Halloween is a fun time full of ghosts, ghouls, and goodies! Unfortunately, most of the goodies are highly-processed, sugar-filled treats. While we’re all about balance here at CLEAN.FIT (aka we won’t judge if you dig into your kiddo’s candy stash ;) we also believe that knowledge is power, so today we’re sharing some scary facts about sugar!
Refined sugar has been linked to many health issues such as tooth decay, heart disease, several types of cancer, acne, diabetes, depression, premature skin aging, and liver disease, just to name a few.
It truly is addictive - some experts even claim refined sugar is as addictive as cocaine and opioids!
The average American consumes over 77 pounds of added sugar a year (!!).
That is more than 90 grams of sugar per day, much higher the 50 gram limit recommended by the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
That equates to 348 extra calories a day, or 2,436 a week - which equates to over 36 pounds of fat a year!
Sugar is hidden in so many foods - even those that aren’t sweet! For example, ketchup, mayo, hot dogs, store-bought bread, and more.
Unfortunately there is sugar even in many “healthy” foods - refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup aside, technically everything from honey, to maple syrup, to agave, and coconut sugar are all sugars. Which leads us to the next point:
Are all sugars created equal?
There are actually 7 main types of sugars,
Fructose: found in fruits and honey
Glucose: found in honey, fruits and vegetables
Sucrose: made up of glucose and fructose and found in plants - also known as white, basic table sugar
Lactose: found in milk, made from glucose and galactose
Galactose: found in milk and dairy products
Maltose: found in barley
Xylose: found in wood or straw
The 3 most basic ones are fructose, glucose, and sucrose - and here’s how they work.
Sucrose (white table sugar) is a disaccharide, which means that it’s a slightly complicated molecule, and thus our bodies don’t really want to deal with it - so within seconds of sucrose hitting our intestines, our enzymes split it into two separate molecules: glucose and fructose. It then goes into the bloodstream and raises your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) level.
Glucose (also called dextrose) is a monosaccharide, is the main energy sources for your body (and is what simple carbs are made of - read more on our past blog post!). It is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, and it causes our pancreas to pump out insulin - which is a hormone that pulls glucose out of the bloodstream so the body can use it quickly for energy.
After your body has used the energy it needs, the leftover glucose is stored in little bundles (called glycogen) in the muscles and the liver. Once the liver and muscles are full of glycogen, your body stores the excess glucose as fat.
Fructose is also a monosaccharide. It doesn’t go into the bloodstream directly like glucose. It has to be processed by the liver into glucose before it can be used. Every cell in the body can use glucose, however the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in significant amounts. So when people eat a high calorie diet that’s also high in fructose, the liver gets overloaded and starts turning the fructose into fat.
Experts believe that fructose is the most harmful sugar to your health, and is correlated with obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and more. This is why you’ve heard so many warnings about high-fructose corn syrup.
Most experts agree that too much of any sugar is bad for your health, but the least bad sugars are those that are naturally occurring - such as honey, maple syrup, dates, and unrefined (raw) sugars, including coconut. Stevia is a great all-natural, sugar-free alternative!
But what about the #sweettooth struggle?!
Now, we know that the sweet tooth struggle is real, and again - we know it’s not realistic for everyone to cut all sugar out of their diet! However, it’s a good idea to limit your intake to no more than the recommended limit of 50 grams (10 teaspoons) per day. Here are some easy ways to cut down on your sugar intake:
Replace sodas with unsweetened, flavored sparkling water (one 12-oz can of Coca Cola contains 39 grams of sugar - almost 80% of the recommended sugar intake!)
When baking, replace white granulated sugar with a natural sweetener such as honey, bananas, or applesauce
If you must #treatyoself to some Halloween candy…
Try to do so after a nutrient-rich meal with lots of veggies, so you’ll be more full and less likely to binge on it
Go for a walk around the block after eating the high-sugar treat, to help your body burn off some of that glucose
Go for a mini-size instead of a full-size candy bar
Have any other tips for reducing your sugar intake? We’d love to hear! Please tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org :)