If sugar tastes so nice, why is it so bad for us? That’s the question that comes to mind when learning about the unhealthy consequences of eating too much sugar. Generally everything should be in moderation, but what is going on these days with our diet, and especially sugar consumption, is well beyond moderation and is now in the level of epidemic proportions.
Statistics show that the average yearly consumption of sugar in North American adults is in the order of 120 to 150 lbs per year! The biggest culprit in the average diet is soft drinks. One 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains about 11 teaspoons of sugar.
The Side Effects of Sugar
1. Damages the immune system
Excess sugar in your body hinders absorption of vitamin C in the bloodstream. Vitamin C is essential for white blood cells as it help them in destroying viruses as well as bacteria. White blood cells require a large amount of vitamin C to successfully do their task of protecting you against diseases. Therefore, eating too much sugar weakens your immune system making you susceptible to many diseases, such as cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Candida yeast infections and Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, refined sugars does not contain minerals and vitamins. For it to get metabolized into your body it will have to draw upon your micro-nutrient stores which depletes them. This process hinders cholesterol as well as free fatty acids metabolism causing high blood serum triglycerides and cholesterol. Over time, this can cause heart disease as well as obesity and is a sign for diabetes. Furthermore, since sugar lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber, it can weaken the endocrine system making it the major cause of chronic degenerative disease.
2. Damages the skin
Excess sugar in your body causes a natural process called glycation. This occurs when the glucose inside your bloodstream bonds with proteins to form detrimental molecules known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As AGEs build up, they damage neighboring proteins. The most affected are the collagen as well as elastin protein fibers which keep the skin firm and supple.
The most common protein inside your body is the collagen. Once damaged, the usually springy and elastic collagen and elastin protein fibers turn out to be dry and fragile. This can cause the skin to wrinkle and sag. Apart from damaging the collagen, too much sugar in the body affects the production of collagen. To make the situation worse, AGEs also disable the body’s innate antioxidant enzymes to decrease the antioxidant levels. This makes the skin more susceptible to UV rays that are the major cause of skin aging.
How Can we Reduce our Sugar Intake?
Despite the bad effects of sugar, you can start the process of restoring your health, by following five steps:
1. Limit your food intake of sugar. This does not mean completely avoiding eating sugary things but it does involve controlling the quantity you eat every day. You should eat less than 48 grams of sugar every day. Moreover, you should look for healthy sugar substitutes to gratify your sweet tooth.
A great way to get the sugary flavor you are looking for without the negative sugar effects is using nutrient dense smoothies. You should avoid eating refined sugar products and rather satisfy your craving by taking fruits. You should also avoid eating excess snacks, baked goods, candy and ice cream and leave them just as special treats.
2. Use foods which have vitamins B1 as well as B6. You can get this from foods such as sunflower seeds, coconut milk, banana, spinach and smoothies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that these vitamins can greatly reduce the production of AGEs.
3. Eat foods rich in antioxidants as well as smoothies rich in other phytonutrients.
4. You should avoid eating foods with aspartame as the dangers of aspartame are severe, causing damage to the brain’s neural cells.
5. Sugars are ‘hidden’ in so many foods so be on the lookout when reading labels in the supermarket.
In general the more white the food, the more refined it probably is. The food then contains low levels of fiber and nutrients and high levels of calories so it’s best to avoid it. At Core Wellness Centre, you can learn more about natural healthy living at our free health talks at our office on St. Clair Ave W in downtown Toronto.