How Bad is Sugar for your Health – How to Kick the Habit

How-bad-is-sugar-for-your-health
Triple Chocolate Cake

Dessert is a much loved food type. Pastry chefs have created amazing tasty treats to lure us all into the web of their decadent delights. Not only are desserts loaded with sugar, but there are added sugars in many processed foods and drinks. Why is it that there’s so much talk about  sugar being bad for us? How is it that something that tastes so wonderful and puts a smile on our face with every bite, can reap such havoc on our health if consumed in excess?

Eating sugar causes the same type of feel good sensation in the brain as some drugs which leaves a person craving more. Notice how you always want more sweet stuff after you’ve had some. Are the health risks worth the couple minutes of enjoyment?

If you are interested in living a healthy life and feeling good, so you can enjoy the time you have here on earth, then what you eat is of great importance. Here we are going to focus on sugar and how it effects your health negatively which leads to poor health and potentially shortens your life.

How bad is sugar for your health?

In the Blood Stream

How-bad-is-sugar-for-your-health
Iced mocha

When we consume any simple sugar, which is found in sweetened drinks, such as soda, juice, sweetened coffee drinks, or any sweetened beverage, as well as desserts, candy, and added sugars in condiments and other processed foods, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin.  It absorbs glucose/sugar and transports it to the liver to use later on (between meals, when we are going to use extra energy such as in an athletic effort, and during sleep). The liver depends on insulin to do its job.

Glucose is the body’s fuel source. The foods that we eat are converted to glucose in order to be used as fuel by our body. If necessary the body will even convert protein into glucose to use as fuel. In extreme cases where a person is in starvation, the body wastes away and in this process glucose is created out of the body’s own tissue to survive.

The release of insulin balances our blood glucose, however eating too much sugar over a prolonged period or too often can result in various health problems.

How Else is the Body Affected by Sugar

Sugar also effects our body’s energy level. At first it gives us a feeling of increased energy due to an increase in blood sugar (an increase of fuel) which triggers a response in the pancreas to release insulin. This brings blood sugar down and leaves the body feeling depleted of energy. This mechanism causes us to crave sweets making it more difficult to stay away from eating or drinking those sugary tasty treats. The vicious cycle continues and also depletes our body of vital nutrition that helps to keep our energy levels steady.

The key to keeping a dump of insulin into the blood stream from happening and keeping insulin steady, thereby avoiding the cravings for more sweets, is to minimize carbohydrates overall. Making better choices in the carbohydrates you eat, choosing carbohydrates that are lower on the glycemic index (or overall lower net carbs) and nutrient rich will balance out insulin and energy levels. Check out these two links concerned with the glycemic index and with carbohydrate (carb) counting. The carb counting article discusses carb counting in relation to diabetes, however there is information in there that is helpful to anyone trying to decrease their blood sugar. 1) http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/carbohydrate-counting.html 2) http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html

What About Other Organs

Wrinkled skin
Wrinkled skin

Our skin can be adversely affected by consuming sugar. There is a reaction that happens in our body between the sugars we consume and proteins whereby a substance (a byproduct of this reaction) destroys collagen (the building block of skin and other tissues in the body) and elastin, causing the skin to age faster. The skin loses its youthful appearance and begins to sag prematurely.

                                 Eating Sugar = More Wrinkles

Sugar can Damage the Body Down Deep

Blood vessels get negatively affected because the sugar thickens the consistency of the blood, therefore making it more difficult to flow through the blood vessels, especially the smaller vessels in the organs like the kidneys, eyes, brain, and heart. Over a prolonged period a person can develop, high blood pressure, kidney disease and even kidney failure. High blood pressure can eventually lead to stroke.

Just as the intake of too much sugar can age the skin it can also accelerate cellular aging (over 30 trillion cells in the human body). Cells age as part of the normal aging process. However, sugar increases the rate of this process.

Bottom Line

As enjoyable as it is to eat fun foods and drinks that contain sugar, most of us would agree that eating these types of foods aren’t worth the couple of minutes of pleasure we get while we’re eating them.  Best to save a special treat for once in a while or for a special occasion in order to minimize the negative effects.  Research has shown that a diet generally lower in carbohydrates is associated with more radiant skin, lesser chance of obesity (which can lead to diabetes type 2), and better overall health.

How-bad-is-sugar-for-your-health
6-8 8oz glasses per day

Eliminating sugar and simple carbohydrates from your diet can be challenging and best done cold turkey.  The body’s insulin response will take a few days to reset.  What helps is to drink lots of pure water,  6-8 8oz glasses per day and replace sugary foods with clean protein, good fats, low sugar fruits such as berries, and plenty of veggies (lots of greens).

As you are going through the process of detoxifying your body of sugar be patient with yourself for the first few days as you reset your body.  After those first few days, you will begin to feel better, even lighter and have more energy.  You’ll start to notice the natural flavors of your foods more. Pure clean food will start to become more delicious as you eliminate those things that over sensitize your taste buds.

How-bad-is-sugar-for-your-health
low carb meal

It is very important while detoxifying your body from sugar that you eat at regular intervals during the day so that you don’t get hungry and eat the wrong thing. Prepare your food from the night before, including healthy non-processed snacks and eat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  If you work or go to school and won’t be near your refrigerator during the day, make sure to pack a cooler to take with you.  Have all your meals available, that way you have a better chance of sticking to the plan.

How-bad-is-sugar-for-your-health
Almonds

A great between meal snack is about 12 count (or 1 oz) of nuts.  Almonds are a great nutritious, in between meal snack,  low in carbs, contains good fat and protein which will keep you satiated till your next full meal. Another trick to help you level things out is to not overeat.  Stop yourself before you stuff yourself.  Pack smaller meals.  Even measure or weigh your food to make sure you’re eating the right amount.  If you have to eat out, besides making good food choices, cut your meal in half and take the rest to go.

I would love to hear from you about your experience with sugar. What have you noticed in your body after eating sugar, whether you’ve consumed a sugar containing food or beverage on a regular basis or just occasionally.  In the comment section below, feel free to share your experience.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I will get back to you very shortly with a response.

All the Best in your Journey,

DrDina:)

 

 

8 Replies to “How Bad is Sugar for your Health – How to Kick the Habit”

  1. Great read there DrDina, I try my hardest to reduce my sugar consumption levels but its so easy to forgot how much sugar is put in this like coffee and fizzy juice. The food manufacturing companies have a lot to answer for, in my country the government has introduced a sugar tax on drinks with high levels of sugar forcing the hand of the manufactures to change there ways and reduce sugar levels.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jason. Ultimately we have to be super mindful before we take anything in. What I tell my clients when they are interested in making positive health changes in their life is, first try to get in a couple of liters of water in a day. Fulfill your thirst with water, which is what your body really wants and then give your body it’s nutrients with food. Coffee is another story all together. I too love coffee. I used to drink all the fun sugary Starbucks drinks way back when until I started suffering from migraines. I began using Stevia (a sweet calorie free plant extract) to sweeten my coffee or tea and use organic half and half. The stevia takes a little getting used to. I can’t stand the taste of coffee without it anymore:) It’s important to stay away from artificial sweeteners as they can cause other health problems. All the best.

  2. This is a great article, there’s been a huge shift in practice recently away from the old ‘low fat, low calorie’ diet advice towards emphasising low sugar. What are your thoughts on natural sugars e.g. in strawberries?

    1. Thanks Amy! I think low sugar fruits in moderation are fine. Balance is important. However, other “natural sugars” like honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice syrup, maple syrup and the like, are still sugar. The body still sees them as sugar. Insulin still goes up to balance it out in the blood. I have a body building background where I not only weight trained, but also had to diet very strict to get my body fat down. During the end of preparing for a competition, starchy carbs are almost non existent and fat is super low. I felt so incredibly depleted I had a hard time even being able to think. I’ve done a bit of research since then and I’ve found that it is important to have a balance of nutrients in order to function normally. Eating the right balance of protein carbohydrates and fats is important to maintain proper body function.

  3. Great post!
    I think that sugar should be banned but I realize that since it is in almost every processed or packaged food, that is not going to happen soon.

    Do you recommend just throwing out all the sugar in the house and going cold turkey or is there a good way to wean yourself off of sugar?

    1. Thanks Irma. Cold turkey is best, reason being that it takes a few days to balance out the sugar/insulin response in the body. For a few days your body has to get over the cravings of sugar. Commit to detoxing your body of sugar by not eating any added sugar or any processed food that has sugar in it. Stick with a balance of simple nutrients: an abundance of vegetables, is very important, good fats, and clean protein (avoid processed meats as they most often are very high in salt and sometimes contain sugar). As the time goes by it gets easier to stay away from sugar and once you’ve been eating clean for awhile, you start to feel so good, you don’t really want sugar any more.

  4. I am glad to see you linked to other articles in this piece. I am a voracious reader and always trying to learn more. That was quite helpful. You are right that sugar is a sure way to overwhelm the body.

    I do have a question though. Besides nuts, what are some other healthy snacks you recommend? Since I exercise quite a lot, I am always hungry, so I need to feed my belly. I look forward to reading your response.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    1. Hi Alex. Thanks for reading my post and for commenting. It all depends on your metabolism, but what I have done between meals is to have nut butter on a rice cake. I prefer and tolerate Almond butter best. Some people don’t tolerate eating nuts at all, so another option is cheese. According to different research I’ve come across, cows milk cheese is not the best for us, but goat milk cheeses are more tolerable due to their molecular make up. I’ll sometimes have some goat milk cheddar with a rice cake. Now according to Dr Steven Gundry of the Plant Paradox that I reference in my Anti-inflammatory diet post, rice is a grain that our bodies may not tolerate, especially brown rice (contrary to popular belief). One of my favorite snacks is sweet potato. I like to slice it thin and put the pieces in the oven under low heat until they become chips. Spray them with a little coconut cooking spray and check them often to make sure they don’t burn. Here’s a recipe https://minimalistbaker.com/baked-sweet-potato-chips/ Or cut them up and steam them. Keep them in the fridge and then pop them in a baggy to take with you when you-re on the go. In fact you can do this with various veggies and if you eat meat, you can do this with meats too. Cook them up, cube them and pop them in a baggy. Making your own jerky is an option as well but I am not familiar with this process. You have to have a dehydrator I believe. What I like about prepping my own food is I know what’s in it. I can eliminate the salt or sugar in something.
      Enjoy,
      Dina:)

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