What You Can Do to Avoid the Effects of Sugar

The idea that sugar isn’t terribly good for us isn’t really news. It is well known in this day and age that sugar should be eaten in limited amounts, especially since so many products on the market are advertised as sugar-free or no added sugar. What may be less known is why sugar is bad for the body (aside from causing cavities and weight gain) and what can be done to cut down on the amount of sugar in your daily diet.

Let’s take a look at a few of the lesser-known reasons why sugar isn’t good for you:

1. Added sugar can make your liver sick
When sugar enters the body, it is broken down into two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. Glucose happens naturally, but fructose does not, so the liver has to work hard to break fructose down and turn it into something our body can use. The liver breaks fructose down into glycogen and converts any extra fructose into fat. Some of this fat that is produced can reside in the liver, resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a term used to describe liver conditions that impact people who drink little to no alcohol.

2. Too much sugar puts you at risk for diabetes and other issues
The problem with eating too much sugar goes beyond just weight gain. Too much sugar forces the body to produce more and more insulin, an important hormone in the body that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Eventually, the body no longer produces insulin properly to manage the sugar, resulting in type 2 diabetes. The body’s resistance to insulin can also result in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to a number of other problems like heart disease.

3. Sugar is addictive
Much like drugs, sugar triggers the body to release a lot of dopamine, a “feel good” chemical in the brain. That feeling is what makes sugar and other junk food addictive, far more than food that is found in nature. Like other addictions, more and more is craved until the body is full of sugar it can no longer handle, resulting in disease and weight gain.

4. Sugar may help cancer develop
Cancer happens when abnormal cells in the body quickly multiply. Insulin is a hormone that controls how cells grow. Therefore, if there is too much insulin in the body because of too much sugar, insulin may help cancerous cells grow.

How can you cut some sugar out of your diet?

In a perfect world, you would instantly cut all sugar out of your diet. However, since life is far from perfect, here are some ways you can at least cut down on the amount of sugar you’re eating and give your body a break:

1. Drink more water
Occasionally, we mistake hunger for thirst. Therefore, it’s important to drink water throughout the day so you’re able to tell when your body needs to refuel.

2. Substitute boxed for fresh
If you’re in need of a snack, try to avoid anything in a box that may have added sugar and sodium. Instead, go for something healthier like a piece of fruit or Greek yogurt.

3. Meal prep
Preparing meals beforehand forces you to think about the choices you’re making instead of buying food on impulse or out of convenience (e.g., you’re rushing in the morning and don’t have time to pack a good breakfast or lunch). Try to incorporate a lot of protein, such as chicken, eggs, nuts and fish, as well as fruits and veggies to help keep you healthy and full.

4. Avoid processed foods and dairy labeled low fat and non-fat
That may seem like the opposite way to eat healthily, but the reality is that companies take fat out of foods only to replace them with sugar so they still taste good. That sugar ends up being changed into fat by the body, so it completely defeats the purpose. Instead, choose some foods with healthy fats (e.g., avocado, olives, nut and seed butters) so you still feel satisfied.

5. Get more sleep
When you’re tired, your body craves sugar and carbohydrates because it’s a fast way to get energy. The problem is that the body crashes after eating sugar, leaving you feeling more tired than you were before. To avoid this vicious cycle, try to get the right amount of quality sleep your body needs.

For more information about the harmful effects of sugar and what you can do to avoid them, schedule an appointment with a primary care provider today.