There is no denying that refined carbohydrates can adversely affect your health. Refined sugar is one such class of carbohydrate and excessive intake can cause damage. Sugars present in table sugar, and syrups that are derived from sugar cane, beets, maple, corn and honey are responsible for damaging health, unlike the fructose in fruit or lactose in milk. More than two teaspoons of sugar a day takes a toll on your health because uncontrolled sugar intake leads to a condition called dysglycemia or imbalance in blood sugar. Dysglycemia can cause nagging health problems such as fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia and excessive sweating, poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and digestive disturbances, and also accelerate the ageing process. Ongoing dysglycemia can eventually and silently lead to insulin resistance, diabetes or hypoglycaemia (a critical drop in blood sugar levels) and heart disease, all of which become difficult to reverse.
How sugar makes you fat and/or diabetic
Refined sugar is absorbed quickly in the blood, raising the blood sugar level, which results in spiked levels of the hormone insulin. In addition to glucose and amino acid uptake in blood and tissues, insulin is also responsible for fat storage, raised triglyceride levels and, therefore, obesity. Repeated insulin spikes also stress and tire the beta cells of the pancreas (beta cells produce insulin) and make you diabetic in the long term. In addition, insulin spikes suppress the production of growth hormones that are responsible for overall immunity.
Sweet tooth: Avoid more than two teaspoons of sugar a day.
The damaging effects of sugar
Refined sugar by itself offers no nutrition, has no vitamins or minerals to provide to your diet. Ironically, sugar needs the support of vitamins and minerals to get digested in the body. For every teaspoon consumed the digestive system uses a lot of the B vitamins. Chromium in the body plays a significant role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Large amounts of chromium are lost while processing refined sugar, which is made from sugar cane. Therefore, a diet that is high in refined sugars such as white bread, pastries, aerated beverages and chocolate can keep you feeling less focused and less intelligent. Very sweet red wine and cocktails may have added sugar. So it may be a good idea to check the label on the bottle.
Sugar is also responsible for elevating cholesterol. The chemical breakdown of sugar in the body involves the creation of two carbon acetates, commonly known as vinegar. These acetates are the building blocks for cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, and if they are produced faster than they can be used for energy, blood cholesterol levels are bound to rise and impair heart health.
Control your sugar blues
•Always have wholewheat bread, multigrains and brown rice
•Avoid aerated beverages. A 12 oz, or 400ml, can of cola has eight teaspoons of sugar
• Follow a taste-and-savour approach for desserts and brownies. Have bite-sized portions as part of your meal, not as a stand-alone snack
• Give up sugar for a month to overcome a sweet tooth. Use fruit, nuts and wholesome snacks to tide over cravings during this period
•Exercise regularly with moderate-high intensity from 30-60 minutes daily, according to age and fitness levels to avoid the build up of acetates and cholesterol.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org