Refined sugar (the kind you find in cakes, sweets, and in your sugar bowl) may be one of the most pointless foods out there. Why? Sure, it tastes good, but all those calories are “empty”! Refined sugar gives you a sudden energy boost, but without any of the important goods, such as vitamins and minerals.
What is sugar?
Sugars are carbohydrates, and there are different kinds of sugars, such as glucose and fructose. You’ll find some sugars naturally in foods, and they’re fine. Sugars in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are complex, and they come with vitamins and minerals. It’s just those added and refined sugars you need to watch out for!
How much is enough?
Try to limit your daily sugar to 25g (about 5 teaspoons) for women and 35g (about 7 teaspoons) for men. Always check food labels for added or hidden sugars. A tip here: labels don’t always call it ‘sugar’! Anything ending in “ose” is a sugar – fructose, lactose, glucose and dextrose are examples. And stay away from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and fruit juice concentrate – no-one needs that. You’ll see it on the labels of everything from fizzy drinks to sweetened cereals or spreads.
What does refined sugar do to me?
So we know that refined sugar is bad for us, but what does it do to our bodies?
- It causes inflammation. Inflammation is part of your body’s natural immune response, so it’s not always a bad thing. But, eating too much sugar can cause the wrong kinds of inflammation, which has been linked to ageing and disease. Want to slow down the ageing process? Start with cutting refined sugar from your diet.
- Sugar and diabetes. Sugar is high in calories, and when you eat a lot of it often, (and you forget to exercise), your body turns it into fat. Being overweight is directly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Besides having to carry extra weight, your body has to pump out large amounts of insulin to control the spikes in blood sugar caused by sugary foods! This can lead to the cells in your body becoming resistant to insulin. If that happens, your body is going to battle to manage your blood sugar levels.
- Sugar can cause heart disease. A diet high in sugar can lead to a raised Triglyceride level, which causes clogging of the blood vessels.
- Sugar may increase your cancer risk. A high sugar diet has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, especially pancreatic cancer.
- Sugar can get you hooked. No, really it can. Studies with animals given access to sugar show same kinds of changes in brain dopamine as in drug addicts. People giving up sugar don’t get the shakes, but those with sugar cravings will carry on using it, even when their health suffers.
- Lastly, sugar really does cause havoc with your teeth, and it’s directly linked to tooth decay and cavities.
If you’re used to lots of sugar in coffee, tea or cereal, start cutting down today. You’ll be amazed to find how quickly your taste changes, and soon you’ll be able to cut it out altogether – and you won’t even miss it.
For more reading, here are 10 things you may not know about sugar.