When it comes to obesity and other serious health issues like heart disease, most people tend to blame dietary fat, but while inflammatory fats like trans fats do contribute to those problems, it’s actually sugar that’s to blame. In 2016, experts uncovered a massive scandal within the sugar industry that proved the sugar industry sponsored phony Harvard research 50 years earlier – the industry paid the researchers to focus on the supposed role of naturally occurring fats in heart disease, to take the spotlight from where it should have been in the first place.
That faulty research concluded that there was zero doubt that what we needed to do to lower the risk of heart disease was to eat fewer foods with cholesterol and consume more polyunsaturated fat rather than saturated fat. Such bad advice led to a plethora of fat-free and low-fat foods, with the fat replaced by a number of unhealthful substances, including sugar in its various forms – and to the dramatic rise in obesity. Today, we know that ingesting a lot of sugar significantly raises the risk of early death from heart disease – a 38 percent higher risk when 17 to 21 percent of your calories come from added sugar, and more than double that for those who consume even more.
A study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2012 focused on the multiple chronic diseases linked to sugar, including diabetes and obesity. The experts warned: “Sugar beverages represent a major global threat to the health of all populations. Most of us realize that sugar can cause weight gain as we can see the results – but it also causes numerous other internal changes that aren’t immediately obvious.
Even if you don’t think you’re consuming all that much sugar, you might be surprised to find how quickly it can add up. Just one can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, and if you eat processed foods and drink soda, you’re probably taking in a lot more than you think. Sugar comes in many forms, not just cane sugar, and that includes high fructose syrup (HFCS) which is in many processed foods. In fact, over one-third of the food sold in most grocery stores contains HFCS. Hidden sugars can be found in everything from condiments, soups, and sauces to baby formula, cereal, bread, and many other items that don’t even taste sweet.
The World Health Organization recommends just 5 percent of one’s calories come from added sugar, which equals about 6 teaspoons a day, but the average American consumes nearly four times that recommendation, or 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.
These signs are big clues that it’s time to cut down on sugar.
1. You lack energy
If you’re always feeling tired or fatigued, that’s one of the primary signs that you’re consuming too much sugar. While sugary foods can give you an initial boost of energy, it’s only temporary, and the crash that follows is far worse than had you chosen something healthier. Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., and author of The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger, told SELF magazine, “Energy is most stable when blood sugar is stable, so when you’re consuming too much sugar, the highs and lows of your blood sugar lead to highs and lows of energy. If you’re eating lots of sugar, your body probably isn’t getting a sufficient amount of protein or fiber, and those nutrients are important for sustaining energy. A balanced and nutritious diet prevents your blood sugar from going from a sugar high to a lethargic low.
2. You crave sweet foods frequently
If you experience lots of sugar cravings, it’s a sign that you’re eating too much sugar because the more sugar you eat, the more you crave. It’s an addictive cycle, as sugar gives you that short term high followed by a crash, just like a drug. It creates a chain reaction of sugar cravings as it’s so sweetly addictive. Then, that high sugar diet results in a hormonal response that brings you up, and when you crash, that triggers the body to want more and more.
3. You’re depressed and/or anxious
Numerous studies have suggested that there is a strong association between the amount of sugar consumed and the risk for depression, including sadness, social withdrawal, and lethargy. In fact, you may have noticed that after eating a lot of sugar you feel emotionally drained, as the crash it causes is both physical and emotional. A diet filled with sugar causes inflammation levels throughout the body to rise, which is also linked to greater instances of depression. Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the higher a woman’s blood rose after eating refined grains and sugar, the higher the risk of depression.
Feelings of anxiety, like constant worry, nervousness, etc., can mean that it’s time to adjust that sugary diet.
4. You’re struggling to button up those jeans
While it may seem obvious, remember, just because sugar on its own doesn’t contain fat, that doesn’t mean you won’t get fat by eating too much. Excess sugar is excess calories – and you’re adding empty excess calories as it contains no healthy nutrients, no fiber, no protein. That means it won’t fill you up so you’re more likely to eat too much, as well as triggering the release of insulin, a hormone with a major role in weight gain. That’s because when we consume sugary foods and drinks, the pancreas releases insulin, which carries sugar to the organs so that it can be used for fuel. When you eat a lot of sugar, the body produces more insulin, and eventually, that can lead to insulin resistance, a situation in which the body can’t respond to normal amounts of insulin the way it should. That compounds simply just taking in too many calories from sugar, so you’re more likely to gain weight, and it puts more work on the pancreas, increasing the risk of diabetes too.
5. You suffer from frequent colds or the flu
If you get sick frequently, it may be because of excess sugar in your diet. Consuming too much sugar can weaken the immune system, which hurts the body’s ability to fight off flu viruses, colds, and even chronic diseases.
6. Your skin looks lousy
If you’re constantly suffering from breakouts, it’s time to reassess your diet. Not only is sugar inflammatory, meaning it can contribute to inflammatory skin conditions when you get a spike in insulin from consuming sugar, that can trigger hormones that can lead to acne breakouts or skin problems like rosacea, eczema, or excess oiliness or dryness. If you’re using medications to treat it without changing your diet, you probably aren’t getting to the root of the issue. Many people have found that limiting or eliminating sugar in their diets can significantly improve both the appearance of their skin, but their health.
7. Nothing tastes as sweet as it once did
After eating a lot of sugar over time, it results in needing more and more sugar to satisfy a sweet tooth. When you first cut back, it can be tough, but after a while, you’ll eventually find that many things that you thought were barely sweet are now way too sweet. That’s a good thing as you’ll naturally reduce the amount of sugar you take in.
8. Your dental checkups aren’t going the way you’d like
Your parents probably told you that sugar is bad for your teeth, and that’s definitely not an old wives’ tale. If you continue to find yourself sitting in the dentist chair getting fillings and root canals, sugar may be to blame. When bacteria munches on those food particles in between the teeth, acid is produced, which leads to tooth decay. While saliva helps to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria on its own, eating too much sugar can impact pH levels, and throw off the natural ecosystem in your mouth, which allows bacteria to thrive and multiply, leading to cavities.
6 Important Steps to Cutting Sugar:
If you’re exhibiting any of these signs, it’s important to take steps to cut your sugar intake (aiming for 5% or less of your total calories) so that you can enjoy the good health you were meant to enjoy.
Don’t drink your sugars. If you drink soda, sports drinks, fruit juices, sweetened coffees and so on, you’re getting lots of empty calories and sugar, making this step one of the most important. Instead of sweet drinks, opt for water. You can add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange for flavor.
Avoid fat-free or reduced-fat advertised foods. These products are almost always filled with sugar, as that’s often what’s used to replace the fat.
Read ingredient lists. When you pick up that packaged food, read the ingredient list for added sugars – many are hidden in names like high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, maltose, barley malt, etc.
Choose whole foods over processed. Most processed foods contain added sugar. The more you choose whole foods over processed, the less sugar you’ll naturally consume.
Lead a healthier, less-stressed lifestyle. By reducing your stress levels (through exercise, meditation or deep-breathing, for example) and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, cravings for sweets are naturally reduced.
Swap sugar for healthier alternatives. Finding natural alternatives to refined sugar will still let you enjoy the sweeter things in life. Satisfy your sweet tooth by swapping sugar for things like banana’s, date’s and monk fruit in recipes.