Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar from Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar
Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar
Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar
We all know that excessive sugar consumption can cause cavities, weight gain, and ferocious cravings. But consuming too much of the white stuff can have many other unexpected side effects as well.
The World Health Organization recommends consuming no more than 5 percent of daily caloric intake from sugar (6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men) for optimal health, yet the average American takes in about 20 teaspoons.
So how do you know if you’ve been indulging in too many treats, or been duped by those many hidden sources of sugar? Indulging in a treat is healthy, and should be nothing to feel badly about. But if you’re regularly experiencing any of these signs, it may be time to take note of exactly how much sugar you’re really consuming. Because it can be a tricky little beast!
Foods that are difficult to digest can cause bloating and gassiness. Artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so they end up in the colon, where they’re fermented by bacteria. The end result? Gas! Many people also find fructose difficult to digest. Fructose is a simple sugar, naturally found in honey and fruit, and it’s added to many processed foods. Fructose has to be converted to glucose by the liver in order to be used as an energy source for the body’s cells, but many people aren’t able to absorb all the fructose they digest, which can cause gas and digestive discomfort.
Feel like your mind is a muddy puddle, especially when 3 p.m. hits, or after a big meal? Brain fog is a general umbrella term for a whole host of symptoms, such as forgetfulness and lack of clarity or focus. Blood glucose levels skyrocket when we consume sugar, then quickly drop. These unstable blood sugar levels can lead to a muddled mind.
A spike in blood sugar (as the result of sugar consumption) can trigger inflammation and oil production, which can lead to acne. While this is not too harmful every once in a while, over time a constant state of inflammation can have damaging effects, not only on your skin, but the rest of your body as well. Swap refined or white carbohydrates for whole grains to give your skin a break.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not so straightforward. Sugar itself isn’t the sole culprit of cavities: Bacteria in the mouth feed on debris left behind on the teeth (whether from sugary foods or healthy foods, like whole grains and vegetables). These bacteria produce acid, which combines with saliva to create plaque. If not brushed away regularly, plaque builds up and erodes tooth enamel, creating tiny holes on the tooth’s surface, which is the first stage of cavity formation. So while sugar isn’t soley responsible for cavities, it doesn’t help. Beverages with lots of sugar (like soda) contain phosphoric and citric acids, which erode tooth enamel. Certain sugary foods, like hard candies, caramels, cereal, and raisins, can also get stuck in the grooves of a tooth, leading to decay.
Sugar activates the tongue’s taste receptors, which signals the brain, stimulating reward pathways and releasing a surge of feel-good hormones, such as dopamine. When the brain’s reward system is stimulated too often, it can lead to cravings. A study in the International Journal of Obesity showed that some children’s brain circuitry may even be predisposed to intense sugar cravings.
Food Doesn’t Taste as Sweet as It Used To
When in-season strawberries taste a little bland, something may be up. It’s not only your tongue that has taste receptors, but your gut as well. These taste receptors influence hormonal responses to consumption of all types of nutrients, but have been shown to go especially wonky in cases of excess sugar consumption.
High Blood Pressure
Eating lots of sugar can cause many issues, but did you know it’s also associated with high blood pressure? Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, which puts the body at risk for high blood pressure. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can also damage blood vessels, making them less adaptive to stress. Lifestyle and diet have a massive effect on high blood pressure, so making healthy choices (like making your own salad dressing instead of buying Kraft’s) can help get it back in the healthy range.
We normally think of rich, fatty foods being to blame for high cholesterol levels, but recent studies have shown that sugar could actually be the culprit. Consuming too many refined carbohydrates and sugars lowers healthy HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol that eats up LDL, the “bad” cholesterol). People who consume more added sugars also have higher levels of triglycerides.
Can’t sleep? It may not be the coffee in your afternoon Frappuccino that’s to blame. Difficulty falling asleep is one of the symptoms of insulin resistance, which develops when your blood sugar is constantly elevated. Once you turn down the sugar dial, a good night’s sleep should be back within reach.
Feel sluggish all day long, and can’t think about anything other than your next nap? Diets high in quick-digesting carbohydrates, such as refined sugars, can cause low energy. Eating a bunch of sugar can initially result in a high, but the crash is soon to follow. Sugar isn’t a stimulant like caffeine. It is essential that blood sugar remains within a certain range, or you’ll feel the high and low effects. Avoid the energy slump by eating fresh, whole foods, and avoiding these items that are secretly loading you up with sugar.
If you’re moodier than normal, unexpectedly feel blue, or you’ve been struggling with depression, excessive sugar consumption could be involved. Blood sugar spikes produce symptoms such as irritability and forgetfulness. Chronically high blood sugar levels have also been linked to inflammation in the brain, and some research has suggested that inflammation can play a role in the development of depression.
Eating too much sugar hurts your skin in more ways than one: It can cause wrinkles, dark circles, inflammation, sagging, and dehydration. Elastin and collagen molecules, which are necessary for healthy skin, are damaged by diets high in sugar. Consuming too many quick-digesting carbohydrates, such as refined sugar, causes blood sugar to spike. When blood sugar is high, AGEs (advanced glycation end products) are formed, which accelerate the aging process.
We all know by now that fat isn’t the main culprit behind weight gain — sugar is. If you’re trying to lose weight, be wary of low-fat versions of your favorite foods that may be sneakily stuffed with added sugars in order to make up the flavor difference from the loss of fat. Try cutting added sugar and refined carbohydrates (which break down and are processed by your body the same way sugar is).
You Always Feel Hungry
The typical Western diet (including highly processed foods full of added sugar) makes it difficult for our bodies to tell if they’re full or not. Sugar messes with the brain’s satiety-control mechanism, and sends the appetite into overdrive. A sweet food, such as a doughnut, causes your blood sugar to skyrocket. Your body releases insulin to usher the sugar into your cells, and your blood sugar level drops. This happens so rapidly that blood sugar levels drop to lower-than-normal levels, which signals hunger, and suddenly you want to eat again.
You Get Sick a Lot
Sugar weakens the immune system, and makes it harder for your body to fight off stress and infections. Check out your diet if you’re always “coming down with something,” because it may be too much of the sweet stuff. Making a few small tweaks could really help your immune system. Stuck in a sugar slump? Here are some easy ways to hit the reset button on your and your family’s health.