How Sugar Affects Your Health (guest post)
I'm excited to have a guest post today from Heidi Hackler of HappyWellLifestyle.com! I asked her to share some tips with us after reading her Kick Your Sugar Habit guide. Such great information, especially for those of you who, like me, are addicted to sugar. Thank you to Heidi for sharing this with us!
As people become more aware of the health detriments of sugar these days, many people are starting to cut back on sugary drinks and sweets. But is cutting out sugary drinks and sweets enough to make a difference in your health?
It’s a great start. However, with sugar lurking in all kinds of hidden places, and food manufacturing companies constantly changing the name of high fructose corn syrup just to keep us on our toes, you may be consuming far more sugar than you realize.
Are You at Risk for High Blood Sugar or Diabetes?
It’s estimated that 86 million Americans have high blood sugar or pre-diabetes. And diabetes now affects about 9% of the world’s population, including 30 million Americans. Although obesity is a key factor in blood sugar diseases, 15% of diabetics and pre-diabetics have a normal body weight, and many people are totally unaware that they have a blood sugar problem.
High blood sugar can wreak havoc on your health with symptoms like: excessive thirst; headaches; blurred or decreased vision, slow healing scrapes and skin infections; nerve damage to fingers and toes; intestinal disorders; and blood vessel or kidney damage.
If you or someone you know has high blood sugar, there are many ways to change or modify your diet to help bring your blood sugar back in check. Though I didn’t have high blood sugar, I went from being a sugar-junkie, to cutting it out cold turkey so I know it can be done.
Several years ago I watched a 60 Minutes story on sugar. What I learned about how sugar damages the body shocked me. Then I saw this great TedEd presentation on How Sugar Affects the Brain
I cut back on my sugar intake immediately, but I still didn’t cut it out entirely. So how did I kick my sugar habit?
Nutrition school reinforced what I’d learned about the detriments of sugar. With new research, scientists and doctors are learning about the addictive effects of sugar on your brain, and how sugar is potentially linked to many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
We all have cancerous cells growing inside us at any given time. Typically our immune system fights them off. But if our immune system is compromised from a high-sugar diet, damaged cells can start to grow out of control. That freaked me out, and I quit eating refined or added sugar.
What Health Risks Does Eating Sugar Pose?
For this article, we’re just talking about “added refined sugar” not natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables, or alcohol and other carbohydrates that turn to sugar once digested.
Sugar exacerbates arthritis. It is the most inflammatory food you can eat, and causes the body to retain excess weight. Inflamed fat cells can actually hold more fat. The extra weight then aggravates the joints and increases arthritis pain.
Sugar consumption leads to dehydrated, more wrinkled skin. Skin needs plenty of water to stay hydrated. For age-defying, toxin-free, GMO-free, organic skincare products check out Neil’s Yard Remedies Organic.
Sugar can make your cold or flu worse. When you catch a cold or flu, sugar fuels the virus or bacteria to grow and then hinders your immune system in fighting it off.
Cancer cells thrive on sugar. Consider this: cancer cells have eight-times the sugar receptors as healthy cells. This one scared me straight off of sugar.
New studies show that inflammation from sugar consumption causes plaque build-up in the arteries and brain.
Plaque in the arteries can tear off and cause clots and strokes.
Plaque in the brain has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Each of these items alone is enough reason to stop eating sugar. Combined they create an unhealthy pattern of wellness issues linked to sugar consumption. Though the U.S. is leading the way, this is a global health crisis. Sadly as the US markets our sugar-filled-processed-fast-foods around the world, obesity, cancer, and heart disease are skyrocketing all over the globe.
So How Can You Kick Your Sugar Habit Before It Kicks You?
What you may not know is that because sugar is so addictive (estimated 4-times more addictive than cocaine) high-jacks your taste buds and your brain’s pleasure centers, making you physically crave more and more. If you can stay completely off of sugar for the 7-10 days it takes your taste buds to regenerate, chances are you won’t crave sugar any more.
Read Labels. Learn how much sugar you are actually eating. Many traditionally “non-sweetened” foods now contain sugar. Check your salad dressings, pasta sauce, and mustard. Or better yet, stick to non-processed whole foods, and make your own dressings and sauces from scratch so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.
Eat <25 grams of added sugar per day (that’s six teaspoons). When you start to add up how many grams you may have been eating you might be shocked.
Drink an 8oz glass of water every time you crave sugar. Many times dehydration is really behind your sugar craving.
Fill up on Veggies. Veggies have a lot of fiber, which helps to slow digestion and prevent the carbs from spiking your blood sugar.
Weight-loss is an added benefit of a no- or low-sugar diet. When I cut out sugar I dropped about 15 pesky pounds that I could never lose, and have kept it off. That was the only change to my diet or fitness routine.
The non-profit SugarScience.org is a great resource for more info on the health effects of sugar. If you like this article and want to read more about healthy lifestyle habits and yummy recipes visit HappyWellLifestyle.com. And a big thanks to Amy for this chance to write for Everyday Yoga Escape!
Heidi Hackler is a Certified Holistic Health Coach (CHHC) and blogger at HappyWellLifestyle.com, inspiring healthy habits into action. Heidi also writes for Deepak Chopra’s Chopra.com about nutrition, and she is proud to be an independent consultant for UK-based NYR Organic, offering organic, fair-trade, sustainable, cruelty-free, and vegetarian personal care products.