The latest buzz in healthy eating is all about sugar and how it affects our health, especially added sugars. To get to the root of this, we must first establish what added sugar means.
Added sugars include sugars that are added during the processing of foods (such as sucrose or dextrose), foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
Added sugar is generally added to packaged food products mostly to improve the taste of the product. This generally involves the addition of molasses, malt extracts, and fructose in the form of corn syrup.
Molasses mostly contain sucrose, they also contain glucose and fructose, while malt extracts are mostly constituted of maltose and other long-chain sugars, and corn syrup has a larger concentration of fructose than glucose.
They do not include naturally occurring sugars that are found in milk, fruits, and vegetables. The Daily Value for added sugars is 50 grams per day based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet .
What is the purpose of added sugar?
Sugar is used to make manufactured foods more enticing. Sugar is also added to foods for the following reasons:
- It adds flavor, texture, and color to foods.
- Aids in the preservation of foods such as jams and jellies.
- In baked goods and ice cream, it acts as a bulking agent.
- Balances the acidity of the vinegar and tomato-based meals.
Why is added sugar bad for our health?
The reason why added sugar is bad for our health, and needs to be checked, is because a diet rich in sugar is linked to obesity, fatty liver disease, high levels of lipids and uric acid in the blood, metabolic disorders, increased risk of heart diseases, and insulin insensitivity and type 2 diabetes  .
What is the problem with Fructose?
Fructose, in particular, is more harmful and is also the major component of most added sugars in processed food products. This is because fructose is more likely to stimulate hunger, and craving for food, compared to glucose .
Moreover, high fructose diet can also lead to resistance to leptin, which is one of the key hormones that regulate hunger by suppressing our appetite .
This further regulates the storage of fatty acids in adipose tissues, and hence plays a major role in managing obesity.
Other Side Effects
- Apart from these well-known adverse effects on our health, consumption of excess sugar also leads to an increase in inflammation, and the levels of triglycerides in the blood   .
- High levels of sugar also increase dopamine levels in our brain . This is undesirable because dopamine is the compound that is responsible for regulating the reward centers in our brain, and associates activities with pleasure. Hence, higher levels of dopamine due to high sugar intake associates sugar with pleasure and makes us addicted to it.
- Thus it is clear that excessive intake of fructose can damage our health in multiple ways, and is a major proponent of obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes. This makes added sugar extremely harmful, as it only adds empty calories to our plate, and makes us prone to consuming more sugar instead.
So what food items do we need to keep out of our carts and shopping bags to ensure we are not consuming added sugar?
- Well, that includes anything that is not a whole food, like fruits, vegetables, meat, or whole grains. Almost all processed and packaged goods contain added sugar and are harmful to our health and wellbeing.
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