Completely eliminating sugar from the diet can be difficult, but knowing what sugar can do to your body may just encourage you to reduce your daily dose, and that’s a good start. Determining how much sugar you’re really ingesting, or should be for that matter, is trickier and takes careful monitoring. Listening to your body and noticing symptoms is key, so is understanding what you’re buying product and food wise.
It’s also key to decipher between refined sugars and added sugars, and even comparing Canadian sugar consumption stats to that of our American neighbours.
In recent years the World Health Organization said that ideally we want to try for less than five percent of sugar intake daily. This is about 25 grams of sugar (six to seven teaspoons) a day, for the average adult.
With all that in mind, here are some ways to check up on your sugar consumption and see if you may be overdoing it.
While it’s not 100 per cent necessarily the culprit, an influx in sugar can lead to breakouts. If you’re taking in sugar, which contributes to one’s insulin levels, then you’re also adding to hormone changes that can lead to acne or rosacea. The “sugar face” can also become more apparent once you happen to rid yourself of sugar. The late Dr. Fredric Brandt once said that giving up sugar could “make you look younger by ten years,” — another reason you may want to ditch the sweet stuff.
Your energy is down
Sugar spikes or “sugar highs” are fast jolts and can leave you feeling flat really quickly. A Wired article talks about the activity of orexin neurons and how protein can increase the work of these, while sugar can deplete the activity, even though you may feel more awake.
“By eating a high sugar diet, you cause a hormonal response in your body that like a wave, it brings you up and then you crash down and it triggers your body to want more sugar,” said Brooke Alpert, R.D. and author of The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger, in an interview. In a study out of Yale University, researchers saw similarities in the ways the brain heightens and can get addicted to something like a milkshake versus that of other substances, such as cocaine. As the summary outlines: “Persons with an addictive-like behavior appear to have greater neural activity in certain regions of the brain similar to substance dependence, including elevated activation in reward circuitry in response to food cues.” In short: there are similar “reward circuits” that can be seen between drug and food addiction.
Sugar may make you feel more alert — but it can also cause you to be so buzzed up that you have trouble concentrating. According to a 2002 study, sugar can have an affect on your cognitive abilities, memory, as well depression, and in some there’s even a risk of schizophrenia. Key to note is the clarification between sugar which we require for our brains (glucose, a.k.a. the blood sugar that healthily fuels or brain to function) and added sugar that typically comes in the form of fructose. Research also points to the effect added sugar has by reducing the making of the brain chemical BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and without it, can hinder our brain’s ability to form new memories.
Your weight gain
If you’re like me, your weekly sweet tooth is very hard to make disappear. While sugar may have a sweet goodness that’s sometimes irresistible, it lacks nutritional value like proteins or fibre. It’s just empty calories. Insulin is the hormone that contributes to added weight, and sugar is the culprit that pushes the release of insulin. If too much insulin is produced too quickly, the body will not be able to break it down fast enough leading to extra weight.
Still brushing and flossing the same but noticing your teeth to be weaker? Broken, chipped or decaying enamel? The actual sugar is not doing this per se, but sugar in combination with the bacteria in your mouth and the forming of acid, does. The more bacteria is formed into the acid the higher chance you have of decaying enamel, which leads to cavities. Pay careful attention to the way your teeth feel on a daily basis — are they more sensitive when you brush or chew? Are you noticing parts of your tooth to be chipped or indented? If so, check with your dentist right away before you end up with more pesky problems.
Your blood pressure
Perhaps you’ve recently gone to the doctor and been told that your blood pressure is higher than normal? This may be due to sugar overload. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 or below and if you are consuming a diet that is high in sugar you might be pushing over the limit. It’s super important to make sure your blood pressure increases your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, for example.