By: Tayler Glenn
You may add a spoonful to your morning coffee or bake it into your favorite treats but, even if you know that too much sugar isn’t good for you, you’re probably still overdoing it. While sugar is an important nutrient for various bodily functions, Americans average about 20 teaspoons of added sugars per day! We know it upsets our stomach and makes us sluggish, but what is happening inside our bodies that makes excess sugar so bad for us?
Sugar & the American Diet
The diet of modern Americans—both adults and children—contains far too much of our favorite sweetener. What’s even more worrisome is that we often consume that sugar in fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This highly processed form of sugar is cheaper to produce & 20% sweeter making it a great option for companies, but not a great option for you.
No matter what it’s labeled as, sugar is sugar – but, how much is too much?
How Much Sugar Is Too Much Sugar?
Currently, the American Heart Association recommends that adults limit added sugar to ~5% of daily calories. For men, this means to less than 38 grams and less than 25 grams for women. The U.S Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015-2020 has set a more specific limit at 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day, but these don’t include naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruits.
What Too Much Sugar Does to Your Body
Your Brain Gets a Rush of Dopamine
Sugar, especially in excess, gives your brain a huge surge of dopamine – a neurochemical that makes you feel good and happy. Once your brain gets that feeling from sugar, naturally, it wants more! Eventually, your brain needs more and more sugar to get that same feeling. Certain whole foods may naturally contain enough sugar to trigger a slight dopamine response, but these don’t have the same high sugar concentration to cause the release a lot of the feel-good chemical which contributes to that uncontrollable need for sugary treats that are so hard to kick!
Your Blood Sugar Spikes, Then Crashes:
Your body releases insulin when you eat sugar or carbs to process it into useable energy. You may notice that you get a rush of energy and feel great at first – but, that feeling disappears as the insulin does its job and your blood sugar crashes. Over time, that abundance of sugar and the constant influx of insulin may cause your liver to become insulin resistant. This means your body isn’t able to control your blood sugar levels as well, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
You’ll Start to Feel More Tired:
Feeling sluggish is a pretty good indicator that you may be overdoing it on simple carbs & sugar. The insulin required to manage blood sugar levels can have a tiring effect, especially if your cravings keep you coming back for more. Not to mention, if you’re giving into those cravings more than you should then you may be missing out on important nutrients that actually help fuel your body like protein and fiber!
You’re Aching and Constantly Sick
If you’ve been taking more sick days and find it a little harder to stay up and moving without pain, sugar may be a contributing cause. Sugar has an inflammatory effect in your body and, with overconsumption and time, it may reach high enough levels to negatively impact your joints and suppress your immune system.
Your Clothes Are Tighter But You’re Still Hungry
It’s no secret that sugar has been linked to weight gain. One study even found that people who increased their sugar intake gained about 1.7 pounds in less than 2 months! This is partly due to the fact that high-sugar diets tend to be low in nutrients like fiber & protein that keep you full so you could be eating well over your maintenance calories and still feel ravenous. In addition, excess sugar can decrease your metabolism and increase the amount of fat your body stores by overloading your glycogen stores. Once those stores are filled, the remaining sugar you eat is converted to fat.
The most important thing here isn’t that sugar is evil. It’s that you should be keeping a healthy eye on the amount of added sugars and processed sweeteners you’re consuming on a daily basis.
With the many names and sneaky companies adding it to foods you’d never think to check, finding a way to cut back on eating or drinking sugar can be a challenge. Fortunately, you’ve got a great program on your side that’s ready to help you start making better decisions for you! With the right awareness & education, you’ll be prepared to find alternative foods options, navigate food labels, and make sound decisions for a better life.
We’re ready when you are! Click here to start your journey today.