Cut out refined sugar to avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Your body needs sugars to function. It breaks down complex carbohydrates and simple sugars, like fructose, dextrose, and glucose into glycogen, which are then stored in the liver until they are needed for exerting effort, as in endurance exercise.

GlucometerHowever, not all sugars are created equal. While your body needs to maintain its glucose levels to carry you through the day, eating a diet heavy in refined, processed, and added sugars can put a lot of strain on your system, especially your pancreas. If you continue to eat this way and live a sedentary lifestyle, your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes are fairly high and will increase over the years.

Maintaining Stable Glucose Levels

Instead of adding refined sugar to foods and beverages, and eating and drinking foods and beverages that are high in dextrose or high-fructose corn syrup, you can give your body the sugars it needs by eating a high-protein diet that’s heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables have fructose in them, as well as starch and fiber. It takes your body longer to break these down and release them into your bloodstream. That means you feel full longer, and your glucose levels don’t spike and dip. You don’t put the same wear and tear on your pancreas, and you decrease your chances of developing diabetes.

You Can Help Yourself Even More With Exercise

Add fruits to your dietWhen you exercise regularly, your body will respond more efficiently to the insulin that you produce in response to your blood sugar levels. This will help your body process the foods and sugars you take in, which will further decrease your risk of diabetes.

That’s not the only way that getting enough exercise and eating whole foods with complex sugars will help you avoid diabetes. Maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding refined sugars will keep you at a healthy body weight, which will also help fight off the onset of diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Better yet (for those with a sweet tooth), if you exercise regularly, you can even indulge on sweets more often. That’s not a carte blanche to go eating all of the candy, ice cream, and cake you want, but when you’re active, your body processes these sugars more effectively, which means that eating them is a lot less likely to cause you health problems down the road.

That said, if you have a choice between a sugary soft drink and an apple or an orange, pick the piece of fruit every time!

Sources: 1, 2

Not all sugar is created equal – added sugars vs. natural sugars

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were told that low-fat diets were the way to go. Fat was the enemy, and everyone was drinking skim milk and eating low-fat or fat-free foods. Somehow, though, there didn’t seem to be a significant change in how much the average American weighed. Fat was the food villain du jour, but it turned out that it might not be as bad as we all thought.

The importance of a dietToday, we have a new food villain: sugar. Proponents of all kinds of diets, from Paleo to Keto and more, are telling us to cut out sugar. The thing is, the body needs sugar to function. That’s not saying that you should go pour a cup of sugar in your coffee or gorge yourself on candy. A little bit of sugar goes a long way, and getting the right sugars can mean the difference between a spike and crash in your bloodstream’s glucose levels or even steady energy throughout the day.

Avoid Added Sugars

Whether you’re eating bleached, refined sugar or natural “raw” sugar, you’re still adding sugar to foods and beverages that did not have or actually need them in the first place. Nutritionists agree that we do not need to add sugars to our diets to maintain steady, stable glucose levels.

What happens when you eat a diet heavy in added sugars? Your body processes those sugars very quickly, whether they’re in the form of dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, or some other, and you experience a spike in your glucose levels. This leads to a period of high energy, but that period is usually followed by a glucose crash that leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky, in need of more sugar. Then the whole cycle starts over again.

Pay Attention to Portions

Eating sugarAccording to the American Heart Association, you don’t have to cut out all added sugar from your diet. However, they do advise that you limit your intake to 24 grams, or roughly 6 teaspoons.

It’s recommended that you satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits and sweet vegetables, as well as foods that are high in calcium. If you’re craving sweets, it may be because your body needs a glucose boost, or it may actually be due to a minor calcium deficiency. If you pay attention to what your body is craving, eat whole foods with naturally occurring sugars, and avoid added sugars, you’ll find that you feel better all around and crave fewer sweets.

Sources: 1, 2

A brief history of sugar manufacturing

Every day, we navigate through our daily lives, trying to deduce what we should and shouldn’t eat to avoid obesity, cancer, diabetes, and a whole host of other health problems. As we make our morning coffee, read labels, choose ingredients for dinner recipes, and pick items from restaurant menus, whether we notice it or not, sugar is everywhere.

Sugar everywhereIt’s hard to believe, but until the 1700s, in Europe and North America, sugar was a luxury product. At that point, the West Indies and Brazil were producing such large quantities of sugar that the formerly expensive sweetener dropped in price significantly and became a commodity available even to the poor.

As the price of sugar dropped, industrialization spread. Processed foods became more available and more affordable. People began drinking more coffee and tea, adding sugar to these. By the 1800s, the world’s consumption of sugar was on the rise, and it still is today, with the popularity of canned and bottled beverages like sodas and sweetened fruit juices.

With sugars increasing popularity, sugar cane farmers began using manure to increase their crops’ yields. They also worked to develop more efficient sugar mills to get more product on the market. As more product became available, the demand for it went up even more.

Because cane sugar has a limited climate range in which it can grow, scientists and manufacturers have been searching for other means of growing and/or creating sugar cheaply and in different climates. Out of this, we’ve gotten beet sugar, even more effective and advanced mills, and, eventually, high-fructose corn syrup.

Sugar productionHigh-fructose corn syrup, used as a substitution for sugar in a lot of soft drinks and juices in the United States, was first developed in the 1950s. It gained popularity with manufacturers in the 1970s, after a series of sugar tariffs increased the cost of importing cane sugar significantly.

Though adding sugar to processed foods is not ideal for your diet anyway, high-fructose corn syrup is even worse and has been linked with numerous health problems in the US. In 2008, it was estimated that the average American consumed 37.8 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in a single year. 

While manufacturers could replace high-fructose corn syrup with natural cane sugar, agave nectar, and/or honey to produce foods and beverages that are at least marginally better for consumers, many don’t because it would cut into their profit margins. However, there’s been a big push back in recent years against processed, added sugars in foods. Read the labels on the foods you buy next time you’re at the grocery store and see if you can stick to whole, unprocessed foods that use natural sugars.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

An introduction to sugars and your body

Sugar and everyday lifeIf you’ve turned on the TV or been online at all within the last few years, you’ve certainly been exposed to all kinds of warnings against eating too much sugar, the wrong kind of sugar, processed sugar, or any sugar at all. It’s no secret that Americans eat a lot more sugar than they ever have before and that the obesity rate in this country has been on the rise for years.

So, should you avoid all sugars? Actually, the human body needs sugars to function properly, but you might be surprised where you get the “good” sugars that your body needs and what foods you can avoid to maintain good energy levels throughout the day and a healthy body weight over the long run.

Why Are We Worried About Sugar?

First of all, let’s discuss why sugar can be both good and bad for you. After a sizeable meal, especially one with a lot of sugar, your body’s glucose levels will spike. This can give you the feeling of having more energy to go about your day, but then in a couple of hours, your glucose levels crash, and you feel sluggish and tired.

Your body needs sugar (glucose) to function. Diabetics and people who suffer from hypoglycemia have problems processing sugars, which results in either glucose levels spiking or crashing instead of remaining level. This can result in serious health problems, diabetic coma, and even death.

Know Your Sugars

Coffee and sugarTo get the good sugars that your body needs and can easily process, you need to know about the different types of sugars. Carbohydrates are actually sugars, and they can be split into two kinds: simple and complex. Starch and fiber actually fall into this category, as well, so now you’re starting to see how you can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid all sugar consumption in your diet.

Complex carbohydrates are made from multiple sugar molecules, and it takes the body longer to break them down and process them. This means that your body releases these sugars into your bloodstream more slowly, keeping your glucose levels more even, rather than allowing them to spike and crash.

Because your body needs glucose to function, it’s important to get enough complex carbohydrates (sugars) every day to maintain good energy levels and a healthy body weight.

Ingesting too many heavily processed simple sugars, like those found in soda, candy, and a lot of pastries, is associated with development of Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and other health problems. You can avoid these problems by paying attention to what kinds of sugars you’re eating and how much physical activity you fit into your day.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4