Sugar. This sweet little word, that we eat, has devastated the health of many people across the globe and yet we pay no heed on how it jeopardizes our health in countless ways.
We live in a world where we get our food from supermarket shelves and restaurants. In this laborious and self-occupied world, processed food has substituted natural food. The ease of cooking and long life adds an advantage to have processed food anytime. One of the ingredient of all the processed food that we eat is Sugar. Be it chocolate, carbonated soda drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chips; sugar is everywhere.
We encounter sugar in two different ways in our food: sugars that exist in unprocessed or natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and sugars that are added to packaged foods to boost flavor or allow food to be more shelf-stable. We end up eating sugar than it’s actually required by our body in the name of snacks that we need to keep ourselves energized for the rest of the working hours.
Undeniably, we eat sugar everyday and little do we know of its potentially serious effects on our health. Sugar has no nutrient value. It is a complex substance and can damage our health adversely. A few detrimental effects of sugar in light are: Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, high blood triglycerides, fatty liver disease and most of all Obesity.
- Sugar or table sugar has become a part of our daily diet but it has no nutrient value.
- It is a complex substance and can damage our health adversely. It can cause Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, high blood triglycerides, fatty liver disease and most of all Obesity.
- Most of the processed dietary items like chocolate, carbonated soda drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chips contain sugar.
What is Sugar and how much we need?
Sugar is not pure energy. Sugar is the union of two substances: glucose (50%) and fructose (50%). Let’s understand both the substances briefly.
Glucose is the fuel of all living cells. It is in all carbohydrates: sugar, fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, bread, etc. When you eat sugar, the glucose in it is distributed throughout the body and your cells use it for energy (by respiration or fermentation). In fact, blood sugar is a reserve of sugar circulating in the blood.
Fructose is found in fruits like apples, oranges, grapes, mangoes and it’s primarily extracted from the sugar cane and sugar beets. When we combine fructose with glucose, we wind up with sucrose, which is our basic table sugar. Sucrose is a technical term for sugar.
Once you understand how sugar is processed in the body, it leaves very little debate to pin down how harmful is sugar, and you start to see how a lot of modern health issue is caused by the sugar.
- Sugar is the union of two substances: glucose (50%) and fructose (50%).
- Glucose acts as fuel for our body and we need it to stay energized.
- Glucose is found in sugar, fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, bread, etc. Fructose is found mostly in fruits.
- How glucose and fructose processed in the body, makes all difference.
How body metabolizes sugar?
As we are already aware sugar is a combination of two complex substances, Glucose and Fructose, let’s see how each of them is metabolized by our body.
Glucose: Only 20% of glucose we eat actually hits the liver because the other 80% is metabolized by the other cells in the body. Before glucose can get into the liver cell, it needs to stimulate the pancreas to make insulin.
Insulin goes through many reactions and finally, leftover glucose is stored in the Liver as Glycogen. Glycogen is a good thing as it acts as a reserve tank of energy that our body can use when needed. Glycogen and glycerol (a component of fat) are easily converted back to glucose.
When the body’s supply of glycogen is depleted, as in the case of someone running a marathon, muscle proteins are broken down and used by the liver to regenerate blood glucose.
Fructose: Fructose is different. Fructose is not needed by the body and hence it’s treated as a foreign object and almost 100% of it is processed by the liver. Unlike glucose, fructose overloads the metabolism process and gets stored in the liver as bad fat. This is the stuff that causes a lot of health issues and surrounds your organs, giving you a big gut or belly fat.
Fructose also forms something called Xylulose5-phosphate, and this stimulates the De Nuvo Lipogenesis enzymes and you end up with more fat in the body and that explains the obesity epidemic. Some of these fats can also travel to the muscle causing muscle insulin resistance and you’ve gifted yourself Type 2 diabetes.
This doesn’t end here. Some of these fats will sit on the Liver and now you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Also, when Fructose is processed further in the body, it produces Uric acid. Uric acid raises your blood pressure and now you have hypertension too.
To add, sugar also causes leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain when to stop eating. Leptin resistance is a condition in which our brain does not respond to leptin and we overeat, resulting in obesity.
Excess sugar can even bind to collagen and elastin in our skin, damaging them and thus, making our skin saggy and wrinkly. Studies have also shown that women who have one or more sugary drinks per day are more likely to develop diabetes.
- Glucose is metabolized easily by liver and is good for us.
- Fructose is not needed by body and hence our liver metabolizes it in a complex process.
- The fructose that cannot be metabolized, converted into fat which can cause belly gut, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and leptin resistance.
- It also make skin saggy and wrinkly as it damages the elastin of our skin.
Hidden Sugar: The Added Sugar
You must have noticed many processed foods also contains Added Sugar. Added sugars can be tricky to spot on food labels. They are often “disguised” under less-sweet or natural-sounding names. Some of the more common sugary ingredients are listed below.
Barley malt – Beet sugar – Brown sugar – Buttered syrup – Cane juice – Cane sugar – Caramel – Corn syrup – Confectioner’s sugar – Castor sugar – Ethyl maltol – Fructose – Fruit juice concentrate – Galactose – Granulated sugar – High fructose corn syrup – Lactose – Malt – Maltose – Malt syrup – Maple syrup – Molasses – Powdered sugar – Refiner’s syrup – Rice syrup – Sucrose
Added sugars are not chemically different from naturally occurring sugars. Both are broken down in the body using the same enzymatic processes and impact the body in the same way as sugar.
If you want to cut down drastically the amount of sugar you eat, don’t buy anything that has high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it. HFCS contains more Fructose compared to table sugar. So, if you find any of these listed types of sugar in the ingredients of the food you eat, think twice before eating.
- Added sugars are no different than table sugar.
- Eating them effects the body in the same way as table sugar does.
- Refrain from eating processed foods that contains above mentioned sugars.
How much sugar should we consume?
Nature’s law is to keep everything in balance. Likewise, what we eat should also be balanced. On one hand eating too much sugar damages your health severely, on another deficiency of sugar leads to a condition know as Hypoglycemia. It is a condition caused by a very low level of blood sugar (glucose), your body’s main energy source and this could make you feel shaky or weak, fatigued, dizzy, anxious, headaches and sweating. So how much sugar should you eat?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
Women: 25 grams of sugar (6 teaspoons) that give 100 calories.
Men: 37.5 grams of sugar (9 teaspoons) that give 150 calories.
A gram of sugar contains about 4 calories.
An average woman needs to eat about 2000 calories per day to stay fit.
An average man needs 2500 calories per day to stay fit.
Being heedful of these numbers, let’s understand how much sugar is excess sugar.
The amount and form in which we consume the sugar—in fruits and vegetables, in drinks, or in other processed foods—impacts everything. Consuming 1 large orange, or a 350ml can of soda delivers the same number of calories to your body, but the fruit will keep your body feeling satisfied for longer.
Also,if the sugar comes with its inherent fiber (through apple, orange) then up to 30% of this sugar will be metabolized by the microbes in the gut, which helps prevent disease.
The fiber will also mean a slower rise in blood glucose, which has shown to have positive health effects. In contrast, the sugar in the soda drink or any fruit juice like orange juice is absorbed very quickly, and often leads to a brief period of high blood sugar.
So, if you’re drinking 350ml of coke, you have already reached your recommended maximum intake of sugar(35g) for that whole day. And of course, you cannot spend your whole day drinking just 350ml of coke. You’ll eat more to maintain your calories and whatever you’ll eat now will add to extra calories which will be converted to fat.
- The amount and form in which we consume the sugar impacts everything.
- Fruits contains fiber and sugar. When eaten, the fiber slows down the metabolism of sugar which is good for health.
- The sugar in the soda drink or any fruit juice like orange juice is absorbed very quickly, and often leads to a brief period of high blood sugar.
- Golden rule: Slower the rate of consumption of sugar, the better.
In the end, I’ll leave you with the below picture which is self-explanatory. To stay fit, eat natural sugar not processed.
To conclude, bring sweetness in your life, not in your body.
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