Although it is a tasty additive to your diet, it is by no means necessary and contains few nutrients. In fact, USDA’s MyPlate guide, which creates dietary recommendations for Americans, considers added sugar to be an empty calorie ingredient. And while a tiny bit in your diet may not negatively impact your health, you should aim to keep the added variety as low as possible. The American Health Association recommends reducing your added-sugar intake to 100-150 calories per day, at most. As a result, it is essential to understand why it can be detrimental to your health and how to consume as little as possible.
The Downside of The Sweet Stuff
So why are we demonizing the tasty white stuff? It’s hard to imagine that something so sweet can so negatively influence your health. But unfortunately, increased sugar intake has been linked to a wide variety of diseases affecting various parts of your body, from your teeth to your HEART! Furthermore, eating it increases your caloric intake. A single teaspoon full of the simple carbohydrate contains four grams and sixteen calories, a number that adds up quickly. After all, a can of soda likely contains at least ten teaspoons per serving.
To begin, there is a direct relationship between consumption of sweets and dental caries (or cavities): as intake increases, dental cavities increase as well. Luckily, brushing one’s teeth twice a day may help to offshoot the negative impact it has on your teeth. But with so many other health implications, adding it is difficult to justify.
Second, by eating it, you increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. In fact, one study found that individuals who consume the most (over 500 calories a day!) are twice as likely to die compared to individuals who consume the least amount. While it may seem unlikely that you are consuming 500 calories worth of sugar daily, you may not be far off from that number. On average, men and women consume 335 and 230 calories each day, respectively. These numbers are even higher among children and teenagers.
Third, added sugars increase your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. When you consume lots and lots of it, you may become insulin resistant. In simple terms, your body loses the ability to scoop up sugar and use it for energy. Instead, it remains in your blood, leading to symptoms associated with type-2 diabetes. In fact, women who incorporated soda into their diet experienced the greatest weight gain over a four-year period of time. Likewise, regular consumption of at least one sugar-sweetened soft drink each day may increase a woman’s risk of type-2 diabetes by 83%. And men are not immune from the effects of sugar on type-2 diabetes, as similar results have been found across genders and age groups,.
Just as sugar is implicated in type-2 diabetes, it is also a culprit in Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research has determined that insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels are detrimental to the brain and may lead to neurocognitive disabilities, such as disorientation, memory loss, and personality changes. Furthermore, having type-2 diabetes or eating a high in sweets diet may influence your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In fact, some even consider Alzheimer’s to be “type-3 diabetes.”
Finally, many news sources may incorrectly report that sugar directly causes cancer. The relationship is not quite that simple. Although cancer feeds off blood sugar, you will not destine yourself to die from cancer if you drink soda, just as you will not cancer-proof your future by abstaining from it. However, sugar consumption does increase your risk of obesity, as mentioned earlier. And weight gain is often a risk factor for developing certain types of cancers. So while sugar does not necessarily lead to cancer, maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle by eating lots sweets may negatively influence your overall health and make you more susceptible to cancer.
Common Sugar Aliases
Hopefully we have made the point that sweets can negatively impact your health in a multitude of ways. Despite your best efforts to cut down on sugar in your body, it is exceedingly common that the ingredient may still be lurking in your food. A quick search online yielded over twenty different phrases you may find on your food label that indicate sugar has been added to your food. Before buying your groceries, read the label carefully to search for these ingredients:
Agave syrup. Anhydrous dextrose. Brown sugar. Cane crystals. Confectioner’s/ powdered. Corn syrup. Corn syrup solids. Dextrose. Evaporated cane juice. Fructose. Fruit juice concentrates. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Honey. Invert sugar. Malt syrup. Maltose. Maple syrup. Molasses. Nectar. Raw sugar. Sucrose. White granulated sugar. Anything ending in -OSE.
The Search for Hidden Sugar
To an extent, cutting back on sugar is an easy process that you can easily implement in your home by making some simple changes. First and foremost, skip the soda purchases. One large study concluded that sweetened beverages were the biggest contributor to added sugar in the American diet. Instead, choose water or unsweetened iced tea. You can further cut back on sugars by avoiding cereals as they are typically high in them, and avoiding sweetened products. Also, opt to not add the sweet stuff to your coffee and make a habit of reading the nutritional labels.
Unfortunately, sugar is found in your everyday food purchases; you don’t have to walk down the candy aisle to find food items chock-full of it. Some surprisingly common sources include breads, tomato sauces, and salad dressings. In addition, low-fat and low-calorie products are especially likely to be brimming with the added variety. Manufacturers commonly add relatively large quantities to make up from the loss of taste due to fat removal. For example, peanut butter is especially subject to this phenomenon. Whereas natural peanut butter contains approximately one gram of sugar per serving, low-fat peanut butter contains over three times as much.
While you may think that you are eating healthy by choosing low-fat, low-calorie products, the full-fat version may actually be healthier.
The bottom line is to keep your added sweets intake as low as possible. While this may be a difficult task to accomplish, start by skipping the obvious sources it. From there, begin the search for secret sources and instead choose naturally sugar-free alternatives. Doing so can decrease your risk of diseases and drastically improve your quality of life.