Around the globe, people consume more than 154 million tons of sugar per year. That means that the average person eats nearly 45 pounds of sugar every year, although consumption among Americans is several times that large. Although many people know that eating too much sugar is not the healthiest choice, it can be hard to find the motivation to change. Learning about the destructive long-term consequences of a high-sugar diet can help you embrace cutting refined sugar out of your daily life.
What Is Sugar and Why Do We Crave It?
Sugars are a type of simple carbohydrate. Some sugars, such as the ones in fruit or milk, are naturally occurring. However, the sugars that most of us eat come from a refining process that turns them into high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners.
Our bodies evolved to love the taste of sugar. In evolutionary times, survival was tied to the availability of food. As a result, when sweet (and thus high calorie) foods were available, it was advantageous to fuel up by eating as much as possible to guard against later famine. Because of this, we all have a “sugar monster” inside of us, tempting us to eat sweet, sugary foods. Unfortunately, this “sugar monster” doesn’t serve us very well today. The ubiquity of refined sugar in the modern diet means that the “sugar monster” constantly encourages us to overindulge on foods with added sugars. Part of the road to better health is learning how to tame this sugar monster and take charge of your sugar temptation.
How Refined Sugars Harm the Human Body
A hormone called insulin is responsible for shuttling glucose molecules into your cells to keep your blood sugar stable. When you eat too much sugar, your blood glucose levels spike very high before falling. Over time, a diet high in sugar can cause your cells to become resistant to the effects of insulin. Insulin resistance makes it difficult for you to regulate your blood sugar levels, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Eating too much sugar is also damaging to your heart. In a 15-year study on heart disease, researchers found that people who received 25% or more daily calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who kept their calories from added sugars below 10%. A high-sugar diet may also contribute to chronic, low-grade inflammation that affects brain health. For this reason, some scientists now call Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes” because of the link between sugar, insulin, and neurodegeneration.
As if that isn’t enough, refined sugars are “empty calories,” meaning that your body does not get any real nutritional benefit from sugar. Eating too much sugar does, however, keep you stuck in a cycle in which you get hungry, crave a sugary snack, experience a spike in blood sugar, and then become hungry again once your blood sugar crashes. Step out of this cycle by eliminating refined sugars from your diet.
Cutting Refined Sugar From Your Diet
The food industry sneaks added sugar into foods in many ways. In fact, there are more than 200 different names for sugar! Read labels carefully to identify the following added sugars:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Corn syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Brown sugar
- Malt sugar
- Ingredients ending in -ose (e.g., dextrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, sucrose)
Cutting added sugars is just the beginning of the WildFit path to health and wellness. Download the “6 Human Hungers” booklet to learn more.