How Does Sugar Cause Inflammation?
Once a luxury product for the elite, sugar has come a long way since its initial introduction. Today, it seems to be everywhere. Soft drinks, candies, and sweets are obvious sources; however, sugar is also hidden in everything from tea and milk to snacks and breads. Its sweetness helps to cut down on stronger tastes, like citrus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.
Consuming too much sugar, much like everything else in life, can be downright dangerous! Study after study has shown that excessive sugar intake can lead to a variety of problems, including:
- Higher chances of heart disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Tooth decay
- Raising the likelihood of a stroke
- Liver problems, such as fatty liver disease
That’s not to say that you need to eliminate sugar from your life. Medical researchers and dieticians have agreed that you can have about nine teaspoons of sugar per day and be perfectly fine. Unfortunately, thanks to its increased use in most processed foods, the average American adult male consumes about twenty four teaspoons of sugar per day!
Refining Your Sugar Intake
One of the biggest sources of sugar in the average modern diet is refined sugar. Why is refined sugar bad for you? Well, in this form, the sugar has been stripped of any nutritional value. To make matters work, it tends to be added to already unhealthy foods. Soft drinks, ice cream, pastries, and pre-packaged foods are all commonly consumed sources of excessive refined sugar.
Another form of sugar is natural sugar. This often occurs in nutrition-packed foods, such as fruits. Mangoes, grapes, pears, cherries, and watermelon are some of the most sugary of these delectable treats. Notably, however, all of these sweet goodies are loaded with additional nutritional benefits. Fiber, minerals, and vitamins are all essential components of any fruit, and they’re absorbed by your body in addition to the sugar.
Cutting Back on Sweets
That’s not to say that you now have free reign to go absolutely wild with fruits! You should still take the sugar content into consideration and try to abide by the nine teaspoons of daily recommended intake. Even fruits can be harmful in excess.
Moreover, it’s important to know where sugar is found. Many modern foods, even those you might not expect, have sugar in them. Some of these sneaky sources of sugar are:
- Processed teas, particularly iced teas
- Yeast breads
- Cereals, especially those designed for children
Healthy Alternatives to Sugar Cravings
If you simply can’t satisfy your sweet tooth, one of the best things you can do is switch to a more natural sugar substitute. In addition to having supplemental nutritional value, these natural additives tend to be more concentrated than refined sugar. For you, this means that you can get the same level of sweetness with less of the sweetener. Some examples of natural sweeteners are:
- Fruit juices and nectars
- Maple syrup
Of course, if you opt to use natural sweeteners, you still need to be aware of how much you’re using. A teaspoon of honey is still a teaspoon of mostly sugar. Remember: you can use less to get the same effect, so don’t be afraid to cut back!
If you’re trying to avoid sweets as much as possible, then it might be time for a lifestyle change. Consider snacking on something else instead of a sweet, sugary snack. Awesome snacks to beat your sugar cravings include:
- Nuts, such as pistachio
- Seeds, particularly chia and sesame
- Beans or lentils
It’s also worth knowing that simply cutting sugars out of your diet altogether isn’t necessarily a good idea. Often, this leads to an excessive craving for sweets, which pushes individuals further deeper into their sugar habit. Many fruits would also be permanently off of your plate should you go this route.
As with all things in life, the key to smart sugar consumption is moderation. Know how much you’re eating and ensure you’re not overdoing it! In addition to this, you should also be crafting a well-rounded diet and an active, healthy lifestyle. Much like how exercise can’t fix everything by itself, simply removing sugar from your diet won’t fix everything.
Sugar, Inflammation, and You
Even so, there are plenty of reasons to cut back on sugar, and we’ve shown that it isn’t necessarily painful to do! In addition to the obvious perks, such as weight loss, reducing sugar intake may also ease your aches and pains. Excessive consumption of sugar has been linked to joint inflammation. In some cases, having too much sugar may even lead to premature or worsening rheumatoid arthritis.
But why does sugar cause inflammation in the body? There’s a great deal of complex science behind this phenomenon, but the answer boils down to digestion. When we consume any food, our body breaks it into usable nutrients and parts. For example, eating an orange will produce (among other things) fiber and vitamin C.
Sugar, however, is broken into some less favorable parts. One of these “nutrients” is known as FFA, or free fatty acids. These are further broken down into harmful byproducts which tend to harm joints and muscles. As a result, aches and pains increase. In addition to joint inflammation and pain, sugar may also produce results such as:
- Increased incidence of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Digestive issues, such as diarrhea, acid reflux, and constipation
- Higher risk of infection