Last post I gave you an introduction to sugar when referencing carbohydrates. Today we are going to dive in a little deeper. To start, we need to address what sugar actually is. Sugars are carbohydrates composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The two forms most commonly discussed are glucose and fructose. Unlike glucose, fructose is not used as energy and is metabolized predominantly in the liver (glucose is used by our cells for energy). Since fructose is not used as energy, we eat more of it because we’re not getting energy from it. We literally have no off switch for fructose. We do for everything else on the planet, but fructose fails to turn on our appetite hormone, leptin. We can drink 20 ounces of cola and not get full. If you consume that same amount of a #fab4smoothie you will, because the protein and fat signals leptin, which tell our brain we’ve had enough.
Just like carbohydrates, it’s important to understand that not all sugar is created equal. Natural sugars occur in fruits and vegetables. These foods come packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber which help reduce the glucose spike. The fiber also signals fullness, so you’re unlikely to overeat. Natural sugars typically increase as the fruit or vegetable ripens.
Added sugars are well, added during processing. Examples include: soda, grain-based desserts (cookies, cakes), fruit drinks, dairy desserts, energy drinks, tea, ready-to-eat cereal, yeast bread, syrups, sauces, dips, candy, and high-fructose corn syrup. These foods tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutritional value. They often times do not contain fiber so they are more likely to be consumed in excess. They are considered high-glycemic foods, which cause a sharp spike in blood sugar.
Added sugar affects the body in a number of ways. First of all, consuming too many added sugars in the diet can lead to insulin resistance which causes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Secondly, added sugars may increase blood pressure which can then lead to cardiovascular disease. They also cause a risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dental problems, asthma, and disrupt the gut microbiome. Additionally, sugar is linked to thyroid disease, metabolic disease, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, and overall inflammation. To sum it up, added and unnatural sugar makes us fat and sick!
So when and why did sugar become such a huge issue? Humans are naturally programmed to seek out sweet foods. In the caveman era sugar was very hard to find. People would walk miles to stumble upon some berries or a beehive, expending a lot of energy in the process. Because it was so rare to find, we were programmed to binge on it and be obsessed with it. This made sense back then, and sugar wasn’t an issue. Our problem today is that our DNA has not changed, but the amount of sugar on the planet certainly has. It’s readily at our fingertips and we are obsessed with it.
According to the American Heart Association, we’re meant to eat about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day (1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to about 4 grams). On average, we’re actually eating about 23 teaspoons a day, which is 152 pounds of sugar a year! We all know that soda and pastries are loaded with sugar. Even though these might not be a part of your diet, the same amount of sugar may be lurking in foods that you do eat. Some items to consider include: Low fat yogurt (anything low/nonfat), BBQ sauce, ketchup, dried fruit, nut butters, protein/cereal bars, and fruit juice. For example, a glass of apple juice contains 10 teaspoons of sugar (more than your suggested daily dose!) which is the same amount as coke. A good rule of thumb is that we should only ever be eating whole fruit (kiwi, grapefruit, and berries are low-glycemic fruits). Read more about hidden sugars here
This is the best and #kleanest ketchup I’ve found from Whole Foods.
Sugar actually serves a purpose other than just tasting good. It feeds yeast to allow bread to rise, assists in caramelization, reduces the risk of microbial growth in jars of jellies, increases moisture in baked goods, and balances out flavor. While it may be necessary for various reasons, the amount in which we consume needs to be noted. It hides behind many names:
Agave, Barley malt, Buttered syrup, Cane juice, Caramel, Carob syrup, Coconut sugar, Confectioners’ sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Dehydrated cane juice, Dextrin, Dextrose, Evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Malt syrup, Maltodextrin, Date sugar, Maple syrup, Molasses, Muscovado, Palm sugar, Panocha, Rice syrup, Saccharose, Sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Sugar, Sweet sorghum, Treacle, Turbinado sugar
Recently, I did a #fivefructosefree challenge and went 5 days without sugar (including fruit!) It was difficult, but very eye-opening and a great reset for my body. I’m currently putting together my “no sugar” meal plan to share with you, so in the meantime I’ve included one from FurtherFood (the company I use for collagen peptides). Find it here!
Food for thought: Track your sugar intake for one day. You may be shocked at how hard it is to stick to the suggested 6 teaspoons a day!