but the added sugar can show up in other surprising ways.
Here are 12 signs you’re eating too much sugar.
- Hunger and weight gain
If you’re consuming more calories with added sugar, one of the first signs is increased hunger. “[Sugar] is palatable, but it doesn’t fully satisfy our stomachs,” says Keri Stoner-Davis, RDN, who works at Lemond Nutrition in Plano, Texas.
Without the protein, fiber and healthy fats that most processed snacks and sugary treats lack, Cording says, the body burns sugar quickly and increases hunger, leading to mindless and even compulsive snacking.
Reviews and meta-analyses suggest that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain in adults and children.
But it is not only excess calories, but also weight gain.
According to an article published in the journal Cell in May 2016, the gut microbiome, an ecosystem of 39 trillion microorganisms, is the body’s self-defense system. A healthy gut helps our metabolism regulate blood glucose and insulin levels and, in part, allows our body to use fat and regulate cholesterol. “When you add sugar, it damages that ecosystem,” Dr. Lee said.
The good bacteria decrease and the bad bacteria proliferate, leading to dysbiosis (an imbalance between these bacteria), metabolism, and the inability to process lipids and cholesterol properly.
In addition, sugar may damage fat hormones such as leptin, which suppress hunger, Li believes. According to Lee, “High sugar disrupts metabolism and, in part, interferes with leptin.” “Eating sugar makes you want more sugar, which makes you hungrier.”
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If you’re feeling irritable, irritable, or tired, stress might not be the only cause—it could be a sign that you’re eating too much sugar.
A study published in January 2020 in the journal Health Predictions suggests that added sugar can improve inflammation, lower mood, and reduce symptoms of depression.
A high-sugar meal or snack without protein or fat can spike your blood sugar, but as your body rushes to process it all, your energy levels drop, leaving you feeling weak and irritable, Cording says.
Also, if your blood glucose is low because of a spike in your insulin after eating a large amount of sugar, your brain’s blood glucose level will also drop. “Our brains are absolutely dependent on maintaining normal blood sugar levels,” Lee says.
The key is to pay attention when you’re upset. For example, if you start feeling jittery an hour after eating a snack, or at the same time every day, it could be due to excess sugar. “If you notice that this is happening to you a lot, it’s a good opportunity to look at what you’re eating,” Cording says.
- Fatigue and low energy
Sugar is easily digested and absorbed, so if you’re feeling tired, it could be due to the amount of sugar in your diet.
“Sugar is a very quick source of energy, so no matter how much you eat, you’ll either be hungry again within 30 minutes, have less energy, or be looking for more energy,” says Stoner-Davies.
Fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin can lower energy levels and affect your overall energy levels, Lee says.
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- Food does not taste sweet
If you notice that food doesn’t taste as sweet as it used to, or if you need to add sugar to your food (think of dusting your cereal with brown sugar), get too much sugar to begin with.
If you switch from flavored yogurt to plain yogurt for a healthier option, the difference will be more noticeable.
“You train your brain to expect a very high level of sweetness, and when you’re used to it, it’s hard to be satisfied with a low-sugar meal,” he says.
If you’re substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar in your diet, you may want to reconsider. “Many of these sugar substitutes are much sweeter than real sugar, which can trick our brains into expecting this incredibly sweet high,” says Cording. This will increase the sugar cravings altogether.
- Love sweets
If you have a sweet tooth, you may become addicted to the feel-good effects sugar gives your brain. Sugar targets the brain’s pleasure center (called the mesocorticolimbic pathway) and increases dopamine, the so-called “happy hormone,” Kording said.
This brain pathway plays an important role in the food choices we make, including our cravings for sugar.
Simply put, eating sugar increases dopamine, and dopamine increases