Saturday, December 10, 2022
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How sugar affects your body and what to do about it

Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods and chocolate… this article is not about how much sugary food you can get your hands on but about why eating all this sugar all the time isn’t good for you. We’ve all heard the lectures from our doctors, friends and family to cut down on sugar and not over indulge. 

 

You might be wondering if there is some truth to what they’re saying. Well, unfortunately or fortunately there is. Sugar is not bad for you, if eaten in small amounts, however, too much of it can lead to some unwanted consequences. 

 

From tamarind chutney to ketchup, some of the most unexpected foods have added sugar hidded in it. To complicate things a bit more, added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they are often listed under the guise of corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice or sucrose. So how can you avoid sugar when it creeps its way into literally everything?

 

Here’s how too much sugar affects you from head to toe— 

 

Your brain: Eating sugar spikes the feel good chemical of dopamine in your brain. Your brain craves dopamine which in turn leads to you eating more sugar which can have negative and long lasting effects on your brain health. 

 

Your heart: When you consume too much sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect all the arteries in your body. Their walls become thick which stresses the heart and damages it over time leaving you at risk for heart diseases and strokes. Too much sugar can cause high blood pressure as well. 

 

Your liver: Added sugar contains high amounts of fructose or high fructose corn syrup. Unlike glucose and other types of sugar, which are taken up by many cells throughout the body, fructose is exclusively broken down by the liver and in large amounts can be damaging to the liver. 

 

Your pancreas: When you eat, your pancreas pumps out insulin. When you eat too much sugar your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin so your pancreas ends up producing more insulin than required.  Eventually, your overworked pancreas will break down and your blood sugar levels will rise, setting the stage for diabetes and heart disease.

 

Your kidneys: If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage over time due to the release of excess sugar into your urine. 

 

Your skin:  Another body part to bear the brunt of sugar based inflammation is your skin. Sugar ages your skin faster by damaging the collagen and elastin in your skin leading to wrinkly and saggy skin. Sugary food also puts you at risk for acne and breakouts which you probably thought was a thing of your teens and you are way past that stage.

 

Your bones and joints: Lay off the candy if your joints and bones are giving you trouble. Too much sugar causes inflammation in the body which leads to pain and problems. 

 

Your teeth: Candy can rot your teeth. You heard it as a child so now it’s time to hear it as an adult. Bacteria that cause cavities love to eat leftover sugar lingering in your mouth. Sugar also causes tooth decay. So stay away from too much sugar for the sake of your pearly whites. 

 

Your blood sugar levels: Diabetes is a leading cause of mortality and reduced life expectancy. Excessive sugar consumption increases your risk of developing diabetes because of the constant rise in your blood sugar levels. 

 

Your risk of cancer: Too much sugar often leads to obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation, all of which are major risk factors for cancer.

 

Your immunity: Your immune function can be greatly affected and compromised by sugar. Sugar can interfere with your body’s disease fighting abilities and even create an inviting space for germs and viruses. 

 

Here’s how too much sugar affects you emotionally — 

 

Your mood: The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick burst of energy or a sugar rush by raising your blood sugar levels rapidly but when your levels plummet you can feel a sugar crash, jittery or even anxious. Eating too much sugar can take your mood for a rollercoaster ride with sugar highs and lows and in some cases even put you at risk for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety or cognitive impairments like memory loss or even chronic inflammation. A diet high in added sugar and processed foods automatically jeopardises your emotional and mental health. 

 

Your sleep: If you have trouble sleeping or staying asleep the likely culprit is probably that chocolate bar or bowl of ice cream before bed. Poor sleep quality or even lathergy and over sleeping is significantly related to high sugar intake.

 

Your weight: This probably isn’t breaking news but the more sugar the more kilos. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of eating too much sugar and unmanaged weight can cause a series of health issues. 

 

Your sexual health: Too much sugar can affect your sexual health especially among men. Sugar affects your circulatory system, which controls the blood flow throughout your body. Cut down on sugar. 

 

Your stress levels: Sugar increases stress. When we are stressed, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode which involves a large release of hormones. This response is the same chemical response our body has when our blood sugar is low. So avoid too much sugar to keep sugar spikes and crashes at bay. 

 

Sugar’s lack of nutritional value: Sugar does not provide any vitamins or minerals, plain and simple, sugar is just an empty calorie. Nonetheless, fruits and dairy products contain natural sugars and nutrients, making them healthy alternatives to processed sugar. 

 

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/hidden-sugar-iceberg-concept-has-2-2191689755

 

Simple sugar swaps —

Excessive added sugar is a big NO NO. It comes with a bandwagon of negative health effects. Consuming small amounts of sugar now and then is perfectly normal and healthy for your body.  Unfortunately, sugar hides in some surprising foods so try these simple changes to avoid the extra empty calories. 

 

  • Swap sodas, energy drinks and juices for water or unsweetened drinks. 
  • Drink black coffee or use a natural alternative like jaggery, honey or stevia instead of refined cane sugar. 
  • Flavoured yogurts are loaded with sugar, opt for plain yogurt with fresh fruit or berries instead. 
  • Replace candy or chocolate with trail mix, nuts or granola. 
  • Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings. 
  • Make sure the sauces you use have zero added sugar. Only natural sugar from the ingredients. 
  • Swap your bowl of sugary cereal for oatmeal or eggs. 
  • Use natural nut butter in place of spreads like Nutella, processed peanut butter or jam.
  • Avoid sweetened alcoholic beverages. 

 

A Final Word —

  • Be extremely mindful of what you put in your body. Eating whole, fresh food is your best option to control your sugar intake. 
  • The best way to limit your added sugar intake is to prepare your own healthy meals and avoid buying foods that are high in added sugar. 
  • Keep track of what you eat by using a food journal so you can cut out and limit your intake of excess sugar. 
  • Remember that it is very important to read labels carefully. Sugar is the chameleon of the food industry. 

Sugar morphisizes itself into enticing foods and beverages, promising to be healthy and natural but no matter what it’s called, sugar is sugar. 

So stay away!

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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