Editor’s note: If you read the Centurion, you probably remember the whole month-without-sugar challenge, and the absolute failure that was the first month and the success that was the second. The people who participated in the challenge noticed some positive results; however, we never really touched on just want makes sugar so bad in the first place. Well, we’re exploring that now!
Sugar is naturally found in plenty of the foods that we eat. However, what happens when you have too much? Since so many types of refined, high-sugar foods are right at our fingertips –in vending machines, fast food restaurants, and office parties – it’s incredibly easy to get too much, too fast. When that happens, it can affect our bodies in negative ways.
Sources of Sugar in Our Diets
Sugar is found in many modern-day foods. While some are more obvious such as soda, candy and pastries, there are others that that may surprise you. Natural, unrefined sources of sugar such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables have lower amounts of sugar paired with nutrients that are quick energy sources, but it’s the highly concentrated, refined, added sugars that may be more difficult to avoid if you don’t know what to look for. Some of these include:
- Confectionary, brown, cane and raw sugars
- Dextrose, maltose, sucrose and fructose
- Syrups, like corn, sorghum, or maple syrup, and agave nectar
These added sugars are often in seemingly healthy foods that don’t even necessarily taste sweet, such as condiments, bread, sauces, salad dressings and frozen means. Other foods may masquerade as “healthier options” – such as juice, cereal, granola, yoghurt, and energy bars – while still being packed full of the sweet stuff. Make sure that you always read labels on your food and check for sugar and other health information!
No sugar in this burger, right? WRONG! There's a ton in the ketchup, some in the bun, and probably some in the bacon (I'm assuming it's maple-glazed bacon. That seems popular these days).
If you’re interested, Good Housekeeping came up with this list of undercover high-sugar items that’s worth clicking though.
How much is too much?
If you look at a food label, you’ll notice that while some nutrients (fat, protein, salt, carbs) are listed both in grams, and what percent of your daily value of that nutrient those grams make up, sugar does not have a percent of daily value listed. This can make it difficult to know how close to reaching your “sugar limit” you are.
In general, the World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of an adult’s calories come from sugar. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, this translates to 25 grams, or about six teaspoons. In other words, eat just 12 Hershey’s kisses and you’re at the limit. Drink a 12 oz. Coke, the standard can size, and you’ve almost doubled your recommended sugar intake.
What it does to our bodies
Excessive sugar intake has been linked to common ailments and diseases. When not in moderation, too much sugar can lead to the following:
Though the liver is responsible for breaking down sugar, too much can overload it and cause it to turn the excess into fat buildup.
Who doesn't love getting stabbed in the gums, honestly?
Sugar can stick to teeth and cause it to decay, causing cavities and other dental issues.
Since uric acid levels can increase with a high-sugar diet, it is possible to experience pain and inflammation from gout.
There can be an increased risk of kidney disease since excessive sugar levels can destroy fragile blood vessels.
Premature Cellular Aging
When too much sugar is consumed on a regular basis, it can cause cells to age more quickly.
The premature breakdown of elastin and collagen, as well as inflammation and excessive oil production, have been linked to excessive sugar. Consume too much sugar and health of the skin can suffer, leading to acne, saggy skin and wrinkles.
To be fair, I think this person's just old, and like it or not, you're going to pick up some wrinkles as you age. But don't eat too much sugar or this'll be your at 30!!!
Sugar has been linked to insulin resistance and inflammation, which are thought to increase the likelihood of certain cancers.
Type 2 Diabetes
Obesity and insulin resistance are often result from too much sugar and are commonly linked to Type 2 Diabetes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
When it comes to heart disease, blood pressure, blood sugar, high level of triglycerides, inflammation and obesity are all risk factors which can also be affected by the amount of sugar consumed.
Decreased Brain Function
Experts believe that sugar can affect inflammation, neurotransmitters and blood sugar swings which are all linked to mental health. Having a diet high in sugar can therefore affect your mood and mental conditions such as cognitive function, as well as the development of depression and dementia.
Eating too much sugar can lead to a sugar high followed by the infamous sugar crash. This happens because high doses of refined sugar change insulin and blood sugar levels dramatically without the body being able to adjust. With negative performance being linked to sugar, and health being compromised, it is worth paying attention to.
In Conclusion: Be Mindful of What You Eat
In moderation, sugar does provide some benefits. It is a quick energy source for the body and mind, especially when it comes from unrefined food (think apples, not candy).
Sugar in fruit? Good. Sugar in spoon? Bad.
Many understand that indulging in too many sweets and being faced with countless types of processed sugars can have negative effects on our bodies and minds. However, there is something that can be done about it. In addition to a well-rounded lifestyle that includes a wholesome diet and exercise, pay attention to what you eat, including levels of sugar, and health and wellness are achievable.
In addition to limiting your sugar, improving your physical fitness can be beneficial to your help! Get the gear you need here: