Sugar is not a treat!
Updated: Jul 22, 2019
I’ve officially declared war to refined sugar and I’m on a mission to raise awareness about its effects on our health (mental and physical). Refined sugar is a sneaky vilain, highly addictive, insidious … and yet so delicious, which is precisely where the issue lies in.
What’s the difference between natural sugar vs refined sugar?
Natural sugar comes in fruit, along with fiber, water, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients which help fight diseases and improve health. It’s a carbohydrate that is broken down to provide energy to each cell of the body, to supply the brain with glucose, and to deliver fuel for muscles and organs. Your body needs it to function well, and most importantly it knows how to process it.
On the other hand, refined sugar (called sucrose) comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are both severely processed to extract the sugar. It’s an “empty food”, it doesn’t benefit the body in any possible way as it has absolutely no nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fats or amino acids. The body can’t process it, it’s stored in the liver as fat.
In any case, whether is natural or refined, sugar is sugar so you should watch your intake.
Where does refined sugar hide?
I was discussing with friends the other night, and they thought they had a low-sugar diet because they drink their coffee black and never eat sweets or cakes. That is a good start indeed, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t consume sugar daily.
Sugar is e-very-where, even in so-called healthy food. The Food Industry adds chemically produced sugar – mainly high fructose corn syrup (the devil itself) – to most processed foods and drinks.
Let’s see a few examples of products that contain added sugar, and the list is far from being exhaustive:
- Packaged breads (including “whole grain” kinds)
- Granola bars (even the ones that says ‘super duper healthy’) and protein bars
- Breakfast cereal
- Canned soups
- Tomato sauce
- Salad dressings
- Sweetened yogurts
- Ready meals
- Bottled juice, sport drinks
At first glance, there is nothing wrong with this list of foods, and that’s precisely why it is scary! Most people consume these products without knowing that they contain lots of sugar.
How much added sugar can I consume daily?
To give you a rough idea, according to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you should eat in a day are 9 teaspoons (36 g) for men and 6 teaspoons (24 g) for women. I’m not speaking in terms of calories because calories from an avocado are much different than calories from a chocolate bar. Just keep in mind that it’s not the number that counts but the source.
I’ve analysed a few nutritional facts labels just out of curiosity:
100% bottled Orange Juice: 12 g of sugar for 120ml = 3 teaspoons of added sugar
Granola: 14 g of sugar for 60 g = 3,5 teaspoons of added sugar
Low-fat fruit yogurt: between 8 g and 16 g per serving = between 2 and 4 teaspoons of added sugar
So just with breakfast you've exceeded the recommended daily amount of added sugar! You can go back to bed, really.
Salad dressing : 5,5 g of sugar for 2 tablespoons = 1,5 teaspoons of sugar
Canned tomato soup: 9 g for 230 ml = 2,2 teaspoons of sugar
(Tip: To calculate number of teaspoons, simply divide sugars by 4. There are 4 grams sugar per teaspoon)
What’s wrong with too much refined sugar?
Obviously, sugar is the first enemy of your teeth and your bum, but not only. Too much refined sugar is also harmful to the joints, skin, liver, heart, pancreas, kidneys, mood and sexual health.
Research have shown a clear link between refined sugar and killer diseases such as type-2 diabetes, cancers (cancer feeds on sugar!) and heart diseases. Sugar is also responsible for high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Have you ever heard of fatty liver (actually typical of heavy drinkers)? It literally means your liver fills with fat, which makes it hard for it to work well. This then causes inflammation, and therefore increases your risk for developing a number of chronic diseases.
Finally, you know, that belly fat that’s so difficult to get rid of? It’s sugar! It’s that sneaky vilain, hiding there because the body can’t do anything with it.
How is refined sugar affecting the brain?
Sugar is one of the biggest causes of food addiction, and it has serious impact on the brain. It works the same way as nicotine, alcohol and cocaine: it makes the addict feel good with it, and empty without. It triggers the same area of the brain called the reward system, the one that tells you: Have that, it will make you feel good… Come on, have some more!
You’ll get a nice kick, but it never lasts long before you need the next intake. You get a sugar rush, then a sugar crash. It also impacts your mood as refined sugar causes you to experience energy highs and lows, and sugar cravings. Does it sound familiar?
Watch this Ted Ed video on how sugar affects the brain, it explains it well.
Here is a piece of evidence: if someone addicted to sugar stops sugar altogether, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms such as a splitting headache, fatigue, cramps and nausea… just like drug addicts!
How can I avoid refined sugar?
Read my blog post here.