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What's the deal with sugar?

Lizann Thomas

The best thing to do for your health right now is cut down on your sugar intake. Skipping dessert or cutting out that candy bar is a good start, but in the long run, it isn’t enough. This is because sugar has made its way into practically everything we eat and often we don’t even know it! It’s hiding in your bread, pasta sauce, marinades, condiments, and salad dressings, just to name a few. Yes, it’s common knowledge that a sugar-rich diet can lead to a whole host of health concerns such as tooth decay, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. But did you know there’s new buzz about a possible link between sugar and premature aging and wrinkles? Some experts are even condemning sugar as the next tobacco.

Sugar is a drug

We all love sugar. Kids devour chocolate cupcakes with gusto and adults, with an eye on their waistline, try to resist the temptation. When we consume sugar our body responds by releasing a “feel-good” chemical. However, excessive sugar consumption can desensitize this response - making you crave more sugar. Your body becomes normalized to increasing amounts of sugar and (as with any addiction) you build a tolerance.

Sugar’s bad rap goes beyond tooth decay

Metabolic Dysfunction - It’s true that we need a certain amount of sugar in our diet for fuel: glucose is the main energy source for every cell in our body. Extra, unused glucose converts to body fat, which leads to weight gain, and over time can also cause your body to develop insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. Fructose can only be processed in the liver where it lingers and produces harmful blood fats resulting in a fatty liver and heart disease. In short, long-term overconsumption of sugar causes metabolic dysfunction as well as general inflammation in our body, a catalyst for a variety of health issues.

Organ Damage - Elevated levels of sugar in your blood can potentially damage every organ in your body. This includes our skin. Glucose in our bloodstream can attach to proteins in our body, including collagen and elastin fibers responsible for keeping our skin tight, flexible, and smooth.  This process can lead to elasticity loss resulting in wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Empty Calories - Nutritionists demonize added sugar because it isn't food, merely empty calories. In other words, they’re calories unaccompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Sure, empty calories fill us up, yet they also leave less room for actual food.

Your best defense: scan labels for added sugar

Reading food labels is essential for monitoring your overall sugar intake. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and veggies is perfectly healthy because they’re also loaded with fiber and nutrients. It's the approximately sixty different added sugars that food manufacturers sneak into processed foods that we need to be concerned about.  Examples include: 

white sugar  -  brown sugar  -  corn syrup  -  high-fructose corn syrup  -  dextrose  -  cane juice

agave nectar  -  fruit juice concentrate  -  maltose  -  galactose  -  lactose  -  polydextrose

mannitol  -  sorbitol  -  xylitol  -  maltodextrin  -  invert syrup

The FDA just dropped a game-changer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the biggest change in its public policy in 20 years, at the core of which is added sugars. Food manufacturers will be required to identify the amount of added sugars in a product. Currently, they’re hidden in the Total Carbohydrates section of the label. That’s a big step.

Eating healthier means changing the marketplace altogether

As consumers, we have more power than we think. We can disrupt the status quo of the food industry and push toward healthier products by only choosing those with less added sugars. The next leaders in edible consumer goods will be those companies that focus on meeting this new demand. It’s time we take a stand.

 

Sources

Scientific American: How Sugar and Fat Trick the Brain into Wanting More Food

American Academy of Dermatology: What causes our skin to age?



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