Is sugar worth quitting?

It is hard to avoid sugar when it's added to food you wouldn't expect to contain it.

I decided to give up sugar when I turned 40 after noticing my ‘calorie in calorie out’ mentality wasn’t doing my health any good. Choosing chocolate for three meals a day instead of healthy foods; my only concern was to keep calorie intake low enough so that there was no weight gain, unfortunately, this wasn’t doing my health any good. This all started with a co-worker who had family in Germany, family that regularly sent her good German chocolate, since she would, in turn, share it with me and further charge my insatiable sweet tooth. I thought it was great to eat chocolate morning, noon and when snacking, but when you think about the nutrition I was receiving or rather, how little, I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by indulging in a practically chocolate-only only diet.

My sweet tooth is too strong and my willpower is too weak for me to handle going near tempting sweet foods. So I made the decision to stop eating sweets to help myself choose foods packed with nutrition to benefit my overall health instead of only being concerned with the scale. It was a ridiculous attitude that I was happy to leave behind, I know health is about so much more than what the scale says. It’s amazing how I don’t crave sugary snacks and fruit is now what I run to when I’m feeling the need for something sweet. Fruit has sugar (much lower amounts than in a chocolate bar) called fructose but fruits are full of nutrients giving my health a boost instead of the damage refined sugar, the main ingredient in sweets, can do.

Many articles are written about the effects of sugar on your body. Eating excess refined sugar is shown to:

  • Effect the liver by storing excess sugar as glycogen and if more refined sugar is consumed than what is recommended, the liver expands. When the liver expands and it needs to process excess sugar, it begins to change the sugar into fat and releases it into the body depositing fat throughout the body. Some fat can be stored in the body which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. According to an article by News in Health, most Americans consume 15 percent of their daily food intake from sugars.
  • Effect the heart by having high levels of blood fats called dyslipidemia. Eating large amounts of refined sugars can result in higher levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood) and lower amounts of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood resulting in an increased chance of heart disease.
  • Be addictive by releasing a chemical dopamine in the system which makes a person feel great. Unfortunately, fruit does not give these same feelings making people want to return over and over again for the refined sugar, instead of fruit. There is such positive emotion released from eating sweet treats it is difficult for people to not want to continue to eat these types sugars. Eating in moderation and having strong will power is very difficult when dopamine is released giving feel good moods.
  • Obesity is commonly caused by consuming too much refined sugar, making the liver deposit fat throughout the body. Also, consuming large amounts of refined sugar does not signal the brain that you are actually filling up with food. Your body does not feel satisfied with sugar and it is almost as if you did not eat at all, so you eat more food and possibly more sugar creating a vicious cycle leading to weight gain and the possibility of becoming obese. 

Refined sugar is in most boxed or processed foods to enhance the flavor of food to make it more palatable. Take the time to read labels to see which foods contain extra sugar and don’t be mislead by the sneaky names the food industry has for sugar.  Names such as: Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice…

Don’t be afraid to eat fruit because it contains fructose. The body has a completely different response to eating this type of sugar than refined sugar and the amount of fructose is much lower in whole fruit than it is in sweetened food or sweet treats. Also, when consuming fruit, you get much more nutrition your body needs and craves along with fiber that fills you up for a longer amount of time. 

Michigan State University Extension’s has many programs to help the public with nutrition advice and goals. Experts from Michigan State University Extension make it possible to make your lifestyle healthy for the long haul. Cutting down on your refined sugar is one step towards achieving a healthy diet. By applying this information about refined sugar, it is possible to cut down on added sugars and possibly use other types of sweets as treats instead. 

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