Most of us are aware that sugary foods aren’t a very healthy dietary choice, but we still like to pair our meals with sugary drinks or a delicious dessert. While an occasional indulgence is nothing to worry about (unless you have diabetes and you’re strictly restricted from consuming sugar) an excess of sugar can play havoc on your health. Sugary drinks, sweet desserts like cake or ice cream and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar.
However, what many people don’t realise is that even ‘salty’ foods like ketchup, low-fat yoghurt, BBQ sauce or sports drinks contain added sugar as well.
While many people try to limit their sugar intake, they often don’t take into account these added sugars and then feel disappointed when they see the number on the weighing scale increasing. Added sugars come in many forms and they are hard to spot on nutrition labels since they may be called sucrose or corn syrup. But whatever the name may be, sugar can have a negative impact on your body in several ways.
Let’s address the most obvious side-effect of consuming too much sugar in the form of sugar-infused drinks or foods. For example, most popular soft drinks are loaded with fructose which is a form of simple sugar. This is also found in juices and sweet teas -Yes, even your all-time favourite canned juices contain a lot of sugar, and they are not necessarily a healthier alternative to aerated drinks. But, how does sugar lead to weight gain?
When you consume fructose, you will feel more hungry and have a greater appetite for food than when you consume glucose which is mostly found in starchy foods. Over time, excessive consumption of fructose can lead to resistance to leptin which is an essential hormone that regulates hunger and directs your body to stop eating.
Another thing to note is that beverages high in sugar are linked to an increase in the amount of visceral fat – this is a type of belly fat associated with diabetes and heart disease. So, the next time you get a craving for your favourite canned juice or soft drink, turn to a natural fruit juice or plain water instead!
You feel tired or sluggish
You know that feeling you get soon after you eat a yummy dessert or drink a sugar-loaded beverage – a kind of energy overload that makes you feel awake and almost refreshed? It’s a great feeling, no doubt about that! But, soon after you are very likely to come crashing down and find yourself feeling wiped out or sluggish. This is often called a ‘sugar crash’ and is associated with cravings for more sugar.
Since your body needs glucose for energy it secretes insulin which is a hormone that helps to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. As a result of this process, your blood sugar levels may suddenly drop, leaving you feeling low and searching for sugar to boost a ‘sugar high’.
To avoid this feeling and unhealthy consequences associated with it, try to consume more fibre and proteins – these are nutrients which give you actual energy without the subsequent crash. They don’t cause your blood sugar to rise and fall like foods loaded with sugar thus ensuring you feel full for longer.
You get cravings for sweets
Do you often get strong cravings for sugar and end up eating way more than you planned?
This can be an unhealthy pattern of behaviour and it’s best to recognise it before you end up suffering from serious health consequences.
Sugar cravings are sometimes linked to an addiction cycle because the more sugar you eat the more your body craves it. This is mainly because the brain sees sugar as a reward.
Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle and the only way to be rid of it is to drastically reduce the amount of unhealthy sugar you consume and replace it with healthier food options. If you find yourself binge eating sugary foods then it is time to stop and take some serious steps to curb your cravings.
The good news is that your body doesn’t actually need sugar as much as you might think it does. With a little bit of effort, you can train your taste buds to enjoy non-sweet foods. One of the first steps you can take is to cut out one sweet dish from your diet every week.
Pass on the dessert after dinner and add less sugar to your coffee or breakfast cereals. After some consistent effort, you will begin to see a change in your cravings for sugar and this will have an overall positive impact on your health.
High blood pressure
As most people already know, normal blood pressure is 120/80. Research has found that a diet high in sugar can push your blood pressure above this reading. Some studies even indicate that added sugars are even more crucial than sodium in controlling hypertension or high blood pressure. Furthermore, it has been found that fructose can lead to metabolic dysfunction and increase cardiovascular risk.
Do you often find yourself more irritable than usual – snapping at co-workers or getting into arguments with friends and family over the smallest things? This could be due to an excessive consumption of sugar. Research suggests that people who consume a lot of sugar are more likely to be anxious and irritable because of the way the brain depends on a consistent supply of glucose – sudden fluctuations can have a negative impact on how the brain manages emotions.
Furthermore, sugar also plays a role in the absorption of a nutrient known as chromium that is responsible for mood. This mineral is important to maintain a stable level of blood sugar because insulin depends on it to carry out its function of cleansing the blood of glucose.
Everyone needs a snack during the day and you shouldn’t have to compromise on enjoying a healthy dessert every now and then. But, be mindful of the ways in which sugar affects your body to avoid any negative health consequence. If you’re looking for a healthy snack, Calorie Care has a range of great options.