A Low Sugar Diet Boosts Wellness

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As we become more aware of the impact of sugar on our strong waists, we have to grapple with hundreds of complicated food choices every day. We’re also bombarded with messages from others telling us that all calories are equal and it doesn’t matter what type of sugar you get your calories from. If you’re eating too much sugar, which is easily possible in this day and age of processed foods with corn derivatives added to everything from “artificial” sweeteners to beef jerky, there’s some truth to that claim. Too much sugar of any kind leads to weight gain, fuels inflammation, damages cells through oxidation, and leads to diabetes, heart disease, and more. The reasons for focusing on sugar intake are compelling.

The two main forms of dietary sugar are fructose and glucose. Fructose comes from fruit and is often added to foods in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Glucose comes naturally from a variety of vegetables and fruits, and is also added to processed foods. The body and brain treat these two sugars very differently. Glucose is metabolized by insulin secreted by the pancreas. Too much sugar raises insulin levels and the body stores the excess insulin as fat. Over time, the increased insulin levels lead to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which often leads to diabetes.

The liver metabolizes fructose directly, and any excess fructose increases triglyceride levels, which are also stored in the body as fat. Glucose serves as a source of energy for cells and we need a small supply in our bloodstream to keep cells functioning properly. Fructose serves no other purpose in our body, so the excess amounts are essentially fat deposits and our body recognizes them as toxins that need to be removed. The first place to be damaged by these toxins is the liver itself, where fructose has the same effect as alcohol.

Elevated levels of glucose and fructose both stimulate the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are the result of oxidative stress on cells. Accelerated aging, inflammation and other diseases can be the result. Fructose accelerates this process seven times faster than glucose. Fructose also increases the production of uric acid, high levels of which are indicated in gout, kidney stones and high blood pressure.

Excess sugar and fructose in particular feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut, which can lead to indigestion and inflammation. Sustained high-fructose diets can lead to resistance to leptin, a hormone that helps regulate our metabolism and appetite. This leads to rapid weight gain. Fructose actually stimulates the feeling of hunger in the brain, while glucose does not. The more fructose you eat, the more resistant you become to it and the more you want to eat.

The answer is to avoid packaged foods high in sugar and containing refined sugars and starches as the main ingredients. In addition to high fructose corn syrup, products with names like malt syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, and molasses are likely all high in fructose. Keep fruit consumption under control, but there’s no need to eliminate fruit entirely, as fruit provides many important vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Use nutrient-dense vegetables as a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide our bodies with the glucose energy we need without raising insulin levels. The most important thing is to realize that too much sugar of either type is not good for your diet and health.

Thanks to Patrick Smyth

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