Sugar is the primary food source that is naturally present in most of the foods like fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese and even grains while added in different forms in processed and pre-packaged foods like ice cream, cookies, candy, soda, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, bread and salad dressing. Health experts are of the opinion that while we won’t fall ill by occasionally indulging in a pastry or a sugar treat, it is the number of excess calories that we consume regularly that can be harmful to our bodies.
So while sugar on its own is not bad and is an essential part of our diet, restricting the amount of added sugar we consume can help us in staying healthy by avoiding excess, non-nourishing calories. To understand the reason to cut off sugar from our diet, we need to understand the difference between sugar and added sugar because when experts talk about high sugar intake, they are rarely talking about the sugar that is naturally occurring in food. instead, they are talking about is the “added sugar” that we consume.
Difference between sugar and added sugar:
Miten Kakaiya, fitness coach and founder of Miten Says Fitness, shares, “Sugar is a carbohydrate and is present in any food that contains carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits and grains. Since carbohydrates are our main source of energy, sugar acts as a fuel for our body. This sugar is essential for our body and is not troublesome on its own.”
He adds, “Added sugar is the sugars that we add to our food during production or during preparation in our kitchen. They are extracted, refined and added to food and drinks in order to improve and enhance their taste. Added sugars go by many names including table sugar, glucose, cane sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar and so on. It is these added sugars that are the real culprit and need to be cut off.”
Karan Sethi Chopra, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of The Iron Hub Gym elaborates, “Kicking a sugar habit is challenging – even for the most strong-willed. These naturally occurring sugars come packaged with good vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but if you can control back your intake of added sugar, you’ll start to rack up some amazing health benefits.”
Does sugar provide us energy or reduces immunity?
Preety Tyagi, Lead Health Coach, Nutritionist and Founder of MY22BMI explains, “Sugar is the biggest irritant to our gut. It attacks our gut microbiome, every time we consume added sugar with our foods and drinks. It reduces our immunity which means that it makes our body weak and unable to fight back the ailments and infections.”
However, she adds, “Naturally occurring sugars are not a problem such as sugars found in fruits, grains and meals. They are meant to provide us energy as they are a combination with other vitamins and minerals and are extremely healthy for us but added sugar means empty calories. Not only does it mean that we are consuming calories without any nutrition, it in fact rips off nutrition from our body, by affecting our gut.”
Stressing that sugar intake must be reduced if it can’t be completely eliminated, Preety asserted, “The digestive system with our gut gets affected by consumption of sugar and it becomes really hard for the gut to be able to break down and digest any other foods, vitamins and minerals properly.”
Reasons to cut off sugar from your diet:
Fitness coaches Miten Kakaiya and Karan Sethi Chopra list reasons to cut off sugar from your diet. This is because:
1. Added sugar is highly addictive and can easily lead to overconsumption.
2. A diet high in sugar and its calories can have various repercussions on our health and cause weight gain, increase the risk of heart conditions, increase the risk of diabetes, reduce immune function, reduce mental functioning, increase gum diseases, promote stress and cause skin aging.
3. Added sugars are simple carbohydrates. Once that shot of sugar is metabolized, you’re in for a crash, back to low energy. Foods high in protein and healthy fat, such as a handful of almonds, supply you with a steadier stream of energy that lasts longer.
4. Everyone knows that a daily sugar habit can pack on the pounds. Sugary food spikes your blood sugar, causing a flood of insulin through your body, which over time boosts fat to accumulate around your middle. So, cut back on pop and desserts and see the difference.
5. Leptin is a key hormone that regulates appetite but when obesity and insulin resistance are present, the body produces less leptin and doesn’t use it as effectively. Cutting out added sugar slowly restores leptin activity in the body and overpowers hunger.
6. Increased insulin levels don’t just add pounds to your stomach but also put fat cells all over your body. Replacing refined carbs and sugary foods with healthy fats help keep your insulin stable. As a result, your metabolism speeds up and you can lose weight quickly.