The evils of sugar have been in the news a lot lately. Are you addicted to sugar? Or maybe you don’t think you eat much sugar at all? Chances are, if you don’t read labels, you may actually be eating a lot more sugar than you realize. Don’t worry, you are not alone…and I’m here to help.
Although I’ve always been more of a salty-crunchy snack person, I still loved my sugar. If you’ve read my blog much, you know that my fav snack used to be Haribo gummy bears. In fact during my senior year of high school I subsisted almost entirely on Dr. Pepper, Nestle Crunch ice cream bars, and Haribo gummy bears during the day. Yuck!
Luckily as I got older I cut back on sugar somewhat, but still ate quite a bit. Then about 2 years ago, I watched a 60 Minutes story on sugar. I was shocked at what I learned about how damaging sugar is to the body. I cut way back on my sugar consumption right then, but I still didn’t cut it out entirely. So how did I kick my sugar habit?
When I started nutrition school, it really hit home just how evil sugar is. I learned exactly what it does to your body when you eat it. I went cold-turkey on sugar last spring, and didn’t eat any for months.
Here is a great TedEd presentation on How Sugar Effects the Brain (5-min.) As scientists and doctors are learning more about sugar, they are realizing it not only has addictive effects on your brain, but is potentially linked to a whole host of other health issues as well. New research in the past two to three years is showing just how deadly sugar consumption may actually be.
Health Risks Linked to Eating Sugar
To be clear, I’m talking about “added sugar” here, not fruit, alcohol, or other carbohydrates that turn to sugar once digested. I’ll save those other forms of sugar for another post.
- Most people know that excess sugar consumption can cause high blood sugar and diabetes. But many are unaware that only 10% of Americans currently have blood sugar levels within a “safe” range. 30% of Americans currently have diabetes, and another 60% are pre-diabetic and may not even know it.
- Sugar causes inflammation, which can exacerbate arthritis as well as cause the body to retain excess weight. The extra weight can in turn can exacerbate the arthritis even more.
- Sugar consumption can lead to dehydrated, more wrinkled skin, and who wants that?
- Sugar suppresses the immune system and feeds viruses and bacteria. So if you catch a cold or flu, sugar not only hinders your immune system from fighting it off, it actually fuels the virus or bacteria to grow more.
- Cancer cells thrive on sugar. Cancer cells actually have eight-times the sugar receptors as healthy cells, and tumors can grow rampant on sugar. This one really scared me off of sugar.
- Inflammation from sugar consumption causes plaque build-up in the arteries and brain.
- Plaque in the arteries can tear off and cause clots and strokes.
- Plaque in the brain has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Any one of these things is reason enough for me to stop eating sugar. Take all of them combined and you start to see a pattern of health care issues linked to sugar consumption. And sadly, it’s not only in the U.S. that this is happening. As we market our sugar-filled-processed-fast-foods in other countries, obesity, cancer, and heart disease are skyrocketing all over the world.
I truly think that “sugar is the new tobacco.” But most people aren’t willing to admit that yet because it tastes so good. Remember, people loved their “Doctor recommended” cigarettes in the 40’s and 50’s. However, once medical studies started confirming how deadly the were, many people stopped smoking.
Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. Yet it’s only been in the past 30+ years that people have been consuming the large quantities of sugar that are leading to diabetes and other diseases. Our bodies haven’t been able to evolve that quickly, to process the huge amounts of sugar we are ingesting. During the low-fat craze of the 1990’s, food companies started adding even more sugar to low-fat foods to make them taste better. Foods that normally never had sugar in them, like pasta sauce and salad dressings, are now loaded with sugar.
So How Can You Kick Your Sugar Habit Before Sugar Kicks You?
- Start by reading labels and learning how much sugar you are actually eating.
- A good rule of thumb is no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (that’s six teaspoons!)
- Subscribe to my e-Newsletter (top right of this page) and email HappyWellLifestyle for your FREE e-Book Kick Your Sugar Habit Before Sugar Kicks You! for more info and tips to help you kick your sugar habit.
Of course I still eat sugar on occasion, a small piece of dark chocolate now and then, or a gluten-free cupcake on my birthday! But over all I don’t eat much sugar. My improved health and mood, not to mention my new skinny-jeans are enough to keep me off of it for good! And on those occasions when I do eat sugar, I try to combine it with some protein and/or healthy fat to help prevent a spike in blood sugar. I’d love to hear your tips for kicking your sugar cravings, or how your life has improved since cutting back on sugar. Please leave a comment below.