What are Added Sugars: Everything You Need To Know
One thing that causes weight gain and obesity in the current world is added sugars. A huge percent of foods and beverages are filled with ridiculous amounts of sweeteners. Reports from research studies show that added sugar in diets is one of the leading killers globally. What makes added sugars lethal is that they are rich in calories but not nutrients. The foods and drinks are filled with carbs but lack protein and fiber. This means that they eventually cause damage to your metabolism. Consuming too much sugar is associated with a number of side effects.
Effects of Consuming Too Much Sugars
The effects of consuming too much sugar can cause physical changes as well as mental problems. The side effects affect the physical appearance of a person and their self-esteem. Processed foods and drinks are usually the biggest sources of added sugars. They contain almost 20 percent of the total intake of calories, more than the daily recommended of ten percent. Some of the side effects include:
1. Causing Weight Gain
Sweetened drinks such as juices, sodas, sweet teas, and others contain high amounts of fructose. Beverages with added sugars are the main cause of obesity. Fructose enhances food cravings and hunger pangs which leads to overeating and eventually weight gain.
2. Heart Disease
Diets in high-sugar are associated with heart diseases. They lead to high blood sugar levels and increased blood pressure. Besides that, they also cause high triglyceride levels in the blood system and inflammation all which are risk factors that are associated with heart disease.
The diabetes prevalence over the last decade has doubled. Although there are many factors which have led to this, sugar is one of the leading factors. Added sugars lead to obesity and obesity is considered as the biggest diabetes risk factor.
A healthy diet helps to increase confidence and moods. A diet that is rich in added sugars leads to obesity that can result in low self-esteem. The effect of this is that a person may end up developing depression. High blood sugar causes sugar swings, inflammation, and dysregulation of the neurotransmitters which can have detrimental effects on mental health.
The Difference between Natural vs. Added Sugars
There’s a huge difference between these two sources of sugar. Natural sugar is found in vegetables and fruits which are healthy foods that are rich in fiber, micronutrients, and water. Natural sugars are safe and healthy with very minimal side effects. Added sugar, on the other hand, is found in processed foods and drinks. The most commonly used type of added sugar is fructose-corn syrup and sucrose i.e. table sugar.
The Recommended Daily Sugar Intake
What is the recommended amount of sugar that you should consume per day? There’s no one simple and direct answer to this, unfortunately. This is because some people can safely consume too much sugar while others need to avoid it completely. But according to reports by the American Heart Association, the amount of sugar which a person should consume is 37.5g or 150 calories per day for men and 25g or 100 calories per day for women. The US Dietary Guidelines advocates that people should limit their daily sugar intake to less than ten percent of the daily calorie intake. This seems to a reasonable amount if you are active, lean and healthy. But what if you are struggling with weight or you are a diabetic?
Added Sugars, Obesity, Diabetes, and Sugar Addiction
If you are a diabetic, obese or overweight, it’s advisable to avoid taking sugars at all costs. Avoid processed foods and your diet should consist of foods made with single ingredients. It’s also important to avoid foods which are processed with refined carbs. A lot of people who are overweight or obese say that they are usually addicted to junk sugary foods. Note that foods that are rich in sugar normally stimulate the part of the brain that is associated with drug addiction. For this reason, some people may fail to control themselves when it comes to choosing foods. If you can’t control your food intake and repeatedly fail to stick to a healthy diet plan then maybe you are addicted to sugar. Just like alcohol addicts, sugar addicts need to find a way of cutting sugar completely off from their diets.
How to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet
1. Avoid Beverages with Added Sugar
If you are a sugar addict, it’s important that you avoid foods and beverages like soft drinks, baked foods, fruit juices, low fat foods, sweets and candies, canned syrup fruits among others. Instead, drink lots of water and unsweetened beverages such as tea and coffee. If you are preparing drinks that require sugar, you can replace it with lemon, vanilla, ginger, almond extract or cinnamon. Stevia is also a good natural alternative to sugar and it doesn’t have any calories.
2. Avoid Processed Foods
Avoid processed foods but if you can’t, you can make the right choices by using the following tips. First, sugar has alternative names such as high-fructose-corn-syrup, corn syrup, raw sugar, glucose, cane sugar, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, and many others. Secondly, if the first three ingredients of processed food contain sugar, avoid it. Avoid a packaged food that contains different types of sugars. And lastly, be aware that some high-sugar foods are sometimes labeled as healthy and they include honey, coconut sugar, organic cane sugar, and agave.
3. Eat Full-Fat Foods
You can reduce your daily sugar intake by eating full-fat foods. These are regarded as low fat options, for instance, full-fat yogurt. Whole foods are free of artificial substances such as additives, sweeteners, and preservatives etc. which are commonly found in processed foods. Cooking for yourself from scratch help to eliminate unnecessary sugar and you can add simple tricks such as marinating your meat in spices and herbs to add taste.
4. Consume Foods Rich in Protein and Fats
Lastly, your diet should consist of protein and fat. As stated above, high intake of sugar can lead to increased weight gain and appetite. The converse is also true. Because a diet that has low amounts of sugar and high fat and protein content creates an opposite effect. It reduces hunger pangs, promotes the feeling of fullness and reduces food intake. Protein, for example, is known to reduce food carvings by up to sixty percent. Fat is a great source of energy compared to carbs. Foods that are rich in fat also help to suppress appetite and consequently the calorie intake.
Natural Substitutes for Sugar
Although added sugar is harmful to the health of the consumer, there are natural alternatives which you can use to make your food and beverages delicious. Natural sources of sugar, unlike added sugar, are not addictive. They are safe and healthy and don’t interfere with the functions of neurotransmitters. Some of the healthy sources of natural sugar include:
This is an antioxidant-rich source of sugar that contains numerous minerals and vitamins. Eating honey can help lower the risk of diseases by increasing the level of antioxidants in the body. One study found out that those people who used honey as a food sweetener instead of added sugar had low amounts of the “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood of diabetics. Honey promotes the production of the “good” cholesterol but it should be consumed in moderate amounts.
• Coconut Sugar
It’s normally derived from the coconut palm’s sap. Coconut sugar is rated as low-glycemic and it contains inulin, a type of fiber that helps to aid digestion. This natural sugar also contains nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and zinc which are essential for growth.
This is a sugar-alcohol that tastes just like sugar. Erythritol is a harmful source of sugar because it’s indigestible and it’s normally excreted as urine while it is still unchanged. This source of sugar does not raise the blood insulin, sugar, triglyceride and cholesterol levels hence it’s an excellent alternative for diabetics and those who are obese.
• Maple Syrup
It’s a natural sugar that contains decent amounts of essential minerals such as manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium. Maple syrup contains more than 20 different types of antioxidants. It helps to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer. Apart from that, it also helps to regulate the blood sugar levels.
This is a popular natural sweetener which contains no calories. Stevia is often associated with various health benefits and it doesn’t cause weight gain. Research studies show that this sweetener may help to lower the blood insulin and sugar levels, which is vital in fighting diabetes. Stevia is available in both liquid and powder form and it may sometimes have different tastes. Of all the natural types of sugar, Stevia is the healthiest and it is 100 percent natural
The Bottom Line
Natural sugar is the best sources of sugar. Eating too much sugar has been linked to a number of diseases including obesity and diabetes. Simply ensure that the amount of sugar you take meet your daily requirements. It’s also important to take sugar in moderation in order to avoid sugar spikes in the bloodstream.