The average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar a year. Not only is that a lot of empty calories, eating too much sugar triggers a release of the hormone insulin and can also cause inflammation. Sugar is in almost every packaged food we eat and in its various forms, hides in many of the foods that we eat every day.
When sugar combines with protein in our bodies, it forms harmful advanced glycosylation end products (AGEs). These AGEs hurt enzyme systems and keep cells from repairing themselves. AGEs also inflame your skin. In a nutshell, AGEs age you.
Blood sugar comes from foods high in carbohydrates. After your stomach digests food, glucose enters your bloodstream. Your body responds to the additional glucose by secreting insulin. Insulin helps the glucose enter liver, muscle, and fat cells. Insulin also stops your body from burning fat and protein for energy. It promotes fat storage and increases fatty substances called triglyerides, which circulate in your blood. HDL, the good cholesterol, dips.
LDL, the bad cholesterol, rises. High insulin levels can lead to the production of arachidonic acid (inflammatory compounds) in the metabolic pathway of omega-6 fatty acids. Higher levels of insulin can also lower vitamin E, an important antioxidant.
Why Should You Reduce Your Sugar Intake?
Lowering your sugar intake has many benefits. You may lose weight, have more energy, and feel more focused and less moody. Your LDL cholesterol levels should decrease and if you suffer from an inflammatory skin condition, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, your symptoms will be greatly reduced.
How Can You Reduce Your Sugar Intake?
- Start by eliminating the obvious sugary foods and drinks-sodas, fruit drinks that aren’t 100 percent juice, desserts, processed foods, candy and sugary condiments- from your diet.
- Read food labels carefully, avoiding white or brown sugar, raw sugar, fructose, maltose, sorbitol, evaporated cane juice, xylitol and barley malt.
- Try to eat three to four ounces of lean protein with every meal. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent cravings.
- Add complex carbohydrates, including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains like brown rice and legumes.
- Honey – Unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals.
- Agave – A distilled sweetener derived from the blue agave cactus, agave has a low glycemic index.
- Stevia – A low-calorie sweetener that comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil, stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.
- Beware of sugar free alternatives like sucralose (splenda), aspartame (equal) and saccharin (sweet n’ low). Due to adverse and unknown side effects, these alternatives may be less healthy than the sugar you are attempting to replace.