On health front We’re all unique and you need to figure out what works for you. Some people can handle a little bit of more sugar in their diet, while for others it causes cravings and binge eating. Eating too much sugar is linked to weight gain and various diseases like Obesity, Diabetes Type II, Brain Stroke, rampant Heart disease, certain cancers, tooth decay, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and a lot more.

What is sugar addiction: When we eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, a massive amount of dopamine (a hormone) is released in an area of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens and we feel pleasure there in. When we continue to eat these foods often and in large amounts, the dopamine receptors start to down-regulate. Now there are fewer receptors for the dopamine. So that means, next time we eat these foods, their effect is bluntedi.e. we do not feel the same level of pleasure. We will need more junk food next time we eat in order to get the same level of pleasure/ reward.

 

Sugar and other junk foods, due to their powerful effect on the pleasure/reward centers of the brain, function similarly to drugs of abuse like opium, marijuana cocaine, nicotine and sexual pleasure. Yeah, the exact same brain centers are at play in case of sugar addiction. People who have a certain pre-disposition to addiction become addicted to these foods and lose control over their consumption. And are hand to mouth. Hand to mouth, HAND TO MOUTH. I mean hand into the mouth. This is how sugar and other Junk Foods “hijack” the brain hormonal functioning to make us crave more and eat more compulsively. This is the reason, why we lose control over sugar consumption and daily fail in succession.

Why Sugar Consumption Is Extremely High? Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the present day diet. It provides calories with no added nutrients and can damage our metabolism- for sure- in the long run.

It is very important to make the distinction between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables.

Eat every three to four hours during the day and don’t skip breakfast. When we’re very hungry, we tend to eat more than we usually need, resulting in additional calories and resultant weight gain. Drink more water, coconut water and less alcohol, which is high in calories but low in nutrition. Ramp up the intake of vegetables and fruits and cut back on refined carbohydrates and processed foods. The less sugar you eat, the healthier you will be. A natural, zerocalorie alternative to sugar is Stevia.

Healthy foods that contain water, fiber and various micronutrients are good for us. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables and other fruits mostly are absolutely fine. However, added sugars are those that are added to foods. The most common added sugars are regular table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup. If you want to contain or lose weight and optimize your health, then you should do your best to avoid foods that contain added sugars.

 

How much sugar we can consume every day without harm: Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Some people can eat some sugar without harm, while others should avoid it as much as possible.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:

The American Heart Association recommends the following:

4Men eat no more than 150 calories per day (or about nine teaspoons or 36 grams*).

4Women eat to no more than 100 calories per day (six teaspoons or 20 grams)

4Children should not go beyond three teaspoons of sugar per day, which equates to 12 grams.

*One tea spoon is equal to 4.2 gram

** Men and Women leading a sedentary life style need to eat even less sugar Sugar consumption in kids Children are consuming more sugar than the stipulated bench mark.

One cup of Fruit Loops contains 15.75 gm of sugar? That’s over the recommended amount for kids in a day . Most of the cereals are good for bad health. The key is read the labels and in some cases the labels are misleading.

In case You’re Overweight or Obese: If you are overweight, obese, diabetic or suffering from the western diet in any way, then you should probably reduce sugar as much as possible. In that case, you should NOT be consuming sugar above normal level every day. Stick to real, single ingredient foods and avoid processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. It’s important to note that there is no need for added sugars in the diet. They don’t serve any physiological purpose. They are good for bad health.

How we can minimize Sugars in The Diet: Avoid these foods, in order of importance:

Soft drinks: Sugar-sweetened beverages are awful, you should avoid this ab initio.

Fruit juices: This may surprise you, but fruit juices actually contain the same amount of sugar as soft drinks. Homemade orange juice with fiber in it made by Nutri Bullet type juicer is an excellent choice. Smoothie in coconut milk or no/ low-fat milk or water a great choice.

Candies and sweets: You should drastically limit your consumption of sweets.

Baked goods: Cookies, cakes, etc. These tend to be very high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Fruits canned in syrup: Choose fresh fruits instead subject to availability.

Low-fat or diet foods: Foods that have had the fat removed from them are often very high in sugar.Check them before you go for the same.

Dried fruits: Avoid dried fruits as much as possible. Prefer fresh fruits with lower Glycemic Index. Drink water and Coconut Water instead of sugar in recipes, you can try things like cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, vanilla, ginger or lemon to satisfy your taste buds. Just be creative and use google to find recipes. You can eat an endless variety of amazing foods even though you eliminate sugar from your diet.

Since you want to be healthy, then you really shouldn’t be consuming foods that have sugar added to them. Soft drinks, baked goods, processed foods; these foods have no place in the diet of someone who is health conscious and overweight in particular. Be aware that other sugars often labelled healthy like agave, honey, organic cane sugar and coconut sugar fall into the same bad category. On sugar front honey (being processed) is as bad as sugar for a Diabetic person. A diabetic person can safely use Raw Honey instead of table sugar in moderation as honey is more dense and heavy; and has more calories than sugar. One tablespoon of honey (Raw one) has about 64 calories, and one tablespoon of sugar has around 49 calories. The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a particular carbohydrate may raise blood sugar levels. The GI for honey is around 55, which is considered a low GI food. Table sugar’s GI is 65. The honey we buy from shops is processed one i.e. it is heated and filtered and no good. Few brands are selling not-pure honey being loaded with various types of sugar.Sugar molecules end in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose). Read the labels carefully.”

Sugar in Processed Foods: The best way to cut back on sugar is to simply avoid processed foods and satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits instead. Processed foods are loaded with sugar of different types. Manufactures may trick you. Read the labels carefully.

Learn to read labels: Learn to read the labels. Trans fat up to 0.5 gm and starch is never shown on the label. Sugar is shown under different ways. For Example: sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup and more.

Why Added Sugar is Bad for You: Added sugar can cause harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to many diseases. Though, whether a sugar is “added” or “natural,” the body processes it the same way. But the difference lies in where those types are usually found. — and how your body ends up dealing with them. Fruits typically have a lot of sugar, but they have fiber, too. Eating fiber allows your body to digest sugar very slowly, so you don’t get the devastating crash from a sugar high. Processed foods with added sugars, however, have typically kick the fiber out, so the sugar will enter your bloodstream more quickly, and you’ll likely be hungry again soon. This is the reason why we feel hungry after one hour of carbohydrate loaded breakfast. Those who eat lean protein and unsaturated fat in Breakfast are not hungry for 4 hrs. at least.

Added Sugar Contains No Essential Nutrients and damage teeth: There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar, just empty calories. Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a whole bunch of empty calories and also cause tooth decay by feeding the harmful bacteria in the mouth.

 

High in Fructose, Which Can Overload Your Liver Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars… glucose and fructose.

No other country has sweet shops like we South Asians have. Time is ripe for our sweet shops to have Nutrition Facts on their products so that consumers can calculate the sugar, fat, fibre and calories they are consuming. This vibrant community- blessed with a giving nature- looks toward the Physicians in the community et al to come to her rescue. Any takers?

Glucose is found in every living cell on the planet. If we don’t get it from the diet, our bodies produce it as per requirement.

Fructose is different. Our bodies do not produce it in any significant amount and there is no physiological need also for it. The thing with fructose is that it can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amounts. It is not a problem if we eat a little bit of it (such as from fruit). In this case, the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it. However, if the liver is already full of glycogen (much more common), eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. And we gain weight as such.

When repeatedly eating large amounts of sugar, this process can lead to fatty liver and all sorts of serious problems. Keep in mind that all of this does NOT apply tofruit. It is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.

There is also massive individual variability here. People who are healthy and active can tolerate more sugar than people who are inactive and eat a Western, high-carb, high-empty calorie diet.

Overloading the Liver with Fructose Can Cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: When fructose gets turned into fat in the liver, some of it get mixed in the blood as VLDL Cholesterol and may affect heart health. The remainder of the fat stay in the liver. This can lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), a growing problem in Western countries that is strongly associated with metabolic diseases. Courtesy, present day highly processed diets we buy from Drive Through or inside. Recent studies show that individuals with fatty liver, consume up to 2-3 times as much fructose as the average person.

Sugar Can Cause Insulin Resistance: Insulin is a very important hormone that allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and the cells, in turn, burn glucose as a prime fuel in a healthy body. The sad feature of the Western diet (being highly processed and sugar loaded) is that it slowly results in metabolic dysfunction; that means insulin stops working as it should. The cells become “resistant” to insulin and stop opening their gates and then sugar cannot get lodged into the cells and remain in the blood and raise blood sugar levels regularly, which result in blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.

Many studies show that sugar over consumption is associated with insulin resistance; which is believed to be a leading cause of many diseases… including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and especially type II diabetes. The Insulin Resistance definitely lead to Type II Diabetes: When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the beta cellswhich produce insulin- in our pancreas start making more of it, though sugar level continue to be high in the blood. This is crucial, because chronically elevated blood sugar do cause severe harm as mentioned above. Eventually, as insulin resistance becomes progressively worse, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand of producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down.

At this point, blood sugar levels skyrocket and a diagnosis of type II diabetes is made by your Doctor. Given that excess sugar can cause insulin resistance, it is not surprising to see that people who drink sugarsweetened beverages have up to an 80 % higher risk of having Type II Diabetes. Excess Sugar consumption can lead to Cancer: There is considerable evidence that sugar, due to its harmful effects on metabolism, can contribute to cancer.

Many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of excess sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer. Sugar has Unique Fat-Promoting Effects: Different foods can have different effects on our brains and the hormones that control food intake. Studies show that fructose (sugar in fruits) doesn’t have the same kind of effect on satiety (hunger satisfaction) as glucose. Fructose doesn’t cause satiety in the brain or lower the hunger promoting hormone ghrelin nearly as much as glucose.

Though it Causes Massive Dopamine Release in The Brain which lead to pleasure feeling. Added Sugars vs Natural Sugars – Big Difference As per Statistics Canada, on average, in 2004, Canadians consumed 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons. Mathematically, it is 40 Kg per year and out of that 50 percent (20 kg) is added sugar, which can be avoided by us in a planned manner. According to the American Heart Association, there are two types of sugars found in our diets.

There are those that are truly natural that come from foods like grains, fruit and vegetables, and there are added sugars and artificial sweeteners, such as those little blue, yellow and pink packets (avoid using them) found at the coffee stand; white sugar; brown sugar; and even chemically manufactured sugars like high fructose corn syrup. These added sugars are ingredients that are in foods like soft drinks, fruit drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and grains like waffles, many breads and cereals. Some foods are simply lower in sugar content: One cup of sliced strawberries contains 50 calories, 13 grams, 8 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fiber. With 4 calories per gram, more than 60 percent of the calories in a cup of strawberries comes from sugar. But it’s still lower in sugar than other popular fruits, including bananas and apples.

A cup of sliced bananas has 34 grams of carbs and 30 grams of sugar, and a cup of sliced apples contains 15 grams of carbs and 13 grams of sugar. If you opt for that 20-ounce can of soda, here’s what you get instead: 225 calories, zero nutrients and 60 grams of added sugar, in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Which one sounds more appealing? The soda or the strawberries? Those added sugars, which are placed in sauces, breads and pastas, in addition to excessive amounts in sweets, beverages and cereals, put unnecessary calories into the diet and cause inflammation, disease and more. While it may increase energy briefly, it does not add much-needed nutrients. How to Reduce Sugar Intake successfully: Reducing sugar intake is not as hard as you think, but if you’re addicted, it can take some practice and commitment as in every case.

The American Heart Association shares some great tips on how to reduce sugar. Put these ideas into practice on a regular basis, and in no time, you will reduce sugar and reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity: 4Remove sugar, syrup, honey and molasses from your cupboard and table. 4If you use sugar in your coffee, tea, cereal, pancakes, etc., cut back. Use half the amount you usually use to start and even less over time. And no artificial sweeteners! 4Drink water instead of flavored beverages and juices. 4Buy fresh fruits instead of fruits that are canned, especially those in syrups. 4Instead of adding sugar to your morning cereal, use fresh bananas or berries. 4When baking, cut the sugar by one third. Just try it! You probably won’t even notice. 4Try using spices, such as ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg, instead of sugar. Try unsweetened applesauce instead of sugar in recipes. 4Consider pure stevia, (a zero-calorie plant sugar) but use in moderation as It’s very sweet, so you don’t need much. By inculcating discipline on the dining table, we can slowly and steadily succeed in a planned matter. But those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

 

Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM A freelance writer with 36 Years Exp. A Diabetes Coach of University of Victoria