Sugar is one of the leading causes of weight gain. It has zero health value. And while it may not be surprising to know that sugar is bad, it may be helpful to know why. It has the ability to change the way you look and feel. Although we enjoy it’s immediate effect, none can deny that it stays around far longer than appreciated. An uneven amount of sugar in your blood can throw off metabolic function which causes fatigue, mood changes, constant headaches and makes you highly addicted. Women who consume excess sugar are also prone to chronic inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. It becomes a habit that is hard to break and offers only temporary relief. This habit can increase your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and lead to obesity. Sugar has a tendency to block immune reactions which, over time, weakens the immune system. As a result, people who eat sugar constantly, tend to be sicker.
It also causes insulin levels to rise. When your body produces higher levels of insulin, your ability to regulate feelings of hunger are altered, thus making you feel hungry, even when you’re not. This is why people end up gaining weight when consuming sugary foods. Their body produces these high levels of insulin and they end up overeating and wanting more, which perpetuates the vicious cycle. Not only does it affect the way your body functions internally, it can show on the outside as well. When consumed over a long period of time, sugar attaches to the collagen as well as other skin proteinsin your body, and modifies their structure. The result is called, advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, causing your skin to appear wrinkled and saggy. Sugars can also deactivate antioxidant protecting enzymes in the skin, making you more prone to sun damage.
Don’t be fooled by ingredient labels. Sugar can be found under many different names such as,
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Demerara Sugar
- Free Flowing Brown Sugars
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert Sugar
- Maple syrup
- Powdered or confectioner’s sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Sugar (granulated)
- Turbinado sugar
Here are some healthier alternatives to sugar that can be used as an additive or when baking:
Agave nectar- A natural juice extracted from the agave plant. It does not cause dramatic blood sugar fluctuations, so energy levels remain more consistent
Rapadura- A dried sugarcane juice that is an unbleached, unrefined sweetener. It has a mild, caramel-like flavor which makes it a great sugar substitute for baking and sweetening food and drinks.
Sucanut- A non-refined, pure dried cane sugar. Of all the major sugars derived from sugar cane, Sucanut has the highest nutritional value. Although, it’s not a significant source of any nutrient apart from carbohydrate.
There are many sweet alternatives to consuming refined sugars. Fresh fruit is naturally sweet and has many health benefits as opposed to a sugary processed snack. It’s best to check the amount of sugar listed on a label. If sugar is listed within the first 3 ingredients, put the product down!
Women should strive to consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day while men, should consume no more than 9. This does not include sugars naturally found in foods. Try to steer clear of artificial sweeteners as the long term effect of these is unknown. It’s been shown to increase high calorie snacking and can actually promote weight gain in the long run. Try loading up on whole foods like lean proteins, gluten free fiber rich grains, veggies and fruit and you may find that you feel so good, you don’t even miss the sugar!