The Un-Sugar Coated Truth
How Sugar Affects Your Health
Sugar is in almost everything we eat, but the type of sugar we’re consuming makes all the difference in how our bodies react to it. Some foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy contain naturally occurring sugars, like fructose and lactose. These sugars are actually good for the body, giving your cells much needed energy. However, many manufacturers today add refined sugar to their products to enhance their flavors and extend their shelf lives. These are the ones that wreak havoc in our body.
The sugars that occur naturally in whole foods can be very advantageous to your health. Many also contain antioxidants, protein, essential minerals, calcium, and high amounts of fiber – all essential to your body. Because your body digests these foods slowly, these sugars offer a steady supply of energy to your cells. In fact, natural occurring sugar has been shown to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases like some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
It is the added sugar that is the real culprit, putting you at risk for numerous health concerns. Studies show that these sugars can raise your blood pressure and exacerbate inflammation, both leading causes for an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to fatty liver disease. Because your liver metabolizes this type of sugar the same way it does alcohol, the dietary carbohydrates are converted to fat in the liver, a leading contributor to diabetes.
Excess sugar consumption is also a key factor in obesity. This is especially true when your calories are coming from sugary beverages, because drinking your calories does not provide the same satisfaction that eating solid food does. This, oftentimes, leads to overeating.
Learning to decipher the names given to added sugar is the first step to controlling your intake. “Corn sweetener,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” “fruit juice concentrates,” “honey,” “inverted sugar,” “malt sugar,” ‘brown sugar,” and “molasses” are all labels manufacturers use to disguise added sugar in their ingredients list, sometimes making them actually sound natural. It is also important to study the “suggested serving size.” What many of us consider to be one serving can translate two or more servings on a label.
While it is advisable to restrict the amount of added sugar in your diet, moderation in all things is key. My recommendation, in accordance with the American Heart Association, is for women and men to limit their intake of added sugar on a daily basis.
All sugar is not the enemy of good health. Naturally occurring sugars in whole foods are actually important to your body’s nutrition. However, understanding and moderating the added sugar in your diet will give you the long-term benefits of reducing the risk of disease and controlling unwanted weight.
I am Taft Draper, Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutritionist, based in the Asheville, NC area and serving clients worldwide, who has made it my mission to help my clients understand that food is medicine and that it is your best ally for a healthy, happy life. Book a free discovery session to discuss your health and wellness goals and see if I’m the right wellness partner for you.