Most of us know that too much sugar isn’t good for us. It can lead to diabetes and contribute to obesity. But I’m willing to bet you didn’t these 10 surprising reasons why sugar is bad for you. Keep reading to find out – and tell me which one is most shocking to you?
10 Surprising Reasons Why Sugar is Bad for You
1. Sugar is hidden in many foods
We all expect sugar to be listed on the ingredient list for desserts like cakes and cupcakes or snack foods like cookies, but sugar is hidden in other foods we wouldn’t expect, such as tomato sauce, salad dressings, condiments, marinades, crackers, bread and more.1
2. Sugar can mask bad flavors and are used in many “non-fat” and “low-fat” foods
Did you know that many foods labeled as”low-fat” or “non-fat” have a high sugar content. Why? When the fat is removed, food can taste bland and starchy. Sugar can make food have a palatable flavor.
“You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does,” says Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco. Dr. Lustig made the comment at the James Beard Foundation Food Conference in 2014.2
3. Sugar has many names
The food industry tricks consumers into thinking the sugar content in food products are lower than they really are. You might see maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup and sorbitol on the same label, not realizing it’s all sugar.
Lustig says that food manufacturers often list different types of added sugars as the seventh, eighth, and ninth items on an ingredient list to fool you into thinking there’s not a significant amount of added sweeteners. “When you add it up, it’s No. 1,” he says.
4. Sugar (not fat) is making people fat
Sounds crazy right? It’s true. Eating foods high in sugar doesn’t give your body a sense of fullness as it does when you eat protein, fiber or fat. So you keep eating and eating, which leads to increased calorie consumption – and makes you fat.1 In fact, studies show that sugar consumption can raise triglycerides, raise blood glucose and insulin levels, and increase the risk for obesity.2
5. Sugar makes you more hungry
Because sugar doesn’t create a feeling of fullness, you tend to feel more hungry and you overeat. Be sure to eat more protein and fiber to give your stomach a feeling of fullness to stay satiated longer.
6. Sugar promotes wrinkles and aging skin
So many of us are trying to stop the clock with anti-aging serums and creams (some even botox and plastic surgery), but the big culprit in the aging process is actually sugar. Yep, it’s true! Sugar leads to wrinkles and saggy skin.
In a 2009 study, researchers found that glucose consumption (eating sugar) accelerated the aging process. So when you eat sugar, it could very well be adding to the fine lines and wrinkles you’re trying to prevent, as well as aging your cells and leading to degenerative disease.3
7. Sugar can increase hyperactivity and decrease learning performance in kids
Yes, it’s true. Sugar CAN make some kids more hyperactive. Kids are more sensitive to sugar than adults, especially toddlers and preschoolers, so the effects of sugary foods will be more obvious – e.g. hyperactive kids and less likely to focus.
“In an interesting study, researchers fed normal preschoolers a high-sugar drink, containing the amount of sugar in the average can of soda, and compared them with children who received a non-sugar drink. The sugar group experienced decreased learning performance and more hyperactivity than the non-sugar group.”4
In addition, sugary foods can increase aggression in hyperactive kids (read Drinking Soda Turns Kids Into Bullies). That’s why it’s important to add protein to every meal for kids (especially those who are hyperactive) as it helps to mellow them out.
8. Sugar is linked to deficiencies in memory for adults
Kids are not the only ones who can experience a decrease in brain power due to sugary foods; adults can too. In a 2009 study, researchers found that too much sugar was linked to deficiencies in memory.1, 5
9. Sugar makes you depressed
When you’re feeling down, you reach for a tub of ice cream to feel better right? Well, turns out there’s a link between depression and eating sugar. In a study published in Public Health Journal, 9,000 people were evaluated over a six-year period to study the link between depression and sugary and fast foods. After the study period, researchers found those who ate the most junk faced a nearly 40% greater risk of developing depression, compared to those who didn’t eat junk food. In people with insulin resistance, it appears the brain releases lower levels of feel-good dopamine.
10. Sugar can lead to cancer
Increased insulin levels (caused by sugar consumption) has been linked as a contributor to cancer. Yep, eating too much sugar can actually lead to cancer. Crazy, right? In addition, too much sugar can lead to metabolic disease and increase inflammation, another risk factor for cancer. 2
What You Can Do Instead
Opt for natural, unrefined sugar when baking and cooking, such as raw honey and organic maple syrup, and avoid store-bought snacks and sweet treats as much as possible. Remember, sweet treats should be a once-in-a-while treat, not an everyday indulgence. I’ve got a lot of great Paleo and gluten-free recipes here that feature raw honey and organic maple syrup.
Don’t be afraid of fat. Opt for gut-nourishing fat like coconut oil (which can actually help you to lose weight), lard or tallow from pasture-raised meat. It adds so much flavor to foods that make you feel full and don’t rely on sugar for taste.
What’s your best tip to avoid sugary foods?
Infographic Source: Robert Lustig, MD, at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Food Conference
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto.com / Robyn Mackenzie
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