Halloween is a time for spooky costumes, tricks, and of course – TREATS! But all that sugar can have some pretty spooky side effects on your health. The effects of sugar on your health are important year-round!
Learn about the different types of sugar, how our bodies are affected by it as we get older, and how much sugar is too much sugar. Once you know the facts, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision about how much Halloween candy you should consume.
Different Types of Sugar
Sugar is a common ingredient in many foods. Some types are naturally occurring, but it is often added to foods to make them sweeter. Sugar can be white, raw, brown, honey, or corn syrup, but too much of any one type can lead to health problems. There are four common forms of sugar in our food:
Glucose is a simple sugar that plays an important role in human energy metabolism. It is produced when we digest food, and it acts as the primary source of fuel for the cells in our bodies. In addition to providing us with fuel, glucose also helps to regulate our moods, cognitive function, and immune response.
Because glucose is so important to our overall health and well-being, it is critical that we maintain healthy levels of this crucial nutrient in our bodies.
Fructose (also known as fruit sugar) is a type of sugar found in many different types of food, including fruits, vegetables, and even some processed products. This sweet substance can be absorbed into the bloodstream in a quick and efficient manner, which is why it tends to have such a powerful effect on our appetite.
Despite its potential for causing problems with weight and eating behavior, fructose does offer some health benefits as well. For example, fructose contains antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, helping to reduce the risk of certain diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Fructose, when consumed naturally, is paired with the fiber we get from fruits. This can help to regulate a blood sugar spike.
Sucrose (also known as table sugar) is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in many different foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Some of the most common sources of sucrose include fruits like apples, berries, and grapes, as well as sweeteners like sugar and honey. Though sucrose often gets a bad reputation for its high sugar content, it is actually a fairly useful substance with several important functions in the body.
For example, sucrose plays an important role in helping to fuel our energy needs and maintain proper brain function. Additionally, sucrose can even help to improve our mood by boosting levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
In short, sucrose may not be the healthiest food choice on the planet, but it certainly has its place in a balanced diet.
Lactose (also known as milk sugar) is a type of sugar that is found in lactating animals. This sugar can be found in a variety of dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, and milk itself.
Though lactose is an essential nutrient for lactating animals, it can often cause problems for people who are lactose intolerant. This intolerance results from a deficiency in the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose and allows it to be properly absorbed by the intestines.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include nausea, bloating, and flatulence. Luckily, there are plenty of lactose-free alternatives available on the market today, making it easy for anyone with lactose intolerance to enjoy all the health benefits of dairy without any negative side effects.
Added Sugar Versus Natural Sugar
When it comes to sugar, there are two main types: refined sugar and natural sugar. Refined sugar, which is commonly found in processed foods and added to many drinks, is highly refined and stripped of most nutrients. It adds flavor, color, and bulk to foods and acts as a preservative.
Harmful Versus Helpful
As a result, it provides little in the way of health benefits and can even have harmful effects on the body if consumed in large quantities. In contrast, natural sugars are obtained directly from fruits and other plant-based sources.
Unlike refined sugar, natural sugars contain a wealth of valuable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote good health.
Too Much Added Sugar is Dangerous
Sugar comes in many forms, and is the main source of calories in processed foods. It also contributes a small number of nutrients, but too much added sugar is detrimental to your health. It can lead to high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.
It may also increase the risk of developing heart disease, chronic diseases, or cancer.
How Sugar Hides in Plain Sight
Refined sugar is added to most processed food products and sugary drinks. Check the labels to reduce the amount you consume. Many of these products have many different names, including high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, molasses, and caramel. Most of these sugars are found in soft drinks, cereals, baked goods, and ice cream.
Here are some other names that added sugar has used as a disguise on food labels:
- Agave Nectar
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Cane Juice
- Cane Sugar
- Coconut Sugar
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Corn Sweetener
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert Sugar
- Malt Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Palm Sugar
- Raw Sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Turbinado Sugar
- White Granulated Sugar
The Effects of Sugar on The Body
Sugar is fine in small amounts, but excessive sugar consumption can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also increase your risk of developing other serious medical conditions and lead to even more issues as we age.
Sugar Affects You From the Inside, Out
Sugar impairs the functioning of several organs and systems in the body. A high-sugar diet can increase the size of the liver and increase the production of fat. It may also cause alterations in the functions of the adrenal gland.
Furthermore, sugar has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer and epileptic seizures. Those who consume high levels of sugar are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Lastly, high levels of sugar may increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Sugar Affects Your Sleep
One study found that people who consume excessive amounts of sugar have a worse quality of sleep. This is due to the fact that sugar has a high glycemic index, which regulates the sleep cycle. Chronic sugar consumption interferes with sleep quality and affects the body’s ability to function.
Sleep quality is so important for rest and recovery of the body and mind. When sleep gets interrupted, it can ripple out into many areas of our health and quality of life.
How Sugar Affects Our Bodies Differently As We Age
Sugar is a common source of carbohydrates that is detrimental to our health. Our bodies can become overweight or even develop diabetes if we consume large quantities of sugar on a daily basis. The average American consumes between 22 and 30 teaspoons of sugar daily.
The problem with eating too much sugar is that it affects our organs throughout the body and increases our risk of many health problems. Some of these problems are minor, such as the appearance of the skin, while others can lead to life-threatening diseases.
Weight Gain to Inflammation to Disease
In addition to causing weight gain, sugar also raises our risk of type 2 diabetes. It also contributes to inflammation in our body, which leads to heart disease and cancer. Excess sugar is especially harmful to our liver, which is one of the main targets of inflammation.
Excess sugar also has adverse effects on our blood vessels, including the blood vessels in our eyes. This can make our eyes and brain more prone to disease.
Studies have also linked high sugar intake to a higher risk of heart disease. Researchers have found that the increased intake of sugar is linked to increased levels of bad LDL and triglycerides. In addition, high sugar intake also raises blood pressure.
Sugar Cravings or Addiction?
When we eat sugar, our body responds by releasing a flood of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Over time, these hormones can condition our brain to crave sugar in order to keep that “high” going. And as we become increasingly dependent on sugar, our body begins to experience sugar withdrawals if we go too long without consuming it.
A Bad Sugar Habit: These withdrawals can manifest in many different ways, including intense sugar cravings, difficulties concentrating, fatigue, and mood swings.
So ultimately, sugar is not just physically addictive but also psychologically addictive, as we slowly train our bodies to depend on this sweet substance for our happiness and well-being.
And while this habit might seem harmless at first, the long-term effects can be devastating for both our physical and mental health.
How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar?
Sugar is bad for your health. The recommended daily allowance for sugar is less than half of the amount found in one can of Coke. However, the average American eats more sugar than that. In fact, the average North American consumes nearly 270 grams of sugar per day. Most of this sugar comes from added sugars in high-sugar foods.
Soda and Other Sugary Beverages
Added sugars are not harmful in small amounts, but the problem comes from excessive consumption of the added variety. To cut down on your sugar intake, start by eliminating or reducing sugary foods from your diet. Most Americans consume more than half of their daily sugars from sodas.
Consuming sugary beverages can lead to tooth decay, which can trickle down to multiple other health concerns. According to dietary guidelines, the amount of sugar in a sugar-sweetened beverage is far more than the body needs for a healthy diet. The quality of the sugar is also not good for your health. Major blood sugar levels spike as a result of too much added sugar or unnecessary added sugar intake.
Major Health Problems Can Age You Faster Than Time Itself
Excess sugar is a major contributor to several health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Moreover, it’s particularly dangerous for older adults. The high sugar intake in their diets can increase their risk of frailty, a condition characterized by poor physical function and weakness.
Dealing with health concerns due to a high-sugar diet is paying a large price for a small moment of gratification.
If you have one piece of candy because it makes you feel happy when you are sad that is okay. However, every time you are sad you have a piece of candy, and then now you are dealing with diabetes and the only way you know how to cope with your emotions is by eating candy, it can be a very slippery slope.
Excess sugar can also cause the body to develop insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and cardiovascular disease. Aging yourself from the inside, and out can be unbearable.
Read the Nutrition Labels!
The best way to know how much sugar is in your food is to read the nutrition labels on packaged food. Look out for hidden sugars such as cane sugar, corn syrup, or brown rice syrup. Also, pay attention to the ingredient lists.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to Sugar?
There are a number of alternatives to table sugar that are beneficial for your health. A good one is Stevia, which has a zero-calorie, natural sweetness. Another option is maple syrup, a naturally occurring, unrefined sugar source. Choose your preferred sweetener based on its taste, sweetness level, and dietary needs.
1. Monk Fruit
Another natural sweetener is monk fruit. It contains no calories and is a great choice for people with high blood sugar and diabetes. It also contains antioxidants, which boost the immune system. While monk fruit is often sold as a blend with corn or sugar alcohols, it can also be purchased as a pure source.
2. Natural Sweeteners
Natural sweeteners, such as honey, molasses, or maple syrup, can also be a good choice. These sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels as high as table sugar but should be used in moderation. However, people with diabetes and those watching their weight should consult a doctor before making any changes to their diet.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a tasty, natural sweetener that is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It is widely available in supermarkets and can be used in a variety of recipes. You can make your favorite baked goods with maple syrup, but be careful not to overdo it!
4. Raw Honey
Raw honey is another popular alternative to sugar and contains antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. It is also used to sweeten salad dressings, lemonade, and smoothies.
How to Cut Down on Your Sugar Intake
The first step in cutting down on your sugar intake is to replace it with something else that is not high in sugar. A few good options include unsweetened coffee, tea, sparkling water, and dark chocolate. You can also ask a friend to help you or read the labels on packaged food and beverages to reduce the amount of added sugar.
Cutting Down on Sugar Can Help With Weight Loss
Sugar has been linked to many health problems, including obesity and diabetes. According to the U.S. government, the average American consumes approximately 265 calories or 17 teaspoons of sugar daily.
That’s more than triple the daily recommended limit for men and women, and it’s much easier to cut back on your sugar intake than you might think. Moreover, removing sugar from your diet can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease and depression.
Smaller Portions Means Less Sugar
Cutting your portion sizes is another great way to cut down on your sugar intake. By halving your portions you can cut your sugar intake by 50%. Instead of snacking on sugary snacks, switch to healthier alternatives like almonds, bananas, and nuts.
The Benefits of Reducing Your Sugar Intake
Reducing your sugar intake has a number of benefits. For one thing, it will lower your triglycerides. High triglycerides increase your risk for heart disease.
1. Lose Weight and Feel Better!
Another benefit is that you’ll be less likely to put on weight or store fat. In addition, cutting down on added sugar may improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
2. Save Your Teeth!
Reducing your sugar intake is also beneficial for your dental health. Sugar is highly addictive and it’s very hard to resist it.
3. Stabilize Your Insulin (Reduce the Risk of Diabetes)
Sugar also increases your insulin levels, which makes fat cells store more calories. Cutting out sugar will stabilize your insulin levels, reducing the number of calories that you store as fat. Those fewer calories will help you lose weight and prevent heart disease.
Less Sugar, No Matter How Old You Are
Cutting out added sugar is a smart move for people of all ages. However, it’s important to note that reducing sugar doesn’t mean you need to cut out all forms of it. There are some natural forms of sugar that you can eat, such as fruit and some vegetables. These are packaged with other nutrients, so they aren’t associated with health risks.