Do you read MyFitnessPal’s health and nutrition articles? They’re usually pretty handy, especially at this New Year, New You, Healthy Living, New Year’s Resolution, Lose Those 5 Holiday Pounds Time of Year. One of the topics MyFitnessPal is always tackling (no doubt cuz we’re always obsessing) is SUGAR. How it affects your health, how to manage sugar or no sugar in your daily diet, signs you’re eating too much sugar, etc. We’ve culled their articles and come up with these Truths & Myths about sugar in your diet.
Here are some Truths & Myths about Sugar to consider in your resolve to live a healthier 2019.
While it’s not diagnosable as an addiction (like alcohol or drugs for example), most nutritionists agree that sugar is addictive. Foods containing high amounts of sugar can activate the same reward regions of the brain as drugs do. In addition, eliminating sugar from your diet can cause withdrawal-like symptoms. And there’s evidence that you develop a tolerance for sugar over time, needing or tolerating more of it to get those happy sugar feels.
Yes those are the main culprits, but there is SO MUCH SUGAR in processed and prepared foods. Check the nutrition labels on everything you consume to see how many grams of sugar per serving, and be sure to check the serving size as well. Manufacturers are smart and they tell you what you want to hear, so be vigilant. Sugar is sneaky; it shows up in lots of foods like energy/nutrition bars, ketchup & tomato sauce, salad dressings, supplements & medications, smoothies, juices, energy drinks, protein shake mix, dried fruits, cereals, and so many seemingly un-sweet products. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 100 calories (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 150 calories (37.5 grams) for men. You may be amazed how many grams you’re consuming in your “sugar free” diet.
TRUTH, for the most part.
It’s good to find sweeteners that are more natural and have a lower glycemic index, yes. But agave for example is higher in fructose than even high-fructose corn syrup, and has mostly fallen out of favor. Today’s beloved coconut sugar is calorically exactly like regular sugar, containing about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon. Honey has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, but more calories per teaspoon. The latest sweetener taking the low glycemic index world by storm? Monk Fruit.
On a molecular level, sugar is sugar is sugar. A medium sized apple with 19 grams of sugar has the same sugar grams as a tablespoon of honey and more sugar than a tablespoon of cane sugar. But just like calories, all sugar grams are not created equal, or actually, all are not processed equally by your body. Sugar in a whole fruit comes with vitamins and fiber which helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. That’s definitely better than processed sugar that is void of other nutrients. If you’re having trouble with your weight, track ALL your consumed sugar grams and calories. Eating a nice big bowl of grapes can easily get you to 50 -75 grams of sugar, healthy fruit or not.
It’s true, by definition, a calorie is a calorie. However, how the body reacts to and breaks down fat vs protein vs carbs differs (more on that at the above link) and the way your body reacts to the two types of sugars, glucose and fructose, is another key difference. “While too many calories from glucose can lead to weight gain and accumulation of the less harmful subcutaneous fat, too many calories from fructose (found in calorie-containing sweeteners like sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup etc…) can overwhelm the liver, contributing to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and more.”
Sugar consumption contributes to several health problems besides weight gain. The list is long – here’s what we pulled from the article at the link above.
- New research shows that added dietary sugars—independent from weight gain—can also raise blood pressure.
- People who consume a lot of added sugar are more likely to have lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, higher levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and higher levels of triglycerides, or blood fats. Bad cholesterol and blood fats clog up arteries and blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
- People with higher added sugar intakes had a notable increase in risk of heart attacks compared to those with lower intakes.
- Research shows that eating too much sugar can cause impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness.
- A diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps the brain form new memories and remember the past. Low BDNF has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.