The struggle is real!
Signs that you’re eating too much sugar
(I have a serious sweet tooth, so I totally understand this struggle!).
- Your cholesterol is high.
Sugar is associated with higher levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). Sugar also pushes up blood triglycerides (which is associated with heart disease).
- You’re struggling to lose weight(fat)
You’re training and eating less, but the fat is not budging. When you eat simple carbs or sugar, your body releases insulin. The more simple the carb is, the higher/faster the release. Why is this bad? Apart from causing insulin resistance (metabolic disease, diabetes etc), insulin acts to store sugar as fat in your body’s fat cells. Insulin also inhibits the breakdown of fat, making it harder to lose weight. Carbs in veggies (for example spinach/sweet potato) have a higher fibre content, which means that they are digested and absorbed far slower and thus insulin release is slow – and thus it becomes easier to lose weight.
- You crave sugary goodies – especially after dinner (Eish…this one is me!)
When you eat foods with sugar or refined carbs, your brain lights up and stays that way, giving you constant food cravings. This is very similar to the excitement the brain receives from drugs and alcohol. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave!
- You’re hungry again soon after eating a meal/snack that is primarily carb
Why does this happen? After eating simple carbs, your insulin shoots up, followed soon after by a crash in blood sugar (aka hypoglycaemia = very unhealthy/dangerous – seizure/coma). When your blood sugar crashes that low, your body will immediately correct this “danger zone” by sending you hunger signals to eat again, to get your blood sugar back up. (Symptoms of low blood sugar: shakey, ‘cold’ sweat, irritable; nausea, pale, clammy skin, feeling faint, rapid heart beat, inability to concentrate). And so you have rollercoaster of blood sugar, which will make you feel exhausted. Meals that contain a balance of complex carbs, (healthy) fats and protein don’t have this effect on blood sugar. (Other causes of hypoglycaemia are medications/underlying medical conditions)
- You get sick often and feel tired
Sugar pushes up overall inflammation in the body (and brain), weakening the immune system and lessening your body’s natural ability to fight off colds and flu. (Recurrent candida infections are also a clue that your sugar intake is high). Chronic diseases such as cancer, heart and kidney disease, diabetes and Alzheimers have all been linked to a higher sugar intake.
- You don’t sleep well at night
If you’re having sugar at night (cookies/rusks/hot chocolate etc), researchers have shown that you spend less time in deep, slow-wave sleep. This sleep stage is essential for the body’s restoration and healing, healthy metabolism and immune function. Sugar before sleep will result in a restless sleep, with more frequent awakenings throughout the night.
- Dental issues
Sugar is like a magnet for bad bacteria. When sugar sits on your teeth, it feeds plaque bacteria that are already naturally there, producing acids that wear away at your tooth enamel, which leads to cavities.
- You’re starting to look and feel old!
Sugar speeds up skin and joint aging because it reacts with proteins in your bloodstream, forming what is called “advanced glycation endproducts” (AGEs). These damage the structural proteins in collagen and elastin, making you feel more creaky and age faster. When you limit sugar and increase your collagen intake, there can be a marked difference!
So where are the sugar culprits?
- soft drinks
- alcohol and alcohol mixers (50 to 60 grams of sugar in a margarita).
- fruit drinks
- flavoured waters
- milk-based drinks (chocolate milk)
- tonic water (500mls has ~8 teaspoons of sugar)
- cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, crackers
- bread, muffins
- sweeties, chocolates (not with cocoa at 70% plus)
- breakfast cereals
- ice cream
- commercial granola and instant oatmeal
- soups, salad dressings, marinades and sauces (tomato, barbeque etc)
- flavoured coffees and iced teas
- protein bars, energy bars, cereal bars, granola bars
- non-dairy milk (almond, rice or cashew milks can contain 10 grams of sugar)
- commercial smoothies – I make my own – This is what I put in mine
- canned fruit and canned veges (eg baked beans)
- sushi rice (To make sushi rice, you need to add sugar to the rice as part of the recipe)