Hi there LWFY gang, hope you’re doing well! Feeling a change in the weather here in NYC as the Spring season approaches, and I welcome the fresh air with open toned arms. I was recently asked to contribute to a health news story for Telemundo, and I wanted to share with you. They wanted to know about the “not so sweet side” and potential effects of sugar consumption.
1) What are the main “harmful” effects sugar has in the body and mind?
You may have realized (or may not; that’s the scary part!) that when you eat sugar, you tend to desire more and more of this sweet substance. Did you know that sugar can act as a drug?! Over time we can acquire an addiction and even experience some withdrawal symptoms like headaches when we haven’t eaten what our bodies have become accustomed to. Studies show that sugar is just as habit-forming as a narcotic substance. Increased sugar consumption can lead to tooth decay, and obesity related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes (a sugar metabolizing abnormality, which if left uncontrolled can lead to a host of medical problems including vision problems and toe or foot amputations).
2) Is sugar always bad?
No. Moderation is key, and the types of sugars we eat are important as well. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which provides us with an immediate energy source. Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables, and can also be found in pasta, bread, oatmeal, and other food containing flour or grains. There are two main categories of carbohydrates: refined and unrefined. Refined carbohydrates are commonly referred to as bad, while unrefined carbs are commonly referred to as good.
Foods made with refined carbohydrates are heavily processed. These types of carbohydrates are commonly found in soda and candy, but also include foods containing white flour, such as pasta, bread, and bagels. Refined carbohydrates will more quickly raise your blood sugar and too much dietary intake is often a contributing factor to diabetes.
Unrefined carbohydrates are plant-based foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and full of nutrients. They are found in starchy foods including beans and whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta. Fruits and vegetables are also healthy carbohydrates. Unrefined carbohydrates need to be processed by our bodies before the glucose (sugar) is available for use, thereby providing a consistent and steady source of energy.
Most unrefined carbohydrates are considered to be complex while most refined are simple. The body processes complex carbohydrates, to put it very generally. With simple carbohydrates, a machine has done the processing for us. Think of complex carbohydrates as heartier, healthier, and brown. Think of simple carbohydrates as fluffier, sweeter, and white. A basic rule for eating with meaning: eat more unrefined carbohydrates; eat less refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
3) Why is it important to reduce sugar intake?
Refined sugar is really just “empty” calories. There is no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, or other various nutrients. When you eat a refined carbohydrate like sugar, your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize the incomplete food. Again, sugar can be a contributing factor to acquiring diseases such as diabetes. Studies have shown that people who typically consume high amounts of sugar have lower HDL (good cholesterol) and higher triglycerides (a source of energy in your blood); high triglycerides can lead to clogged arteries, stroke, and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For women, this is no more than 100 calories per day. For men, this is no more than 150 calories per day. These calories equal out to about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
4) Can you please suggest 3 or 4 easy tips to reduce sugar intake in every day diet?
Just as a tobacco user may struggle to stop smoking cigarettes, a “sugar-holic” can have just as hard of a time quitting sugar. Start by simply taking it one day at a time, and reducing the amount of daily sugar intake little by little.
-Try halving your regular soda w/ diet (1/2 glass of diet soda, 1/2 glass of regular) for starters.
-Try using a plant based sweetener such as Stevia
-Choose lower sugar carrying fruits like berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries). Stay away from higher sugar containing fruits like bananas, mango, and pineapple.
-Compare labels of products you regularly eat. Often times there are many similar products on the market with differences in nutrition. Look for “light” versions of your regular sweet foods. (Remember that syrups honey, any word ending in –ose is a sugar as well.)
Remember small changes lead to big results!
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