Coke, ice cream, chocolate… Those are the first things that come to my mind when I hear the word sugar. The truth is that even if you are not eating cans of ice cream and liters of coke on a daily, sugar is still very present in your diet.
The truth is you’re likely eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste all that sweet, like bread, condiments, and sauces. And it adds up: although the American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day (or about 100 calories), most of us take in double that. (We’re talking about added sugar, not the naturally occurring sugars found in dairy and fruit.)
There are two basic types of sugars: refined sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Refined sugar is the sugar added to foods, often desserts. However, refined sugars are showing up more in unexpected places – bread, cereal, granola bars, spaghetti sauce, and frozen foods included.
This article discusses If sugar can really increase your chances of getting cancer, types of sugar to avoid, and 5 ways to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
HOW SUGAR AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH
Many people blame sugar for weight gain and other problems. However, sugar is an important nutrient and shouldn’t be written off as something you shouldn’t have in your diet at all.
At a basic level, sugar is a carbohydrate. This explains why many people feel a rush of energy when they consume foods high in sugar. There are three types of sugars, although two are more common than the others: monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose and disaccharides include sucrose, lactose, and maltose. You likely recognize some of these words and know that fructose is sugar found in fruits and lactose is sugar found in dairy products.
The wrong types of sugars, meaning added, refined sugars, can be bad for your health. Two of the most common health problems caused by excessive sugar consumption are:
- Cholesterol – too much sugar can harm blood lipids, causing problems with cholesterol. This can escalate into bigger issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Insulin resistance (prediabetes) – when you consume large amounts of sugar, your body becomes resistant to insulin, which tells fat cells to pick up fat from the bloodstream and hold on to fat already being carried. This process often causes obesity and can cause type 2 diabetes as well.
As you can imagine, there are many more health problems caused by too much sugar. However, excessive sugar is often found in Western diets, leading to the common issues above.
DOES SUGAR CAUSE CANCER?
Cancer cells absolutely love sugar! That is why refined carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, high fructose corn syrup and soft drinks are extremely dangerous for anyone trying to prevent or reverse cancer. Sugar essentially feeds tumors and encourages cancer growth. Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. In fact, that is the basis of PET (positron emission tomography) scans — one of the most accurate tools for detecting cancer growth. PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells.
When patients drink the sugar water, it gets preferentially taken up into the cancer cells and they light up! The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, PhD, discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. He found that malignant tumors exhibit increased glycolysis — a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer — as compared with normal cells.
WHAT TYPES OF SUGAR SHOULD YOU AVOID?
It is very important to know that not all sugar is bad sugar. This makes it important to understand what you should cut out and what you can leave in.
A good rule of thumb is that if the sugar is naturally occurring, it’s safe to leave in your diet. This means you can continue to consume fruits and vegetables without worrying about the negative effects on your body. It’s the refined sugars added to many fruit juices, yogurts, snack foods, and other food sources that can cause the adverse effects above.
Added sugar is typically lurking in processed foods under different names. Here are some of the ingredients you should be on the lookout for when you’re trying to reduce sugar in your diet:
- cane juice/syrup
- corn sweeteners (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
- fruit juice concentrate
- malt syrup
These are just a few of the ways that sugar can sneak past even the smartest dieters. As you can see, you need to read labels carefully.
HERE ARE 5 TIPS TO REDUCE SUGAR IN YOUR DIET
- Read labels – sugar can be anywhere under many different names. Don’t assume that it isn’t in the foods you’re buying. Read every label to ensure sugar isn’t sneaking its way back into your diet.
- Drink more water – added sugar can be found in most teas, sports drinks, and sodas. If you want to save calories and reduce your risk of health problems, reaching for water when you’re thirsty is a simple way to do so.
- Eat a balanced diet – a healthy balance of fats and protein is key to avoid the sugar cravings that will compromise your diet. Fats are especially satiating and will keep you feeling satisfied between meals.
- Buy unsweetened products when possible – nut butter, applesauce, oatmeal, and jams are just some of the products you can buy unsweetened.
- Don’t force yourself to give up sugar –It’s important you leave some sugar in your diet to ensure you don’t feel deprived. The best way to do this is to use less sweetener in your coffee or to cut out the richest source of sugar in your diet but allow other sources to remain.