While the occasional cookie isn’t the biggest detriment to your or your child’s health, repeatedly eating too much sugar can be very harmful. According to Prevention, the average American consumes approximately 130 pounds of added sugar per year. That’s the weight of a full-grown person and equates to about 22 teaspoons per day. While we all know that the sweetener can lead to tooth decay and sugar buzzes, there are plenty of other ways that this ingredient affects your body – and most of it is not good. Here are a few ways that your body responds to sugar intake that you may be unaware of:
Sugar can be addictive
Like many drugs, sugar triggers a release of chemicals like dopamine that activate the brain’s pleasure center. This leads to cravings for more sugar. After a while, your body becomes accustomed to an excess sugar intake and it starts needing more for you to “feel good.” Eliminating sugar from your diet or significantly cutting down can actually cause physical withdrawal symptoms.
“Sugar triggers your brain’s release of serotonin.”
Sugar can cause you to overeat
An abundance of sugar can hinder your body’s ability to transmit messages to the brain – especially messages that tell your brain that you’re full. The sweet substance throws off your body’s ability to produce leptin hormones, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Sugar can damage your liver
Sugar has a similar effect to alcohol on your body. Fructose goes right to the liver, which typically has the resources to process it as energy. However, if you eat too much sugar, it can overload your liver and cause fat buildup and damage.
Sugar can make you sleepy
Though sugar causes a quick jolt of energy – similar to the effect of caffeine – it also causes a crash that ends up making you more tired than you were previously. Sugar triggers your brain’s release of serotonin – a sleep regulating hormone.
Sugar can cause heart disease
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet high in fructose can cause obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome – all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. An abundance of fructose can raise triglycerides and blood glucose levels and cause an increase in belly fat.
Limiting your family’s sugar intake
Luckily, there are many options that you have to limit your family’s sugar intake without sacrificing taste. Here are a few ways to slowly integrate healthier options into your family’s diets:
- Stop purchasing sugary sodas and fruit juices to keep at home. Allow your children to indulge when you go out to eat or at their friends’ houses, but keep these beverages out of your fridge.
- Limit your family’s consumption of packaged foods. Even if they aren’t sweet snacks, chances are, these foods have a decent amount of added sugar.
- If you need to add a little bit of sweetness to your food or beverage, consider natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Though they will still raise glucose levels, these options are nowhere near as unhealthy as a refined sugars.