We ave always been advised by doctors and our elders to lessen the sugar intake on daily basis. But why do we need to? What happens in the brain that makes sugary foods so hard to resist?
Sugar is a general term used to describe a class of molecules called carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods and drinks. There are several types of sugar. Sugars occur naturally in a range of foods, including fruit and dairy products, and are also added to a variety of other products. It is available in a variety of forms, including white, raw, and brown sugar, as well as honey and corn syrup.
Naturally Occurring Sugars Vs Added Sugars. What’s the Difference?
Sugars exist naturally in foods in two forms: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.
- Natural Sugars. Sugars naturally occur in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). It contains sugars found naturally in a variety of healthful foods and beverages, such as sugar found in milk and fruits, as well as any sugars added to the product.
- Added Sugars. Sugars or caloric sweeteners added during the manufacturing or preparation of meals or beverages are considered added sugars (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal).
They do not contain sugars present naturally in milk, fruits, and vegetables. This sugar isn’t just found in candies and desserts. It is also added to tomato sauces and yogurt, dried, canned fruit, flavored water, and granola bars. According to the AHA, added sugars provide no nutrients and are empty calories that “may result in more pounds, or even obesity, so impairing heart health.”
How To Find Added Sugars in Your Food.
Read the Nutrition Facts label on food to determine the amount of added sugar intake in a portion of food.
Examine the label to determine whether items have a LOW or A HIGH amount of added sugars.
- 5% DV or less is considered a LOW source of added sugars.
- 20% of the daily value (DV) or more is considered a HIGH source of added sugars.
If a prepared item at the grocery store or restaurant does not have a Nutrition Facts label, some components on the packaging or menu will indicate that the item has added sugars under a different name like inverted sugar, raw sugar, malt sugar, molasses, etc.
Recommended Sugar Intake For Humans.
According to the United States Dietary Guidelines, an adult consuming 2,000 calories per day should consume no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of added sugar. (That is approximately the amount contained in a 16-ounce can of cola.)
The World Health Organization goes a step further, proposing that added sugar should be fewer than 5% of calories for maximum health.
However, according to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar each day. In comparison, men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for their optimum sugar intake.
According to research, the average American consumes between 55 and 92 grams of added sugar per day, which is similar to 13–22 teaspoons of table sugar intake— or around 12–16 percent of daily calorie consumption
Examples of Sugar Contents In Common Foods
Sugar Content of Fruits
Each of the following statistics represents naturally occurring sugar in a 100 g serving. Bear in mind that fruit consumption is a necessary component of a healthy, well-balanced diet and that the sugar in fruit has not been shown to be harmful to health.
|Kiwi Fruit||1.82 tsp|
Vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of other nutrients. The listing below is a few vegetables with their sugar contents in 100g.
Sugar Content of Vegetables
|Sweet Potatoes||1.4 tsp/|
|Green peas||1.5 tsp|
|Red bell peppers||1.1 tsp|
|Red cabbage||1 tsp|
Sugar Content of Soft Drinks
|Coca-Cola (one can, 330 ml)||7.25 tsp|
|Sprite (one can)||7.61 tsp|
|Red Bull (one can)||5.35 tsp|
Effects of Sugar Intake on Metabolism and the Brain
Sugar metabolism is the process by which the energy contained in the meals we consume is converted into fuel for our bodies. The body’s cells can generate energy directly from glucose, and the majority of cells can also generate energy from fatty acids. Glucose and fructose are metabolized differently, and their excessive consumption may have varying health consequences.
Glucose. Taking glucose as an example, when food is digested, the blood glucose level rises and then falls, as glucose is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream and subsequently taken up by the body’s cells. The presence of glucose in the blood induces the pancreas to produce insulin, which subsequently increases glucose absorption by body cells (e.g. muscle cells), restoring blood glucose to normal levels. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and as a lipid in the fat tissue.
Fructose is similarly absorbed into the bloodstream via the stomach, but the liver functions as a pre-processing organ, converting fructose to glucose or fat. The liver may either release glucose and fat into the circulation or store them as glycogen or fat depots, which can result in fatty liver disease and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease if carbohydrates are ingested in excess.
Additionally, there are some noteworthy interactions between glucose and fructose, with glucose facilitating fructose absorption from the stomach and fructose accelerating glucose uptake and storage in the liver.
Since sugar is found in most food items, it is important to understand how it affects our brains? What happens when sugar hits your tongue. Also, does having a small amount of sugar intake craves you to eat more upon reaching the stomach?
For example, when you take a bite of cereal, the sugar it contains activates the sweet taste receptors present on the tongue’s upper surface. These receptors send a signal to the brain stem, and from there, it forks off up to many areas of the forebrain, including the cerebral cortex. Different part of this cerebral cortex processes different tastes.
This is when the brain activates its reward system, a series of electrical and chemical pathways across different brain regions. It’s a complicated network, but it helps us understand the answer to our cravings for sugar. This reward system is also activated with many other activities like socializing, sexual behavior, drugs, etc. are a few of some experiences that can also impact this system.
But over, activating this reward system can kickstart the series of unfortunate events like loss of control, cravings, and increased tolerance to sugar leading to addiction.
Reasons To Avoid High Sugar Intake.
- Leads to Obesity. Obesity rates are increasing globally, and added sugar, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, is believed to be a significant contributor. Carbonated beverages, juices, and sweet teas are high in fructose, a type of simple sugar. Additionally, high sugar intake may result in leptin resistance, a critical hormone that controls appetite and signals the body to cease eating. Consuming large amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks is connected with a rise in visceral fat, a kind of deep abdominal fat associated with diabetes and heart disease. What other effects this visceral fat has on our body? Readout our dedicated article here.
2. Can Accelerate Cellular and Skin Aging. Telomeres operate as protective caps (molecules containing all or part of your genetic information) on chromosomes, keeping them from degrading or fusing. They usually shrink as you age, causing cells to age and malfunction. While telomere shortening is a natural component of aging, bad lifestyle factors such as excessive sugar intake can accelerate the process. Indeed, irrespective of other covariates, each daily 20-ounce (591-ml) serving of sugar-sweetened soda is equivalent to an additional 4.6 years of aging.
Not only cellular aging but high sugar consumption can also lead to the early formation of wrinkles and fasten the process of skin aging. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are chemicals generated by sugar and protein reactions in your body. A diet heavy in refined carbohydrates and sugar promotes the creation of AGEs, which may prematurely age the skin. AGEs degrade collagen and elastin, which help skin stretch and seem young. Skin loses firmness and elasticity when collagen and elastin are destroyed.
3. Sugar Intake Can Increases the Risk Of Heart Disease. High-sugar diets have been linked to an increased risk of various ailments, including heart disease, the world’s leading cause of death. High-sugar intake has been linked to obesity, inflammation, and elevated triglyceride, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels – all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, has also been linked to atherosclerosis, a condition marked by fatty arterial plaques.
4. May Increase The Incidence Of Cancer Development. High-sugar diets induce inflammation in the body and may result in insulin resistance, both of which raise the risk of cancer. Another Research of over 430,000 adults discovered that consumption of added sugar was positively connected with an elevated risk of esophageal cancer, pleural cancer, and small intestine cancer. The investigation of the association between added sugar consumption and cancer is continuing, and further research is necessary to completely comprehend this complicated interaction.
Another study discovered that women who ate sweet buns and cookies more than three times per week had a 1.42-fold increased risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to women who ate the same items fewer than 0.5 times per week.
5. More Chances of Having Type 2 Diabetes. Over the past 30 years, the incidence of diabetes has more than doubled around the world. Despite the fact that there are several causes for this, there is a strong correlation between excessive sugar intake and the risk of developing diabetes. Obesity, which is frequently driven by excessive sugar consumption, is widely regarded as the most significant risk factor for diabetes. Moreover, continuous high-sugar intake leads to insulin resistance, a pancreatic hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Research of over 175 nations revealed that every 150 calories of sugar, or approximately one can of soda, ingested increased the risk of diabetes by 1.1%.
6. Can Be The Cause Of Fatty Liver. High sugar intake, especially fructose consumption has been associated with fatty liver.
Unlike glucose and other sugars, fructose is nearly solely broken down by the liver and turned into glycogen. However, the liver can only store a certain quantity of glycogen before it is converted to fat. this Sugar overloads your liver, causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a disorder marked by excessive fat deposition in the liver. A study of nearly 5,900 participants found that daily consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks increased the risk of NAFLD by 56%.
7. Makes You Energy Deficient. Foods that are high in sugar can cause a spike in insulin levels hence boosting the energy of a person. But, products high in sugar but low in protein, fiber, or fat provide a fast energy spike followed by a blood sugar fall. This can lead to fluctuations in sugar levels.
8. More Prone To Develop Depression. A nutritious diet might help you feel better, but a diet heavy in sugar and processed foods can make you depressed. Consumption of processed items, notably high-sugar meals like cakes and sugary drinks, has been linked to depression. Blood sugar fluctuations, neurotransmitter dysregulation, and inflammation are all possible explanations for sugar’s harmful effect on mental health, according to researchers. A study of nearly 69,000 women found that those who consumed the most added sugars had a considerably increased risk of depression, compared to those who consumed the least.
9. Can cause Acne. A high sugar intake has also been found to increase the chances of developing acne. High glycemic index meals, including manufactured sweets, quickly elevate blood sugar levels. These foods in return, stimulate androgen secretion, oil production, and inflammation, all of which contribute to acne development. These findings are consistent with the idea that diets heavy in processed, sugar-laden foods lead to the development of acne, which has been widely accepted.
10. Negatively Effect Dental Hygiene and Health. Too much sugar in one’s diet can lead to cavities. It has also been found that teeth demineralization is caused by bacteria in your mouth feeding on sugar and releasing acid byproducts, which cause tooth decay. Numerous studies have discovered that regular use of sweets and sugary beverages results in cavities. (1)(2)(3).
How To Reduce Sugar Intake?
- Keep a lookout for food labeling. You can determine the amount of sugar in a product by looking at the nutrition label. The higher sugar appears on the ingredient list, the more sugar the item contains, as components are arranged by weight from highest to lowest. On food labels, however, there are more than 50 different designations for sugar that have been added check them here.
- Reduce your intake of sugary beverages. Consuming less sugary beverages can aid in weight reduction and enhance overall health. Additionally, your body does not detect calories in beverages the same way it does calories in meals. Calories from beverages are rapidly absorbed, leading to a fast rise in blood sugar levels. Some healthy sugarless drinks including water, coffee, herbal teas are a few of the best alternatives to avoid sugars.
- Avoid sweet treats. Most sweets are low in nutritional content. High in sugar, they trigger blood sugar surges, leaving you fatigued, hungry, and craving more sugar. Opt for something low in sugar like fruits and creams etc.
- Avoid sauces that include added sugar in them. Sauces such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, and sweet chili sauce are staples. However, the majority of individuals are unaware of their sugar intake. Ketchup has roughly 1 teaspoon (5 grams) sugar every 1 tablespoon (17 grams). That makes ketchup 29% sugar, more than ice cream. Prefer other naturally low-sugar flavoring alternatives including herbs and spices, chilies, mustard, vinegar, pesto, mayonnaise, and lemon or lime juice.
- Prefer natural whole foods. Whole foods have not been refined or processed in any way. Additionally, they are devoid of additives and other man-made chemicals. Whole fruits, legumes, whole grains, veggies, and bone-in meat are all examples of these foods. Cook from scratch to eliminate excess sugar intake. You are not required to prepare extravagant dinners. Simple marinated meats and grilled veggies will yield delectable results.
- Exercise caution when it comes to healthy processed snack foods. Dried fruit is an excellent illustration. It’s fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, and antioxidant-rich. However, because it contains high levels of natural sugar (and certain varieties may be “candied” with additional sugar), you should limit your intake to avoid becoming addicted.
- Keep an eye out for canned sweet food labels. While canned goods can be a convenient and cost-effective addition to your diet, they often include a high amount of added sugar intake overall increasing the sugar intake. Avoid canned products that are syrup-filled or have sugar as a component. Because fruit is naturally sweet, go for varieties that are “packed in water” or “no added sugar.” If you purchase canned fruits or vegetables that have been sweetened, you may eliminate some of the sugar by washing them in water before eating.
- Avoid sugary cereals and breakfasts. Certain breakfast cereals may have added sugar. Popular morning items, such as pancakes, waffles, muffins, and jams, include added sugars in them. Save the sweet breakfasts for rare occasions and replace them with low-sugar options like oatmeal, yogurt, scrambled eggs, etc to reduce sugar intake.
- Increase your protein intake. An excessive amount of sugar intake has been related to increased hunger and weight gain. On the other hand, a diet low in added sugar but high in protein and fiber may have the opposite effect, suppressing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness. Additionally, protein has been demonstrated to lessen food cravings directly. According to one study, boosting protein in the diet by 25% lowered cravings by 60%. Stock up on protein-rich whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairy products, avocados, and almonds to stave off sugar cravings.
- Make the switch to natural, calorie-free products. There are various sugar- and calorie-free artificial sweeteners on the market, including sucralose and aspartame. Other natural zero-calorie sweeteners appear to be promising. Stevia, erythritol, monk fruit are a few examples. The details of each of them can be found in our article HERE.
Varied health organizations have different guidelines for the quantity of sugar you should restrict yourself each day. But they all believe that there’s a place for some sweets in a balanced diet. Avoid meals with added sugars to improve your health. Even the American Dietary Guidelines suggest limiting added sugar calories to less than 10% of total calories per day. For instance, if you consume 2,000 calories per day, this equates to 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugars. An excessive amount of added sugar intake might make it difficult to achieve nutritional requirements while adhering to calorie limitations.