Not all sugar is created equal. Natural sugars like those found in fruit are good and even essential for the body to properly function. On the other hand, added and processed sugars are arguably the worst ingredients in the modern diet. These unnatural sugars put serious strain on the body and cause a multitude of health problems all while not containing any nutritional value whatsoever.
You may have heard the term “empty calories”. This is in reference to calories consumed without any benefit to the body. When you consume natural sugars, they are balanced by the other nutritional components such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, etc., found in the source. These things help to aid in digestion and help the body process the sugar more easily. Processed sugars do not have any of these benefits, so they instead harm the body.
One serious harmful effect of processed sugars is that they put serious strain on the liver. After fructose is consumed it goes straight to the liver. If the levels of glycogen in the liver are low, the fructose is used to replenish it. Oftentimes, glycogen will become depleted after a workout or strenuous activity. However, if fructose is consumed when glycogen levels are normal, the liver then turns it into fat. While some fat is sent to other parts of the body, most of it remains in the liver. Overtime, the fat can build up and lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Eating processed sugar can lead to excess glucose in the bloodstream, which tells the cells to burn the glucose rather than stored fat. Over time, excess glucose can cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is thought to be the leading cause of many diseases including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, if glucose consumption is not brought under control it can lead to serious complications such as blindness.
Insulin is also one of the main hormones in regulating cell growth. Eating processed sugar can cause elevated insulin levels. Having elevated insulin levels can cause uncontrolled cell growth which is the main characteristic of cancer. In addition, processed sugar consumption can cause several metabolic problems which can lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is another leading cause of cancer. Many studies have shown that people who consume processed sugar are at a significantly higher risk of developing various types of cancer.
Because processed sugars don’t contain any real nutritional value, they don’t fill you up. In addition, processed sugars can also cause the brain to create an addictive response when consumed. This in turn leads to you craving and eating more of the processed sugars and never feeling satiated. People who eat processed sugars tend to weigh more than those who don’t consume them.
When consuming sugar, it’s important to distinguish the difference between natural and processed sugars. This crucial difference can be the defining factor in whether or not your health is seriously impacted. If you cannot completely eliminate processed sugars from your diet, try to limit them as much as you can. When possible, consider substituting processed sugar with natural alternatives such as honey or Stevia.