Sugar is one of the most powerful food additives.
We love sugar and it is one of the foods that we really have a hard time to give up. Especially when it comes to weight loss.
We are so used to add sugar or other sweeteners to pretty much any type of food. Moreover, if you look at all processed foods almost all of them will have sugar as the main ingredient.
Why? Because once again we love sugar.
So if sugar is so widely used, is sugar healthy for you?
Nowadays a lot of people are concerned about their health and weight, in particular. Most of us are trying to cut off on sugar. The food industry even created foods advertised as diet ones substituting sugar with some other additives.
Though are those additives are any better than sugar itself?
Are they healthier?
But before we answer these questions let’s see if sugar is healthy for you.
What Is Sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate consisted of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. It can be found in most plants, but the most concentration of it is in sugarcane and sugar beets.
White sugar is an extremely processed food that by the time it is finished, it no longer has any nutritional value.
Some people prefer to buy raw or brown sugar as a healthier option to the white ‘table’ sugar. It is a healthier option in the way that it has been minimally processed.
It has a higher moisture and molasses content and it is crunchier compared with the white sugar. And because this type of sugar is less processed it has a better balance of glucose, sucrose, and fructose, where the white sugar mostly contains sucrose.
What about fructose?
Some people advocate buying this type of sugar claiming it as a healthier option.
We all know that fruits contain a lot of fructose. When we eat fruits it provides us with energy and sweet taste. But because fruits also contain fiber, fructose itself does not boost our blood sugar to dangerous levels.
On the other hand, commercially sold fructose is a synthetically derived fructose from sugar cane, sugar beet, and corn. And because it has been extremely processed similar to the white sugar, it can hardly be named as a healthier option.
How Much Is Sugar Enough?
The best recommendation would be none.
Sugar is a very powerful additive and it is very hard to limit yourself when you start eating it.
Moreover, mostly all processed food has sugar in it whether it is bread or even ‘fruit’ yogurt. The amount of sugar we are consuming through the day without even noticing it is extremely high.
If you need a little of sugar in your diet, add raw honey, 100% maple syrup or stevia extract in your cooking.
Another thing to watch out is that sugar increase hunger.
So if your goal is weight loss you definitely would want to cut off even these types of sweeteners including fruits or consume it in the first part of the day in order not to trigger more hunger.
However, if you cannot say no to the sugar, here are some World Health Organization guidelines regarding the sugar consumption.
It is recommended to consume only 5% of ‘free’ sugars out of the daily calorie intake. As of the numbers it is approximately 30 grams of sugar for adults (approximately 7 sugar cubes) and 19 grams for children aged 4-6 years old (approximately 5 sugar cubes) and no more than 24 grams (approximately 6 sugar cubes) for children aged 7-10 years old.
Why Is Sugar Not Healthy For You?
If you are very active and exercise regularly having some sugar in your diet is not a problem as it fuels your muscles and brains. However, the problem is that a lot of foods we are eating have added sugar.
A sugar intake causes our blood sugar level increase, giving us a ‘sugar boost’ followed by a blood sugar level crash which causes us feeling tired and craving for more sugar. This sugar cycle is the main cause of weight gain, diabetes, and health disease.
Here are some other reasons why sugar is not healthy for you:
1. Weight Gain
That is probably not news to you that constantly increased sugar consumption will increase your weight.
People who consume sugar-sweetened beverages tend to weigh more and are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, some studies showed that people who increased their sugar consumption gained almost 2 lbs in less than 2 months.
2. Leaky Gut and Inflammation
Sugar can also trigger so-called leaky gut symptoms. Scientists found that sugar can change the gut microbiota that can cause leaky gut symptoms.
Added sugar is a great food for bad bacteria and yeast that can damage the intestinal walls and create a leaky gut.
Eliminating sugar is a great way to treat leaky gut.
3. Joint Pain
As mentioned before sugar causes inflammation.
Consuming a lot of sugar may increase joint pain because of the inflammation it causes.
It will also increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
High-fructose corn syrup presented in most of the drinks and processed foods is our body’s main enemy. It causes the fat to be built up in the liver triggering the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
According to the recent studies, this disease is presented in 17% to 33% of Americans (3)!
This also increases the number of people suffering from obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Another research showed that people who consume one sugar-sweetening beverage a day face a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared with the ones who do not drink any sugar-containing drinks (4).
5. Heart and Heart-Related Disease
A lot of people will blame cholesterol for heart disease.
However, it was proven in 2016 that the research blaming cholesterol for increasing the risk of heart diseases was actually sponsored by the sugar industry.
Sugar lobby sponsored the Harvard researchers in the 1960s to take the target off sugar and turning the focus on naturally-occurring fats (5).
This research concluded that in order to decrease the risk of heart diseases less cholesterol should be consumed and polyunsaturated fat has to be switched to saturated (6).
It was proven that when we consume sugar, extra insulin can affect our arteries the way that their walls grow faster and get tense that adds more stress to your heart. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Researchers also suggest that eating less sugar can help to lower the blood pressure.
Even though some of us have more or less sweet cravings, we all consume almost the same amount of sugar.
Because so many processed foods contain sugar that we do not even aware of, from bread and cereals to pasta sauces and soups. Be aware that:
- Almost all processed foods including ready-to-go soups and sauces contain sugar
- A can of soft drink contains, on average, seven! teaspoons of sugar
- ‘Diet’ or ‘low fat’ foods contain extra sweeteners to improve the taste
- The natural sugar in fruits increases hunger and the desire to have greater sweetness.
The rule of thumb to find hidden sugars is to look for ingredient ending in ‘ose’ is a type of sugar.
Always read the label!
Sweeteners like cane juice, beet sugar, fruit juice, rice syrup, molasses are still sugar.
The higher it is up on the ingredient list, the more of it is presented in the final product.
How To Cut Down On Sugar
Here are some tips to help you cut down on sugar:
- Check the label, if there is any ingredient that ends in ‘ose’, these are all different forms of sugar. The higher the ingredient in the list, the more it contains in the product
- Search for the carbs-sugars section in the nutritional panel. The rule of thumb is less than 5 grams per 100 gram is low, more than 22 grams per 100 grams is high
- Know sugar replacement. Maple syrup, stevia, raw honey are sweeteners naturally occur in small amounts in plants and fruits
- Reduce or better eliminate completely adding sugar to your hot drinks. Add cinnamon or cocoa instead to add more flavor to your morning coffee
- Avoid ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ products as they usually contain even more sugar
- Avoid ‘sugar-free’ foods as they usually contain artificial sugar, that confuses your body and make you want to eat even more
- Reduce juice consumption to 1 glass per day and make sure to dilute it with water as even if made at home it contains a lot of fructose that tend to increase hunger
- Take whole fruits and nuts for snacks. Nuts contain protein that helps balance blood sugar and energy level