Although sugar often gets a bad rap, the truth is that it is a vital source of energy and essential to our survival. There are, of course, different types of sugar, each with its own unique benefits. The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables, as well as lactose in dairy-rich foods, are less of a concern because these foods also have fiber and calcium. Added sugars, which are often found in processed foods, are those we should try to avoid, as most of us consume too much of them.
The average American consumes over 17 teaspoons of added sugars each day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
A healthy diet consists of natural sugars found in fruit and dairy products, as well as starch from wholegrain products and some vegetables. This way, you’ll get the energy you need to power your body cells without putting your health at risk.
Did you know that your body can be an exceptional indicator that you’re over-consuming sugar? Inflammation and other physical symptoms can be an indication that you need to cut back on the sweet stuff. Keep an eye out for these signs to keep your health on track.
What are the potential symptoms of consuming foods with high sugar amounts? Find out on the next page.
1. Muscle and joint pains
If you find yourself struggling to complete regular activities like gardening or walking, you might be experiencing symptoms of inflammation in your muscles and joints. When you eat sugary foods, your body secretes a hormone that breaks down harmful advanced glycation end-products. This hormone can cause inflammation in your joints, so it’s important to watch your sugar intake.
As your sugar intake increases, the advanced glycation end-product increases, which can prompt the body to release cytokines into your blood to break them down. This continuous cycle is one of the causes of heart disease, cataracts, arthritis, poor memory, and wrinkled skin.
In a survey published in December 2017 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, respondents with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) said that soda and desserts were the foods that most commonly affected their symptoms.
2. Sleep Issues
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, you may want to take a closer look at your diet.
The study of 300 university students published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in August 2019 found that poor sleep quality is significantly related to higher consumptions of added sugars.
Sugar can disrupt your sleeping pattern and lead to insomnia. If you enjoy having a sugary snack late at night, you might end up with this condition. These not only apply to late-night snacks but consuming a high amount of sugar during the day can make you wake up in the middle of the night. These lead to a cycle of consuming much sugar to stay energized throughout the day after losing sleep the previous night.
3. Frequent colds and flu
Eating sugary foods and drinks can make your immune system less effective at fighting off sickness-causing bacteria. The immune system relies on vitamin C to power its cells and fights off dangerous bacteria. This nutrient is similar to glucose in its chemical structure and is essential for keeping your immune system strong.
When blood sugar levels are high, the immune system will use glucose instead of vitamin C to fight off flu bacteria. This means that your immune system is more susceptible to the disease.
There are many ways to reduce your risk of getting sick when you’re vulnerable to cold and flu – one is to reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Another is to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients like vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, and zinc.
4. Tooth decay
The sweet taste of foods can often be a delight, but it’s important to remember that these foods can also be a cause of tooth decay. Sugar left in the mouth after eating can create an environment where destructive bacteria can thrive and release acids that can erode the hard surface of your teeth, leading to cavities. Ensuring that you brush and floss your teeth regularly can help to clear away food debris and reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Sugary foods like candy, dry cereal, and breath mints can cause tooth decay when stuck in between your teeth. You can avoid tooth decay by maintaining the right oral hygiene and avoiding sugary foods.
5. Weight gain
It’s never a good feeling when we realize that the sweets we ate last week have caused us to gain weight around our waistlines. Unfortunately, that’s often the outcome of consuming foods with high sugar levels.
The excess sugar from snacks and sweets can often lead to excess fat being stored in the midsection. A high increase in your blood sugar levels can cause your body to produce insulin, which converts these excess sugars into fatty acids and stores them as adipose tissue in your belly, thighs, or hips.
6. Dry, itchy skin
Eating foods containing a high amount of added sugar can lead to increased blood insulin levels and skin inflammation. The glycation process that results in the release of inflammation-producing substances in the skin is triggered by sugar conversion to glucose in your blood. This can cause skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.
There is a strong correlation between high sugar diets and acne flare-ups. If you are struggling to get rid of your acne and have tried multiple treatments, you might want to consider your diet. This does not mean swearing off sugar completely, but rather reducing your intake of foods that are high in added sugar.
7. Constantly feeling weak, hungry, or tired
Sugar provides you with a quick burst of energy that is short-lived; after which you will experience a significant decrease in energy levels. When you consume sugar, it is converted into glucose in your bloodstream, providing you with a temporary energy boost.
Insulin helps your cells convert glucose into the energy you need to stay active and alert. However, when blood sugar levels spike too high, your body responds by releasing insulin in large quantities. This can lead to a sudden drop in energy, leaving you feeling drained and tired. To combat this, try to avoid eating sugary snacks late in the day.
There are many ways to avoid these increases and decreases in energy levels, such as eating lean proteins and healthy fats instead of sugar.
8. Craving sweets and other sugary foods
Many people believe that sugar is as addictive as drugs. This is because when you eat sugar, it starts to digest in your mouth. This is why eating a muffin doesn’t fill you up, but leaves you hungry shortly after eating it. Research has shown that sugar has the same effects as addictive drugs. It floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sparks feelings of intense pleasure. This hormone is released into the bloodstream in response to something that feels really good, such as eating your favorite sugary treat. When there’s an overabundance of dopamine, that’s when you experience that euphoric high.
Eating sugar provides the brain with the energy it needs to function and, as a result, the brain views sugar as a reward. Consuming large quantities of sugar on a regular basis will only reinforce this idea and make your brain become addicted to it. However, processed sugar offers no nutritional benefits and won’t fill you up; therefore, it’s not really worth eating.
9. Increased Frequent Urination
Dr. David Jacoby and Robert Youngson say that sugar is a natural diuretic. This means that eating sugar reduces the amount of water that your body reabsorbs from your kidneys, thus causing you to pee more.
Consuming too much sugar can have an impact on more than just your waistline – it can also cause you to increase your bathroom breaks. When blood sugar levels are high, the kidneys can’t always keep up with the demand to reabsorb sugar. This means sugar spills over into the urine, and the body draws in more water to dilute it, which increases how much you pee.
10. Digestive Issues
If you’re experiencing stomach pain, cramping, or diarrhea, there may be many potential causes. Your doctor can help you identify the source of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan. Too much sugar, a known gut irritant, may be to blame.
According to Stoner-Davis, sugar can also exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms for those with underlying health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or for those who have had stomach surgery.
If you’re only eating high-sugar foods, you might find yourself constipated. Those sugary snacks might be tasty, but they don’t offer the fiber you need to keep things moving. Try swapping in some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead. They’ll help keep you regular and feeling great.
11. Acne and Wrinkles
Acne may be worsened by consuming too much sugar, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Glycemic control plays a significant role in skin health and acne,” Cording says. For example, one study suggests that insulin resistance may influence the development of acne.
According to a recent study, sugar may be to blame for those pesky wrinkles. The Journal of Nutrients published an article in March 2020 that suggests sugar consumption can lead to the development of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are known to promote skin aging.