Sugar, we all crave it. Whether it’s your morning mocha, your favorite fro yo, or the candy bar you’ve loved since you were a kid, there’s something sweet that you just don’t want to do without.
But a growing body of research suggests that the sweet stuff isn’t so great for us, such as one Tufts University study that found sugary drinks are linked to deaths worldwide. The ill effects of sugar are downright concerning, so it pays to get educated.
Here’s the skinny on sugar:
- Sugar has no nutritional value (like, zero) and is bad for your teeth to boot. Sugars provide easily digestible energy for the bacteria living in your mouth that cause cavities, and who wants a filling?
- Sugar breaks down into glucose, which our bodies need, and fructose, which we don't. Fructose naturally occurs in ripe fruit, but is also added as sweetener in many processed foods. Fructose is only processed by the liver, and when it’s overloaded with fructose in the form of added sugars, the sugars are converted into fat. (Yuck.)
- Have you heard of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease? Overloading the liver with fructose from added sugars can lead to liver breakdown and failure without a drop of alcohol; this is a growing problem in many Western countries. (Extra yuck.)
- Sugar can cause insulin resistance, a stepping stone on the way to diabetes. As we eat sugar, the pancreas pumps out insulin to deal with it. If we continually introduce sugar to our blood stream the pancreas, much like an overly nagged mother, tunes out the sugar and quits performing the way it should.
Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of developing cancer. Yes, that's five links because the correlation is pretty dang iron-tight.
- Sugar affects hormones adversely, leading your brain to think you're not full or haven't eaten enough calories.
Sugar releases dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good. You eat more sugar to get that good feeling. Again. And again. And again.
- Sugar makes you fat.
- Latest thinking: It's not fat that raises your cholesterol and gives you heart disease; it's sugar. Again, incidence of heart disease skyrockets with increased sugar intake.
Remember, sugar can be found in obvious places, like a candy bar, or in less-obvious forms as added sugar in everything from yogurt to soup to tomato sauce!
This not-so-sweet news isn’t meant to bring you down. It’s a call to action to take a look at what you’re choosing to put into your body. You don’t necessarily have to live without sugar for the rest of your life, but you can probably live with less.
If you’re brave, try a 21-day sugar break or join a challenge. We go sugar-free for a full 42 days to create new habits. See what it feels like to live without all that sugar in your diet, and you may decide to make some permanent changes. You may find life with less sugar is just as sweet.