Is sugar making us sick? According to over 8,000 scientific papers, it is! Studies have shown that too much sugar can lead to many chronic diseases not only in people who are overweight, but thin people as well. These diseases include type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and even cancer. On average, Americans consume 19.5 teaspoons of sugar a day when the recommended daily limit is 6-9 teaspoons depending on body weight. A soda contains 8-9 teaspoons of sugar alone, so you can see how sugar intake can quickly add up.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, liquid sugar found in sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks like Powerade make up 36% of our diet. When we have an overload of sugar, our bodies store the sugar in our organs like our pancreas and liver. It also increases the amount of sugar (or glucose) in our bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that acts as the “Pac Man” for sugar. Simply put, insulin goes around and eats the excess sugar in our bloodstream. The problem is, our body can only send out so much insulin and over time the body stops responding to it. When this happens, the sugar stays in our blood circulation that leads to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes typically comes on later in life and is due the overconsumption of sugar and a sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that 79 million Americans suffer from this disease and it cost the healthcare system 279 billion dollars last year. It is estimated by 2050, one in every three Americans will suffer from diabetes. On a positive note, this type of diabetes is reversible and can be overcome with proper nutrition and lifestyle changes.
The frightening fact about sugar is that has been found to be addictive. When we eat sugar, it stimulates a part of our brain, which releases hormones into the body. This is why we actually crave sugar and when the craving is satisfied, we get a “sugar high” experience. This is a scary concept because at this point, our body is dependent on sugar and withdraw experiences can occur when it isn’t consumed. Our brain goes through the same process with sugar as it does with any addictive substances like with nicotine from tobacco or other drugs.
Bottom line, sugar is cheap to add to food substances and makes our food taste better, which is why it is an ingredient on nearly every food label. What can we do about? Below are some ways to cut sugar from your diet that in return will lower your chances of developing many preventable diseases as mentioned above.
1. Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Like I mentioned in my last article, we must be consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Food in its natural form, usually presents no metabolic problems for a normal body.
2. Try incorporate protein and fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels if consumed from a healthy source. Good options of protein sources are lean meats such as chicken and turkey, eggs, and raw nuts such as almonds and cashews. Examples of good fats are avocado, oils like coconut and olive, and seeds like chia and flax.
3. Be Active. Walk, run, dance, or do some yoga. Whatever movement you enjoy will help reduce your stress levels, boost your energy, and decrease your need for a sugar lift.
4. Scare yourself straight. As mentioned in this article, there is a strong physical component to sugar addiction. A way to kick off your sugar-free journey is to re-frame the way you think about sugar. Treat it like an illegal drug, a dark force to be avoided, and a substance that can lead our body to start breaking down.
There are great programs such as detoxification that can be extremely helpful with this process. My clinical and personal experiences have proven that a proper detox not only resets the appetite but also decreases sugar cravings. After the initial sugar cravings (I won’t lie, they can be overwhelming), our bodies adjust and you won’t even want the sugar anymore. Feel free to email me with any additional questions at firstname.lastname@example.org