As I sat down to gather my thoughts on what to write about for Foundation #3, I came to the realization that nutrition is a very difficult topic to discuss. Every day a new “fad” comes out when it comes to the right diet and how to lose weight as fast as possible.
I have my own struggles finding the right balance when it comes to nutrition. One thing I know for sure, though, is that added sugar in food has no benefit to any person at any age. Why is it then that we eat more sugar now than ever? The answer is that sugar is addictive and the food industry uses it for its own benefit—to make more money.
Research has shown that consumption of sugar produces changes in the brain that resemble addiction. Dopamine is a hormone produced in the brain and is often called the happy hormone. When you eat a cake, dopamine levels spike because the brain wants more pleasure. The more you eat the weaker the signal gets, so you need even more sugar to satisfy the need.
When we are sad or fighting depression, we tend to reach for something sweet like candy, ice cream, or cake to make ourselves feel better. Dopamine is the important factor here as well. Dopamine levels in the brain are low in individuals with depression and therefore we reach for sweets to feel better.
When we are stressed out, we tend to reach for sugar as well. Sugar consumption increases production of another happy hormone called serotonin. Serotonin has a calming and relaxing effect on us, and that’s why sugar is a quick but temporary fix for stress.
Not only do we consume sugar when we are depressed and stressed, but sugar is a big part of celebration activities such as birthdays, weddings, and other social gatherings. And let’s not forget sodas and alcoholic beverages which have a high sugar content.
You might think sugar is only in sweets, but the truth is that most processed food has added sugar. I love dried mangos and have found that it is hard to find them in some grocery stores without added sugar. Why would a fruit which is naturally sweet need more sugar? I also recently found out that most bacon has added sugar.
The food industry has people working in labs just to figure out the perfect formula of sugar, salt, and fat to make it more addictive for us.You have probably been told to avoid the middle aisles at grocery stores to avoid unhealthy food. Well, the grocery stores must have figured that out because sweets are waiting for you as you wait in line to check out. So if you are hungry or stressed out, it is very difficult to resist the temptation.
Added sugar gives us fast energy but has no benefit when it comes to nutritional value. The food companies try to trick you by switching the names for sugar on food labels. There are a total of 61 different names they use on their labels and it is very difficult for the average person to recognize all of them.
The big question is how much sugar is okay to consume in one day? According to the American Heart Association, you shouldn’t exceed 9 teaspoons for a male (36 g) and 6 teaspoons (24 g) for a woman in a day. You might think it’s not a big problem, but when you combine all the sugar in your diet, you might be surprised how much sugar is added to food. One can of Coca-Cola© has a little over 9 teaspoons of sugar, just to give you one example.
The fact that added sugar is addictive is not the only harmful thing it can do to your body. Excessive sugar intake increases sugar levels in your blood and can lead to diabetes. Diabetes is one of the leading cause of death in the US today. Excess sugar in your body that is not used for energy is stored as fat and can lead to obesity. Obesity significantly increases the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US. Research has shown that sugar fuels the growth of cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in the US. Sugar also causes inflammation in the body, and people who are fighting inflammatory diseases and chronic pain should avoid added sugar to help the healing process.
I could go on and on about the harmful effects of added sugar for your body, but I want to encourage you to find a way to decrease added sugar in your diet and focus on eating fruits to fulfill the sugar needs. Read the labels and choose food with minimal to no sugar. It is very important to eat nutrient-dense food to make sure your body has the energy to get you through each day and stay healthy.