Who said Halloween is just for kids? Just because we aren’t young and spry anymore doesn’t mean we can’t partake in a little Halloween fun. We shouldn’t be stuck to just passing out candy. However, we still need to be mindful of just how much Halloween fun we’re having if we start sticking our hands in the candy bowl. Sugar is a sweet danger that can result in some major consequences if not monitored.
Isn’t Sugar a Natural Ingredient?
Yes! Sugar occurs naturally in foods, such as carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. When consumed naturally in whole foods, it’s typically okay. Studies have actually found diets that include a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Natural sugar takes longer to digest, which helps to provide your body with a steady supply of energy. Of course, too much of anything is never a good thing. And you have to be cognizant that not all sugar is created equal.
When is Sugar a Bad Thing?
Sugar becomes a problem, and too much, when you throw “added sugar” into the mix. From pasta sauce to even peanut butter, added sugar can be found in just about everything these days. That’s one reason it’s so important to look at nutritional labels. Food manufacturers sneak added sugar into the most unexpected products to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. The only problem, it’s hurting you and your health.
Foods to watch out for include:
- Sodas and sports drinks
- Fruit and flavored drinks
- Ice cream
- Baked goods, such as cakes, pies, and cookies
- Bread, including pastries, rolls, and doughnuts
Why Too Much Sugar is Bad
In the United States, the average adult consumes an estimated 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day. That’s roughly 270 wasted calories with no essential nutrients. Eating and drinking foods with added sugars wreaks havoc on your body. Sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.
It Causes Weight Gain
In our rushed society, people rely on quick processed foods and snacks. These foods are usually high in sugar and calories. In addition, many often contain fructose, a type of added sweetness. As we mentioned earlier, not all sugar is created equal. Fructose is a vicious simple sugar that only increases your hunger. Many fruit juices and sweetened drinks like soda contain excessive amounts of fructose. So, unlike water, which tends to fill you up, these drinks not only cause you to consume a high number of liquid calories, but they make you want to eat, further increasing your caloric intake.
Increases Diabetes Risk
There is a strong link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes. When you consume a lot of added sugar, you raise your risk of developing diabetes as a result of direct weight gain and increased body fat. Obesity, predominantly caused by excessive sugar, is a leading risk factor for diabetes.
When you consume sugar, your blood glucose level is elevated. When you have prolonged high-sugar consumption, your body begins to resist insulin, a hormone that helps to regular your blood sugar levels. If you suffer from insulin resistance, your blood sugar levels continuously rise, increasing your risk of diabetes.
Strips You of Energy
Yes, sugar provides your body with energy; however, natural sugars slowly break down to provide that energy. Added sugar will give you that instant jolt but will just as quickly leave you on the floor.
Foods high in added sugars give your blood glucose and insulin levels a quick spike. But because those processed foods and drinks typically lack nutrients, such as protein, fiber, and good fat, the sugar is quickly metabolized – giving you a sugar high and leaving you zapped of energy.
Inflammation is a hot health topic. It seems to be at the core of numerous diseases and conditions. Studies have found that sugar only contributes to inflammation in the body. It does this in a few different ways.
Sugar causes our bad or LDL cholesterol to rise. This results in more C-reactive protein, a protein found in the blood that is synthesized by the liver. When inflammation occurs, your C-reactive protein count increases. High amounts of C-reactive protein has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Another way sugar results in inflammation is through a domino effect. It causes weight gain, resulting in excess body fat, leading to insulin resistance. The result… inflammation.
When we consume too much sugar, our guts become more absorbent, allowing bacteria and other particles into our bloodstream easily, leading to inflammation.
How To Cut Down on Added Sugar
Yes, added sugar is bad for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut it all out of your diet. Besides, that would be an extremely challenging feat. Just work to make small swaps that can have major benefits. For example, drink water or low-fat milk with your meals instead of soda or sugary fruit drinks. Opt for unsweetened cereals and yogurt. Eat fruit instead of cookies and cakes if you’re craving something sweet.
In addition to making swaps, limit your consumption of the added sugar you are consuming. Choose smaller portions. Instead of eating all your leftover Halloween candy, limit yourself to just a few pieces and throw out the rest so you aren’t tempted.
Check the nutritional labels for ingredients. Sugar goes by many names, including corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, sucrose, and trehalose.
Treat Yourself But Be Smart
Sugar is a tricky thing. It’s found in almost everything and hard to escape. It’s also a carbohydrate our bodies need for energy and to survive. But as with anything, too much of it turns into a bad thing. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself. Just be smart and make wise health and food choices to limit sugar’s effects.