Is Sugar Sabotaging My Health? Health Benefits of Cutting Out Added Sugar
You already know that sugar is bad for your health… but what you may not know is how prevalent it is on food labels – therefore you may be consuming much more of it than you realize! Without a doubt, sugar is viewed as “enemy number one” when it comes to ingredients that are preventing you from living your healthiest life. And research continues to show that greatly reducing the amount of sugar you eat daily (or cutting out it out completely) is one of the best things you can do for your long-term wellness.
This article will help you make more sense of just how much sugar is “safe” to have in your diet – and how you can easily spot it in the products you’re eating. It will also help shine light on the difference between natural sugar and added sugar, and what that means for your dietary goals.
What Is Sugar?
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose after consumption, in order to use for energy. However, one of the most important things to recognize when it comes to sugar is that there’s a huge difference between natural sugars (such as you will find in fruits and dairy products) and processed or added sugars.
Naturally-occurring sugars are already present in foods (they do not need to be added in). In fruits, natural sugars are found as fructose, and in dairy products (cheese and milk), it’s called lactose. Foods that contain natural sugars are typically very healthy, full of nutrients including fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contribute to keeping you well.
In contrast to natural sugars, refined sugars are man-made. The actual sugar is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets, and then it is processed and added into other foods. You will typically find it in the form of sucrose (which is the combination of glucose and fructose). You know this as the white or brown sugars you use in your kitchen.
Another type of chemically-produced sugar is called high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is used in a variety of foods and beverages from flavored yogurt, to crackers, to juices, to salad dressings. HFCS is one of the worst culprits when it comes to added sugars negatively affecting your health.
How Your Body Metabolizes Natural vs. Added Sugars
After reading this, you still may be wondering if natural sugars are just as bad for your health as added sugars, and the answer is no. This is mainly because natural sugars come from foods that add nutritional value to your diet; In contrast, foods with refined sugars are typically highly-processed and void of nutrients, while being high in calories and unhealthy ingredients.
For instance, as mentioned, fructose and high-fructose corn syrup are two of the worst sugars for you (and we’ll discuss why in a bit), but when you consume fructose within fruit, you also get all of the natural fiber. This slows down the digestion process, and keeps you feeling full after you eat. This is also the same with the sugar you naturally consume in dairy products – the body metabolizes it differently (and slower) than processed sugars.
In contrast, refined sugar is digested quickly, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar and an eventual drop – leading to potential hunger, tiredness, and cravings for more sugar. Over time, excess sugar intake can cause major health problems including potentially leading to this serious condition, as well as various diseases.
How Much Added Sugar is Safe to Consume?
Even though we just went over how bad added sugars actually are for us, they’re unfortunately in many of our favorite foods… ice cream, cookies, fruit-flavored yogurts, and even bread. But one of the best things you can do for your health is start to curb your sweet tooth by making healthier, whole food choices, and cutting out most or all sources of added sugar.
When you do consume items with added sugar (hopefully in moderation), the World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories go towards them – but the less you eat the better. In the UK, for instance, the government recommends no more than 5% of daily energy from added sugars.
This being said, actually looking at product labels to make sure you aren’t consuming sugar can be a bit tricky. Luckily, all product labels now need to list added sugars underneath the “Total Carbohydrates” section… specifically, under “Total Sugars”.
But you also want to go ahead and do a scan of the ingredients list, because sugar has many, many names. How many? About 61 different names, including sucrose, maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, cane juice and more!
Reducing Your Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
When speaking of added sugar within food and beverages, sugary drinks are among the worst offenders. This is because these drinks contain two of the worst sugars we mentioned above, fructose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), (which actually contains fructose). Studies show that these two types of processed sugars are incredibly bad for you due to the way your body handles them.
While every cell in your body can utilize the simple sugar, glucose, your liver is the only organ that can metabolize large amounts of fructose! Therefore, when you eat a diet that is high in both calories and fructose, your liver cannot handle it and starts turning the fructose into fat – bad news for your health and weight loss goals.
In addition, studies show that the major source of fructose (and therefore added sugar) in many diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages (or SSBs). In fact, it may account for nearly one-half of all added sugar intake! For this reason, many scientists believe that excess fructose in the diet (from SSBs) contribute to many serious diseases including obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease.
Diet Shakes: A Safer Alternative
If after reading this article, you’re looking to reduce the amount of sugar you consume daily, (especially from sugar-sweetened beverages), meal replacement diet shakes are a fantastic way to do that. Of course, you first need to find a shake powder that is both sugar-free and doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners – which can be just as bad, if not worse than sugar in their potential health effects, and the fact that they may increase your appetite and cause you to crave actual sugar.
Instead, look for a sugar-free meal replacement shake that uses only natural sugar alternatives, like Stevia. This plant-based sweetener is totally natural (with no chemicals) and won’t spike blood sugar or increase cravings the way regular sugar does.
Check out our #1 rated diet shake right now, 310 Shake, which meets all of the qualifications just mentioned for a healthy, sugar-free shake, and is one of your best options – in our opinions – to help you reduce your daily sugar intake. Or, check out additional shake reviews on this site to find the best sugar-free meal replacement for you!