Why You Should Avoid Refined Sugars
The Problem with Refined Sugar
It’s no wonder that refined sugar and processed foods have become a topic of conversation. The USDA figures have shown a stark increase of consumption of sweeteners, especially in nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods over the past 50 years.
There is evidence that refined sugar contributes to a wide array of issues such as tooth decay, obesity, nutrient deficiencies and hypoglycemia as well as increased total cholesterol, decreased “good” cholesterol or HDL and diabetes. As an inflammatory food, sugar can also contribute to inflammatory processes in the body such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, headaches and muscle pain.
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars adults should consume in a day is ~ 9 tsp for men (37.5 grams or 150 calories per day) and ~ 6 tsp for women (25 grams or 100 calories per day). While that may sound like a lot, it’s really not. For instance, one 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 36 grams of added sugar at 140 calories. (If you were eating a whole foods diet with no other sources of added sugar, you could barely consume one soda a day!)
While there are many lifestyle interventions that help address the root causes to these symptoms mentioned above, eliminating refined sugar should be prioritized seeing as added sugar and “empty” calories make up about 40% of the average Americans daily intake of calories. In fact, statistics show that more than 90% of Americans consume more sugar than the guidelines recommend, averaging around 126 grams or about 25 tsp per day.
“If you were eating a whole foods diet with no other sources of added sugar, you could barely consume one soda a day!”
This is no surprise as refined sugar is often hidden in products like spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, crackers, canned soup and even canned vegetables. Refined sugar is stripped of all of its natural vitamins and minerals, making it truly “empty” or non-nutritive calories while sweeteners like blackstrap molasses is actually nutrient-rich with iron, calcium, potassium and B vitamins.
It becomes even more difficult to discover these hidden sugars because these added sugars are often intentionally hidden under unique names including: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, honey, glucose, sucrose, and sorbitol. Luckily, most products now include a section on their food label titled “added sugars” so that you can distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. It’s so important to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is found excessively in processed foods, soda and condiments. HFCS is a thick liquid sugar that is made from corn starch and it has a high fructose content which both has a high glycemic index and can be difficult to digest.
While this may seem overwhelming (because it is!), some lifestyle and dietary changes can have profound effects on your body. In fact, when you replace calories from refined sugar with calories from high-fiber, nutrient-dense whole foods, you not only eliminate inflammation, but you support anti-inflammatory processes in the body.
Tips to lower your refined sugar intake:
- While it’s important to focus on whole foods (without labels), when you are purchasing a food product with a label, read its ingredients!Ingredients on a food label are listed by weight in descending order. Count the number of sweeteners present and ensure that they are not within the first ingredients.
- When making choices at the store, it’s better to choose products/baking supplies with a lower glycemic index (one that does not cause a spike in blood sugar) such as naturally occurring sweeteners such as fruit juice, pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, fructose, stevia, monk fruit or date sugar.
- So if added sugar is bad, what about artificial sweeteners? There are many alternative sweeteners available; however, many are pure chemicals while others are naturally occurring substances like stevia (powdered/liquid forms which has no impact on blood sugar and monk fruit which has a lower glycemic index. It’s important to avoid all artificial sweeteners including NutraSweet, Splenda, Acesulfame, and Sweet N’Low, which can disrupt the body’s ability to estimate calorie intake and may lead to overeating. You may also be someone who experiences allergic reactions to these sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners also encourage our taste buds to desire more and more sweet foods. (ie: even Stevia should be used in moderation)
- Aspartame (ie: NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful) has been shown to contribute to an overwhelming quantity of adverse reactions ranging from headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, mood instability, blindness and memory loss.
- Splenda (ie: Sucralose) is chlorinated sugar which is only partially absorbed by the body. It has been associated with impacts on the thymus gland, enlarged liver and kidneys, miscarriages and diarrhea in animal studies. There has not been long-term research conducted on humans.
- Acesulfame-K has been shown to increase risk of cancer and elevate cholesterol in animal studies.
If you would like to know more, or would like to learn how to make changes in your diet, reach out to us at Vida and let us help you make the right changes to live a happier healthier lifestyle.
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