by Anna Marie Trotman
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
In late June I made a decision to completely eliminate added sugar, and a few other things from my diet for 21 days. I thought 21 days is nothing in the scheme of things, but it’s the mindset I had to get into. I felt so good after the first 21 days; I went on for another week and then another 21+ days, juicing and eating really healthy. Then one hot day in late August I went to a BBQ and there it was… ICE CREAM, oh and cookies! I thought what the heck and indulged. About 2 hours later I broke out in a rash which I attributed to the sugar binge.
What prompted the sugar detox was a lecture I heard from Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar. I was inspired by her story. Sarah didn’t realize how much sugar was hidden in her diet, or how much it was affecting her well-being. When she discovered that her sugar consumption could be the source of a lifetime of mood swings, fluctuating weight, sleep problems, and thyroid disease, she knew she had to make a change.
This story isn’t just Sarah’s story it’s a real problem for many of us. Growing up my mom loved to bake, she made cakes and pies, cookies and the best cinnamon buns ever. Although cakes and pies were for Sundays and special occasions, we ate the goodies sparingly and they lasted throughout the week. Today many of us rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. From marinara sauce to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products.
Sugar Makes Us Sick
Sugar consumption over the last century has risen dramatically and over the last 30 years has been a major cause of obesity and many other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, increased risk of cancer, allergies, acne, and the kicker is that sugar ages the body and causes wrinkles. Cancer cells love sugar and if you are prone to yeast infections those yeasty beasties are having a field day.
Rates of obesity are rising around the world and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose and high fructose corn syrup. When you reach for a can of coke the fructose increases your hunger and desire for food. The reason why is that excessive fructose consumption causes resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating. Bottom line is that excessive fructose consumption causes weight gain and can lead to visceral fat accumulation.
Sugar has been linked to Acne
A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of developing acne. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production, and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.
The prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years and the population for those with Type 2 Diabetes is getting younger and younger. There is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk. Prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Eating excessive amounts of sugar may increase your risk of developing certain cancers. First, a diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises your risk of cancer. The reason being diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk. You don’t have to consume a dozen doughnuts to be in the high-risk category. A study showed that women who consumed sweet buns and cookies more than three times per week were 1.5 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who consumed these foods less than 0.5 times per week. If you want to geek out you can read more here.
The Sugar Solution
We have a complex relationship with our food and what it does for and to our bodies. As you can see excessive sugar consumption has been shown to take a toll on our health in a variety of ways. Most Americans consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar per day and the recommended maximum is 6 teaspoons per day. Ultimately, no matter what we eat and regardless of the sugar sources, the body is very efficient in breaking our food into glucose.
Natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetable. Sugars are added during processing and are often labeled as fructose or high fructose corn syrup. Added sugars are found in soda, cookies, cakes, sauces, yogurt, dips, and candies. These sugars have no nutritional value.
The truth is that excess sugar in our diets, regardless of the source, can negatively impact health over time. Rather than focus only on your sugar intake, consider it a part of the whole picture and explore what types of food can crowd out the urge for that sugary treat. Be sensible about what is on your plate and go for unprocessed foods, fresh fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
You may want to do a 21-day detox from sugar, or you may simply want to be more diligent about not picking up processed foods that are laced with sugar. Instead of grabbing a candy bar at the supermarket, make a deal with yourself that you will only eat chocolate with a high cacao content and reap the benefits of a good chocolate treat. Experiment to see what works for you. The important thing is to be aware, read the labels and cut down on the bad sugars that can cause big problems down the road.