I see a lot of patients in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice that love sugar…..and I myself am guilty of having a sweet tooth 🙂 So I wanted to write a blog about the impacts that sugar has on your body, and how to minimize these impacts if you want to indulge in some sugar every once in a while. After all, life is about balance.
Sugar is in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, beans, bread, pasta, rice, milk, cheese, and more. The sugar in these foods are digested slowly along with fat and protein in those foods, so your cells get a slow and steady supply of energy. The above foods also contain other nutrients such as fiber, minerals and antioxidants, so they are important to add to a well rounded diet.
In the long term, eating sugar regularly can contribute to the development of the following symptoms:
- Acne (increased insulin causes an increase in androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation)
- Increased blood pressure
- Fatty liver
- Elevated triglycerides in your cholesterol panel
- increased inflammation (causing such things as joint and muscle aches for example)
- tooth cavities (the bacteria that feed on sugar left behind in the mouth cause cavities)
- more rapid aging of skin by glycation of proteins that damage collagen and elastin, causing sagging skin)
- suppressed immune system
- increased cortisol levels (caused by fluctuations in blood sugar)
- people that tend to eat high sugar diets are eating sugar instead of high nutrient foods and so can be deficient in vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health)
So what other names could sugar be hidden behind in food labels?
- corn syrup
- high fructose corn syrup
- brown sugar
- corn sweetener
- sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose
- cane sugar
- rice syrup
- turbinado sugar
So what can we do to minimize sugar in our diet?
- Eat as clean as you can, with whole ingredients, and minimizing packaged/processed foods with long labels. Of course no can do this 100% of the time with our busy schedules and lifestyles, but this is where meal prepping and cooking ahead can help.
- Reduce/eliminate pop and fruit juice. The amount of sugar that can come from these drinks is astounding, and the worst part is that our body doesn’t always register the calories that comes from liquid, so we feel just as hungry as if we never drank them. I have patients that have lost body fat just from cutting out liquid calories
- Be vigilant of how much honey/sugar you are putting in your coffee and tea. Someone that drinks 4 coffees or teas a day with 1 teaspoon of sugar per cup is already up to 4 teaspoons of sugar per day.
- Flavor food with herbs and spices rather than premade cooking marinades, ketchup, etc.
- Switch your morning cereal to a higher protein meal such as eggs and veggies, or oatmeal with chia seeds, nuts, and blueberries.
- Switch your flavored yogurt to plain yogurt with your own toppings
- If you are constantly craving sugar, talk to me about assessing your protein intake in your diet, and certain nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium and chromium. I will assess you personally for this, and ensure the supplements I prescribe are safe for your particular health condition and/or any medications you are taking.
- If you are going to eat sugar, make sure you do it right after a protein containing meal. This will blunt the blood sugar and insulin spike that will occur that would be a lot higher if you were to just eat sugar.
- If you are craving chocolate, go for 2 squares of 70 to 90% dark cacao, which has less sugar than milk chocolate, and more benefits such as antioxidants. Combine this with some nuts to balance the blood sugar (sweet and salty anyone?!)
- If you are craving sugar because you are fatigued, talk to me about this at your next visit!
- Occasionally, enjoy a sweet treat of your choice and don’t feel guilty! Like I said, life is about balance, and is too short to not enjoy your favorite dessert when you really want it 🙂