Is your sugar consumption worth it?

Have you ever wondered why some of those “healthy”, “low fat” options might not actually be the best for you when you need a quick breakfast or a snack middle of the afternoon? Often times these options are high in added sugar content. Sugar is known to be linked to weight gain, increased inflammation, and increased pain.  The American Heart Association recommends we consume not more than 6 (for women) to 9 (for men) teaspoons of “added” sugar per day.  The average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of “added” sugar per day, which is 3-4 times the recommended amount.  Let’s go over the difference between “natural” and “added” sugars so you have a clear picture of the difference… 

  • “Natural” sugar is that which is found in foods that contain carbohydrates such as fruit, veggies, whole grains and dairy such as cheese and milk. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay as they contain other essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, and fiber.  Our bodies are equipped to handle natural sugars so there aren’t typically any negative effects on our bodies. 
  • “Added” sugar includes syrups and sugar that are added to food and beverages in their processing to make them taste sweeter and extend their shelf life.  This includes items such as juice, soda, sports drinks, ice cream, yogurt, cookies, bread, etc.  Added sugars are the ones that the human body has a hard time processing and can wreak havoc when consumed in larger amounts. 

The effects of excess added sugar are numerous, but let’s discuss the biggest ones. 

  • Cardiovascular: persons who get about 17% – 21% of their daily calories from added sugars are 38% more likely to die from heart disease 
  • Weight: sugar raises our blood sugar levels and triggers the release of insulin.  Insulin promotes the storage of fat and therefore, excess insulin causes weight gain. 
  • Liver: the liver metabolizes sugar the same way it does alcohol and converts fat into carbs.   An excess of fats can cause fatty liver disease which contributes to developing diabetes, heart disease and increased risk of stroke. 
  • Chronic inflammation: consuming sugar triggers inflammation- a process where white blood cells are sent to an area for healing causing things like swelling.  Eating excess sugar causes chronic inflammation which leads to increased pain and flare-ups of auto-immune disorders. 

How can you reduce your sugar intake?  There are so many simple ways!  Research shows 30% of the added sugars in our diet are from drinking beverages such as soda and sports drinks, so stick to water, black coffee and tea and you’re already on the right track.  When it comes to foods with added sugar, we like the 80/20 rule- eat healthy, whole foods at least 80% of the time, allowing yourself some treats the other remaining 20% of the time.  Deprivation leads to binge eating, so having smaller portions of sweet treats will help you minimize added sugar while also keeping your sweet tooth satisfied.  Better yet- if you find yourself craving something sweet, opt for a naturally sweet, whole food like a piece of fruit.   

Our final tip: read nutrition labels!  People pick up a food item and read phrases such as “low fat” and “fat free” and think they are opting for a healthier option.  More often than not, foods that are process to be lower in fat contain more added sugars.   

Here is what to look for.  This food item, for example, has 12g of total sugar. Of those, 10g of are added sugars, which means 2g is natural sugar.  Ideally, we would eat mostly items that have 0g added sugars. 

The list of ingredients can also give you a clue as to what kind of sugar is in that food.  Not only should you be looking for “sugar”, but also foods such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose (or any other word that ends in “ose”), juice concentrate, corn sugar.  Items marketed as being “sugar free” contain artificial sweeteners which can also have negative side effects, so limit the number of foods you eat with sugar substitutes.  If you start reading food labels and feel confused or overwhelmed, look for foods that don’t have any labels at all, like fresh produce. 

If you are dealing with chronic pain, we can’t stress enough how important it is to limit sugar in the body to help keep inflammation down.  Feel like you are eating clean and healthy but are still dealing with pain?  Give us a call to see if we can help! 

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