By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
I love what was described in the independent.co.UK website about certain facts of sugar. I hope you would enjoy reading the reason why many of us love sugary food.
What happens to your body when you overindulge your sweet tooth?
Sugar is essential for the human body as it powers the cells that keep us alive. However, eating too much of it can also have a negative effect on our health. Foods with added sugar that does not occur naturally contain empty calories, meaning that they have no other benefit than to provide energy. If we eat more sugar than our energy levels require, then our bodies have to find something else to do with it, creating a whole host of problems. Excessive sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Sugar on the brain
As humans, we are programmed to love sugar. Our primate ancestors evolved to seek out sweet foods for their high-energy content to increase their chance of survival when food was scarce. Nowadays food is much more readily available, yet we still can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.
The reason for this is all in the brain. When we eat sugar, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the hormones that boost your mood, which then stimulate the nucleus accumbens – the area of the brain associated with reward. This is a similar process that leads to drug addiction, which is why we get those sugar cravings. Regular sugar consumption can also inhibit dopamine transporters, which can lead to you needing to eat even more sugar to get the same pleasure reward as before. In addition, fructose, which is used to sweeten many foods and drinks, doesn’t suppress hunger hormones like glucose does, meaning your body is unable to tell when you’ve eaten enough.
Where is sugar hiding?
Sugar comes in many forms but they typically have names ending in –ose. As well as glucose and fructose naturally found in fruit, vegetables and honey, lactose and galactose can be found in milk and dairy products, and maltose in barley. These natural sugars are fine in moderation as they also come with other nutritional benefits. For example, a piece of fruit will also contain fibre, which helps limit the amount of fructose the body absorbs.
Added sugar, used to improve the taste and textures of foods and drinks, is the type that is considered unhealthy. This usually comes in the form of sucrose, or as a sugar substitute such as sucralose, saccharin, aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is artificially produced from corn and used in many processed foods and fizzy drinks. To find out how much sugar is in your food, check the ‘carbohydrates – of which sugars’ value on the label.
Your home work from the Care Ministry this week: as suggested above, check the carbohydrates and sugar content of your favorite food.
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