Sure, it tastes great, but it isn’t good for you. Sugar has become an all too common additive in most processed foods and we consume far too much, as a result.
Sugar has many forms (be it glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup) and is a major factor in the staggering epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in Canada. Nearly 1 in 3 Canadians is currently diagnosed with this disease and predictions estimate that this will rise to 1 in every 2 Canadians in the future.
Changes over time in our food consumption patterns support this trend.
Prior to World War 2, fructose consumption was roughly 16-24 gm/day. Today, adolescents consume roughly 73 gm/day. This represents roughly a 3-fold increase. Combine this with our more sedentary lifestyle and this is a recipe for poor health.
So how does sugar cause disease?
When we consume too much glucose, the body is being challenged with more than it requires. Insulin release from the pancreas is stimulated, which decreases our ability to burn fat and increases our fat storage. The addictive effects of sugar intake serve to makes things worse.
In fact, the impact of chronic sugar exposure is likely as problematic as tobacco. When our bodies become continually stressed by excess consumption of sugar over an extended period of time, we become obese and resistant to the effect of insulin. This can also lead to low level chronic inflammation in our systems.
So what is one to do?
Awareness is the first step in dealing with this problem. Read food labels. You will be surprised. Avoid processed foods such as yogurt, cereals, dressings, jams, etc. which are full of sugar. Even certain fruits and vegetables have a high glycemic index. (The glycemic index (GI) is a value used to measure how much specific foods increase blood sugar levels.) Bananas, grapes, dates and potatoes are but a few examples. Natural or not, the effect is the same. Avoid these as much as possible and seek out healthier alternatives, such as blueberries, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Choose whole foods low in refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Don’t drink your calories. Pop, fruit juices, smoothies and even those “healthy” milk alternatives are supplemented with sugar, to improve taste. The problem in this case is the speed with which the glucose bombards your system. Where possible, drink only water, and lots of it.
Reduce your overall calorie intake. Control your portions. We tend to “supersize” our meals which simply adds to the burden on our systems.
Go for a walk after a big meal. This is such a simple yet effective strategy.
Use alternative sweeteners. There are many safe alternatives out there. These include
Stevia and Monk fruit, both of which are derived from natural sources. Monk fruit is likely the best tasting substitute. Alcohol sugars such as Xylitol and Erythritol are also being used a lot and are commonly seen in “keto” products advertising low to no sugar. Allulose is also becoming recognized as helpful. In fact, some research suggests it may actually lower your blood sugar after consumption.
In summary, your best option is to become more aware of what is going in your shopping cart, eat less processed foods and exercise. When it comes to sugar consumption, less is indeed more.
The Tay River Medical Team