If you walk into any grocery store and look at the nutrition label of most packaged foods, you’ll notice sugar is added to almost everything. It’s hidden in many foods that we wouldn’t even normally think of like tomato sauces, breads, salad dressings, and protein bars. Added sugars, while providing sweetness and flavoring to foods, should be an ingredient to keep an eye on for health reasons. Added sugars can be labeled as names other than the typical cane sugar or brown sugar. Some other ones to watch out for include high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice. In fact, there are over 56 names that food companies can use as a name for sugar! Aside from adding unnecessary calories to your daily food intake, too much sugar can wreak havoc on our bodies by increasing inflammation and the risks of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases.
You may be thinking artificial sweeteners such as the common ones on every restaurant table are the perfect replacements, but those are just as bad, and potentially even worse than regular sugar. They may have zero calories, but they’re even sweeter to your taste buds than regular sugar without signaling satiety hormones (those that regulate hunger and fullness) and ultimately leading you to eat more and gain weight.
However, this does not mean we should be avoiding foods that naturally contain sugar, such as fruit. Fruits naturally contain sugar that are also bound to fiber, slowing the release of glucose into our blood. Fruit also contains antioxidants and micronutrients that are beneficial to our health. But do watch out for dried fruit, as packages usually add in sugar to enhance the flavor.
So what can you expect if you do cut out added sugar? Better sleep, more energy, increased focus, potential weight loss, and clearer skin are just a few examples. If you experience a sugar withdrawal, try increasing your intake of water throughout the day, as well as vegetables, fat, and protein with each meal.
There’s no harm in treating yourself to an occasional cupcake or cookie, but becoming aware of the amount of sugar you are consuming on a daily basis could benefit you long-term.
Courtney Susskind obtained her master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami. She has a passion for helping others live a healthier and happier lifestyle through food and behavior modifications. For nutrition consultations and further information, you can contact Courtney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram @livewellwithcourt.