No, I don’t want to ruin your holiday festivities. It’s a special time of the year to be with family and get a well-deserved break. Having said that, I’d love for you to be informed and make conscious choices about the food that impacts every cell of your body.
Question for you - do you think your body needs sugar to survive? The short and correct answer is NO. Unlike other key nutrients we need to survive (protein, fat and fiber) sugar is not one of them. 10s of thousands of years ago cave men were happy to find wild blueberries, which was (and still is) Mother Nature’s best candy, not artificial, man-made sugars. We often think we need sugar and crave sugar because of the way sugar is processed in our bodies.
“Sugar is a drug. Sugar sets off the same biological mechanisms that are triggered by cocaine and other drugs,” says Dr. Frank Lipman, author of “10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat.” “Drugs and sugar hijack the brain. You get physically addicted to it. You crave it, and when you stop eating sugar, you have withdrawal effects.”
Top 5 Ways Sugar Impacts Your Body
1. Inflammation is at the core of all chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and yes, cancer. Sugar is one of the biggest offenders in contributing to inflammation. A study of 29 healthy people found that consuming only 40 grams of added sugar from just one 375-ml can of soda per day led to an increase in inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol. These people tended to gain more weight too.
2. If you have been diagnosed with thyroid diseases and PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) know that both are greatly impacted by sugar.
3. Risk of Depression increases in both men and women. Researchers in London discovered that a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and fish, can lower your risk for depression in middle age. According to their study, people who ate processed foods like sweetened desserts, fried foods, and processed meats were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than people who largely relied on unprocessed, whole foods.
4. And if you need another reason it is also believed that sugary foods play a key role in skin aging, which can accelerate wrinkle formation.
5. And if that wasn’t enough processed sugar also impacts your energy level, decreased immunity, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, dental issues, and impaired memory.
Fundamental Understanding of Sugar
Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and your overall health depends on the type of sugar you’re eating, either natural or refined. Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose.
Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. It is typically found as sucrose, which is the combination of glucose and fructose. Processed white and brown sugars are found in cakes and cookies, and cereal. Food manufacturers also add chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to foods and beverages, including crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Low-fat foods are the worst offenders, as manufacturers use sugar to add flavor.
Most of the processed foods we eat add calories and sugar with little nutritional value. This is why we can eat a ton of sugar and never feel full or satisfied. In contrast, fruit and unsweetened milk have vitamins and minerals. Milk also has protein and fruit has fiber, both of which keep you feeling full longer.
How Do We Metabolize Sugar?
How the body metabolizes the sugar in fruit and milk differs from how it metabolizes the refined sugar added to processed foods. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Because refined sugar is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, no matter how many calories you consumed. The fiber in fruit slows down metabolism and expands the gut to make you feel full.
But there’s an important caveat. Once the sugar passes through the stomach and reaches the small intestine, it doesn’t matter if it came from an apple or a soft drink.
How much sugar is already in your blood will determine how the body uses the sugar. If you already have a lot of sugar in your system, then what you just digested will form either fat or glycogen, the storage form of glucose that’s used for quick energy. It doesn’t matter if it’s junk food or fruit.
Tips on How to Reduce Your Intake of Added Sugars:
1. Read food labels – 4 grams of sugar = 1 sugar cube…so one cookie with 18g of sugar = 4 ½ sugar cubes.
2. Reduce or eliminate sugary drinks. It is estimated that about 42% of added sugar intake is solely from soft drink consumption.
3. Opt for fresh fruit in place of refined sugars. At a minimum you have the added bonus of the fruit’s fiber, and antioxidants.
4. Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas for water or unsweetened seltzer.
5. Drink your coffee black or if need be use pure stevia extract (vs. other stevia options that are highly processed.)
6. Buy plain yogurt and sweeten with fresh fruits instead of buying flavored, sugar-loaded yogurt.
7. Avoid sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies at the store – most often they are filled with artificial fruit juices - you can do much better in your own kitchen.
8. Keep a good trail mix handy filled with dried berries (blue berries, goji berries, mulberries,) nuts, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower) and a few dark chocolate nibs.
9. Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings like honey mustard.
10. Look for granola bars with under 10 grams of sugar per bar.
11. Going to a holiday party set commitments for yourself before you walk in. I personally know that once I have one cookie my taste buds want more. So, I’d rather bring a serving of good dark chocolate with me and stay away from the junk.
As Health Coaches, we understand the impact of foods on your body, mood and overall health. JOYVIAL Coaches can help you sort out the good from the not so good foods and aid you in coming up with a plan that works for YOU. We keep you on track and offer much needed accountability and support. Book your free consultation today by calling 1-866-JOYVIAL. We help you feel physically vibrant, focused, joyful, and energized to live your best life.
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