The effects of too much sugar in your diet (and consequently, on your body) should not be ignored. While it can be challenging to eliminate or at least regulate sugar consumption, it’s something that deserves your best effort.
After all, the medical research on the impact of your sugar intake on your long-term health is both wide-ranging and deeply-rooted, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Read on to more about why and how to start weaning off the sweet stuff.
What Does Sugar Consumption Do To Your Blood Sugar Levels?
The free sugars in the foods you eat are converted into blood sugar, which is what your body relies on as fuel to function. Any excess sugar is stored in your cells for future use.1
The biggest source of sugar is carbohydrates. These cause the largest spikes in your blood sugar levels — grains, sugary drinks, bread, and other highly-processed carbs dictate what your blood sugar (and subsequent insulin resistance) looks like. Other components in your diet, like protein, fiber, and fats, aren’t considered added sugar in your body, but they do affect how sugar is digested and how efficiently it is distributed.2
Consuming too many carbs, and therefore too much sugar, may lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels. This has an impact on your health over time.
Effect Of High Blood Sugar
The rise in your blood sugar levels triggers a complex system of reactions in your body. When you finish eating, and as your body begins breaking down the sugars in the carbs you’ve just consumed, your pancreas begins making insulin.3
Insulin is the hormone integral to the proper release and storage of blood sugar — that all-important fuel needed by your brain and body to survive and thrive. However, constant spikes that bombard your body with high blood sugar levels may lead to something called insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, your cells start struggling to respond to insulin and its intended effect. When this happens, blood sugar levels remain constantly elevated. This can have a negative effect on your health.4
What Might Having High Blood Sugar Feel Like?
Here’s an alarming fact: an estimated 84 million people are currently suffering from high blood sugar (and feeling its effects) — but either don’t know they have the problem, or they won’t do anything about it.5
Having high blood sugar may affect your body in ways you might not even notice, or you might not make the connection right away. But even if you weren’t aware of it, some of its effects might be undermining your daily functions and performance. Some ways your body might be manifesting your high sugar diet may include:
- Frequent thirst and hunger
- The constant need to urinate
- Headaches and/or decreased focus
- Vision issues6
Even more alarming are some of the possible long-term effects of constantly eating too much added sugar in your diet. These include:
- Weight issues
- Impaired or suppressed immune function
- Nerve problems
- Oral health problems7
Note: If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor.
Sugary Foods And Tooth Decay
Eating too much added sugar also plays a direct role in undermining good oral health. Eating a lot of added sugar or refined sugar impacts the level of sugar in your saliva. This directly contributes to the formation of plaque on your teeth and gum line, which is one of the primary causes of tooth decay and gum issues.8
In addition to potentially eroding tooth enamel and causing cavities, plaque buildup can cause painful swelling and bleeding, bad breath, and mouth sores that take a long time to resolve.9
What’s A Sweet Tooth To Do? Sources Of Natural Sugar Or Safe Sweeteners
Cutting down on your added sugar intake is certainly a big help in avoiding the potential risks of a high sugar diet.
- Choose water over sugary drinks.
- Resist the urge to add refined sugar to your breakfast dishes (like oatmeal and cereal). Try eating more wholesome breakfasts flavored with unsweetened applesauce and fresh fruit.
- Reduce your consumption of sweet snacks, like cookies and other desserts.
Healthier Sugar Sources
There are a lot of natural sugars in fresh, ripe fruit. Adding fresh fruit to sweeten your oatmeal and granola bowls, smoothies, or even iced teas can do a lot to help satisfy your sweet tooth. Instead of ice cream for dessert, consider eating a bowl of fresh fruit instead. You’ve got lots of options when it comes to natural sugars in your daily diet.
Read Labels Carefully
You can also consider reading food labels more judiciously. Avoid processed foods high in high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or syrup, or those enriched with concentrates — these are all just fancy names for added sugar.10
The healthiest, most sugar-free foods are the ones you’ve made yourself in your own kitchen, where you can see exactly what goes into them.
And while artificial sweeteners can do just as much harm to your health, there are some sugar alternatives that are perfectly fine to consume. You don’t have to say goodbye to added sugar entirely. There are also some new, safer sugar alternatives out in the market now. Aside from stevia, there is monk fruit — a Southeast Asian fruit that is over 100 times sweeter than sugar, yet contributes zero calories. Sweeteners derived from monk fruit are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so feel free to ask your doctor about finding and using this natural sugar alternative to sweeten your food and drinks.11
How Much Sugar You’re Eating (Or Not Eating) Paints A Picture Of Your Health
Living a sugar-free (or a low sugar) lifestyle should be the goal to stay healthy and happy. Now that you know some of the effects of too much added sugar in your diet, you can make wise, informed choices in your daily diet.
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