The not-so-sweet side of sugar

From a young age, we’re told that too much sugar will rot our teeth. But with sugar-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and dementia, it’s clear that bad teeth is the least of our problems.

Here are some effects of too much sugar that you might not have known about, as well as some better alternatives:

 

Sugar can damage your heart

Studies have shown that too much sugar not only increases the overall risk for heart disease, but can even affect the pumping mechanism of your heart – making you more susceptible for heart failure.

Sugar may be linked to cancer production a

nd may effect cancer survival

Cancer is characterised by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. For this reason, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer.

Sugar is addictive

Sugar can be addictive for a lot of people. Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a massive release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain. For this reason, people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to sugar and other junk foods.

Sugar makes you age faster

Studies have found a link between glucose consumption and the aging of our cells. Aging of the cells can cause many things, from wrinkles to chronic disease. But there is other alarming evidence that sugar may affect the aging of your brain as well, leading to deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive health.

Sugar makes you eat more without feeling full

While foods rich in fibre, fat and protein make us feel full, sugar gives us the calories, but not the feeling that we’ve had enough. The lack of other nutrients in sugar actually makes it much easier to eat lots and lots of it with no physical effects to make us stop. That’s why you can eat a whole bag of sweets and still feel hungry a short while later.

 

Sweet alternatives to sugar

Natural sugar

Keep some sweetness in your life with the natural sugars from fruits and some veggies. But make sure you actually eat the produce. Fruit juices, even those without added sweeteners, will still sugar-bomb your bloodstream. The key is in the fibre, which slows sugar’s absorption in your body, preventing an insulin spike.

Stevia

This powdered extract of the stevia plant is all natural and 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used to sweeten hot drinks and food, and even used in baking.

Agave nectar

This honey-like sweetener is made from the sap found in the agave plant. It’s sweeter than table sugar, and it even contains traces of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Agave nectar has a lower glycaemic index than table sugar, so it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

Honey

Using honey instead of sugar provides your body with antioxidants, and in its raw form, gut-friendly bacteria. This natural sugar substitute’s low glycaemic index keeps sugar levels in check, and it’s 50% sweeter than sugar – so your sweet tooth will be satisfied with less.