Sugar is a substance that taste sweet and also elevate blood glucose after consumption. Sugar can be found in different forms and names: white sugar, brown sugar, sugar beet, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup( HFCS), agave nectar, honey, caramel, molasses, and many more. A lot of people declare that sugar makes them happy and they always crave for more sweet foods.
Why limit sugar?
According to the American Diabetes Association (2014) “Diabetes kills more Americans each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined,” “every 19 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.” Whilst sugar itself doesn’t cause diabetes, too much sugar increases the risk of being overweight and having insulin-resistance diseases. Heavy bodies tend to have difficulty in effectively using insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar and helps move it into our cells for energy. When our body resists insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream, and the risk of diabetes go up.
The wonder of human body: Homeostasis
Human has this self-balancing ability called homeostasis, which helps keep temperature, nutrient, mineral, etc. levels in check. For example, when we consume food that consists of sugar our blood glucose goes UP. Our pancreas responds by producing insulin to maintain constant blood glucose at a normal level so that our body can perform at its best.
Abusing our body’s system
However, when large amount of sugar is regularly consumed, we are overworking our pancreas. The sugary food we eat is quickly turned into glucose in the bloodstream, and we then have blood sugar levels spike. Although our body can move the blood glucose into our cells for energy, the constant release of insulin pushing the glucose out of the bloodstream may have a sudden blood sugar drop. This rapid change in blood sugar leaves us feeling sluggish and can cause tremors. Our body will then search for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.” This situation creates a roller coaster effect, from high energy to low energy.
Moreover, our body converts the extra blood sugar as fat, and it is stored in the adipose tissue and also causes deposition of fats in the liver. Over time, this stored fat causes problems to our health and can lead to fatty liver disease and causes weight gain.
Excess sugar blocks metabolic pathways, leading to obesity and diabetes. Because sugar throws our insulin levels off balance, our bodies react by resisting the insulin that is present in the blood. When our bodies get to the point of blocking insulin, the body cannot maintain the correct amount of sugar in the bloodstream, and that’s how sugar can cause diabetes.
Where is the Sugar ? Hidden sources of sugar..
If we don’t add extra sugar in our food, does that mean our blood glucose is in check? Most people understand that sugar equals to white sugar, syrup, candies and sweet drinks. Another source of sugar comes from simple carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates can also convert into glucose quickly, and that include white bread, white rice, pasta, potatoes, cookies, sugary breakfast cereal, refined grains, etc. These starches can make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar.
How much sugar should you take in your daily diet?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugar for men is no more than 9 teaspoons and for women is no more than 6 teaspoons. Sugar provides calories with no added nutrients and has no physiological purpose.
Kick the habit with baby steps:
- Reduce the amount of sugar consumption slowly, e.g., Instead of 3 packets of sugar in your morning coffee, use only 2 packets, then 1 packet. Before you know it, you don’t even miss it.
- Look for alternatives. We can still enjoy some sweetness by satisfying our sweet tooth from other sources such as fruits. Fruits consist of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support digestion, metabolism, and overall health.
- Substitute calories from simple carbohydrates with protein sources. Eating protein from lean meat, eggs, nuts, and beans does not spike sugar like refined carbohydrates, do.
- Abandon white flour and white sugar, choose whole grains/unprocessed carbohydrates.
- Add exercise to your daily activity slowly. Exercise can reduce blood sugar and ease sugar cravings.
- Replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water. Water is so beneficial because it flushes out toxins, contains no calories, and hydrates our body.
Prevention: be one step ahead of diseases
Maintaining good health and motivation, and making changes to high-sugar habits can be a long-term approach in preventing insulin resistance-related diseases. A diet with high fiber fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein would be ideal food choices when controlling blood sugar level. If you want your family to stay healthy, encourage them to drink water instead of soda, eat fruit instead of candy, and consume whole grains instead of white flour, nuts and seeds instead of sugar-loaded morning cereals.
Association, A. (2017). American Diabetes Association. [online] American Diabetes Association. Available at http://www.diabetes.org/
Heart.org. (2017). American Heart Association – Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.. [online] Available at http://www.heart.org/