Is sugar really an evil villain in our diet?
We all know people around us who’ve given up sugar and always keep going on and on about it. Everywhere you see, experts are telling us about how sugar is harmful to our health. The supermarkets are loaded with sugar-free foods and alternatives to sugar. All of this can get us both inquisitive and confused about sugar and our sugar intake.
Do you wonder if you eat too much sugar?
Do you wonder if sugar is really bad for you?
Is sugar really the evil villain in our diet?
Let me break down the story and tell you all about it!
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a form of sweetener extracted from all or any food that contains carbohydrates, including grains, fruits, and vegetables. Since carbohydrates are our main source of energy, sugar acts as a fuel for the body.
When we digest sugar, the enzymes present in the small intestine break the sugar down into glucose, which is then released into the bloodstream, where it is transported to tissue cells in our organs and muscles and converted into energy. This fuel for energy is either used right away or stored for later use.
While sugar is essential for the human body, consuming too much sugar can have a negative effect on our health.
What is Added Sugar?
When doctors talk about high sugar intake, they are rarely talking about the sugar that naturally occurs in food. What they are worried about is the “added sugar” that we consume.
Added sugar refers to the calorie-containing sugar or sweeteners that are added to our food, whether on the food production line or during food preparation in our kitchen. Added sugars are extracted, refined, and added to food and drinks to improve their taste. Added sugars go by many different names including, table sugar, cane sugar, agave nectar, glucose, blackstrap molasses, corn syrup, etc.
The World Health Organization recommends reducing the intake of free sugars at all stages of life to under 10 percent of a person’s total energy intake. Their guidelines additionally state that a further reduction to below 5%, i.e. roughly 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of free sugars per day may provide additional health benefits.
Why is Sugar troublesome?
While sugar on its own is not troublesome, it becomes the evil villain of our diet simply by the amount of added sugar that people tend to consume.
Other than the usual sweet treats that we consume, sugar is present in almost everything that is processed. Most of the sugar consumed today is hidden in processed foods that are not really perceived as sweets. Whether it is a bottle of ketchup, bottled salad dressings, fruit drinks, cereal, packaged yogurt, etc. they all have sugar. A teaspoon of ketchup contains about 4 grams, or 1 teaspoon, of free sugar. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams, i.e. about 10 teaspoons, of free sugars. Additionally, sugar interferes with our sense of taste, making naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, taste less sweet. Sugar is also known to be extremely addictive and can be difficult to give up for many.
A diet that is high in sugar can have various repercussions on one’s health. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to consuming excess amount of calories that can:
- Cause weight gain
- Increase the risk of heart conditions
- Increase the risk of diabetes
- Reduce immune function
- Reduce mental functioning
- Increase gum diseases
- Promote stress
- Cause skin aging
While you won't fall ill by indulging in a pastry or a sugar treat occasionally, it is the amount of excess calories that we consume regularly that can be harmful to our bodies. So while sugar on its own is not bad, and is an essential part of our diet, restricting the amount of added sugar we consume can help in staying healthy by avoiding excess, non-nourishing calories.
Have you been trying to limit your sugar intake but constantly falling off the wagon? Are sugar cravings driving your energy levels? Do you need assistance in kicking that sugar addiction and taking a step towards a healthier body and mind? MSF is here to hold your hand through this and help you see a change in yourself. Get your customised meal plan with our MSF Transformation Plan now and start working on improving your lifestyle!