“Ah, sugar, sugar.” Nature’s delightful creation. Almost everyone has a favorite dessert. The dessert that takes us to our ‘happy place,’ and what’s wrong with a little more happiness in our lives? Well, when happiness comes in the form of sugar it can harm our bodies and minds. Sugar can result in a host of illnesses and can lead us down a self-destructive path. Let’s take a deeper look at the impact of sugar and how we can easily cut back.
What is sugar? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sugar as:
1: a sweet material that consists essentially of sucrose obtained from sugarcane or sugar beets, is typically colorless or white when pure, and is commonly used to sweeten foods and beverages. 2: any of numerous soluble and usually sweet carbohydrates (as glucose or sucrose) that occur naturally especially in plants.
In this article we will use the term sugar more broadly. We are discussing substances that are considered sweeteners. This includes sugar and sugar like products which contain glucose, sucrose, fructose (found in fruit), dextrose (made from corn), saccharin (laboratory man-made), etc.
How is sugar used in the body?
Sugar is fuel for the body. It is converted to energy. There’s a great analogy we can use to describe how sugar energy works. Think of your body like an old stove that requires a fire to work. So, you go out and get some kindling to get your fire started. You gathered some twigs (sugar/simple carbs) and some firewood (fat & protein). You decide you will use the twigs since you can get them going quicker with a match than you can the bulky firewood. The twigs catch fire quickly and the stove is ablaze! You couldn’t be happier. You place a pot of water to boil on the stovetop. By the time the pot becomes warm your twigs have burned out. All that is left are ashes and the pot is cold again. This time you start to burn a piece of the firewood. It takes you a very long time to set the firewood aflame. Once the firewood catches fire it lasts for a long time. Long enough for you to not only boil water but also complete the rest of your cooking. Anyone who has been camping or has watched Survivor knows that if you want a quick and hardy fire, you start with the twigs (and coconut husks) and add the firewood once the fire is going. You don’t need to go back to twigs unless your fire is completely out.
Sugar and other simple carbohydrates are like twigs. They give you a burst of energy and quickly burn out. This worked well for our ancestors when they were starving and came across a piece of fruit. The energy they got from the fruit would fuel them to hunt and gather. Today we have unlimited access to sugar. In one form or another it’s in almost all processed food. We also have abundant fruit almost year-round even in places that experience cold winters. This easy access to sugar has created unintended health impacts. Sugar is linked to:
According to ScienceDirect.com:
We were never meant to eat as much sugar as we do today. The negative impacts can be prevented by cutting back on our sugar intake. It can be easier than you think to cut back on sugar. Suggestions on how to reduce your sugar intake:
Side note – if you are going to have sugar please don’t have it near bedtime. Sugar can make some people feel wired and can interfere with sleep. Short story: I visited my sister Jerica who has a lovely young daughter, Riley. I watched 4-year-old Riley have a complete sugar melt down. Right before bedtime my niece begged her mom for some fruit. First she had some orange slices then a banana. She scarfed down the fruit like it was candy. Soon it was time for bed and time for me to go. She began to cry and it took her over an hour to get to sleep that night. Lesson learned...fruit should be eaten earlier in the day.
Do you have a sugar story to share? If so, comment below.
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