Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes
Summary: It's the sugariest season of the year, and for those with a sweet tooth, it's usually the best season for that reason! But, did you know that sugar can have an adverse effect on your body? Learn about the relationship between sugar and your body below...
There’s no denying – it’s been a long year, and this holiday season the temptation to reach for as many sweet treats as possible will be unbearable. And, of course, Christmas candy is the best!
However, thanks to our modern lifestyle, we consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis already and not many of us actually understand the effect it’s having over our body or our mind...
Sugar as a substance is often misunderstood though; seen as a poison by some, and a pleasure by others. But, as with most things, sugar can actually be crucial to a happy and healthy life when eaten in moderation, and only becomes a real danger when over-consumed (something which we can all relate to around the holidays!)
Here at Cel, we would never lecture our community on what they should and shouldn’t eat, particularly after a year like we’ve just had! And hey, overindulgence is to be expected at Christmas! However, being mindful of what we’re putting in our body is important all year round and knowing what impact excess sugar has on our mind and body, the types of sugar we actually need, and what habits we should try and avoid/control is a healthy attitude and outlook to have!
There is an enormous range of sugar varieties out there (not to mention sugar substitutes!), but the main two you’ll probably be aware of are Glucose and Fructose.
Many people market sugar as a “bad” food, normally pointing the finger at cookies, donuts or soda, but in actual fact, sugar is in almost everything we consume...
To put it simply, glucose is the sugar your body likes. It’s used as a primary source of energy by your cells and is the main component of many carbohydrates. It’s necessary for our everyday life and fuelling our activities – keeping us alert, full and satisfied.
When glucose is consumed, the body stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Your brain then acknowledges the insulin, understands that it’s metabolizing food, and tells you that you’re less hungry. Without enough carbohydrate (glucose), we can feel tired, drained and lethargic.
Fructose is the other main sugar type we consume. However, it’s considered the worse of the two, at least when consumed in excess. Fructose is a simple sugar, but it needs to be converted into glucose by the liver in order to be used as energy. It also contains around 3 times the number of calories than glucose too.
Fructose negatively changes the way your brain recognizes your hunger – making you resist Leptin (the protein vital for regulating energy expenditure). As a result, you can keep eating without recognizing you are full, which can lead to weight gain.
But, Fructose isn’t all bad! Unlike Glucose, Fructose causes a low rise in blood sugar levels and therefore is seen as “safer” for those with diabetes and similar conditions. It’s also often used by athletes as it can actually replenish your glycogen supplies faster than glucose.
Eating a lot of refined carbs, like white bread and pasta, can quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream. This will give you an energy boost temporarily, but this short-term spike will leave you more sluggish later on. This crash can cause serious lethargy, an inability to concentrate and leave you craving more sugar. If you want to avoid that this Christmas, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals to help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and choose wholegrain or brown carbs rather than the white varieties – a good note for those who love a turkey sandwich!
Eating sugar causes a release of dopamine, the chemical that makes us like something and want more of it (sounds about right!). As you release more and more of this neurotransmitter, it overstimulates the brain and causes receptors to decrease. This results in you needing a bigger hit of dopamine to get the same rush – hooking you on to eating more and more sugary treats! Something to be mindful of when hovering around the Christmas chocolate boxes…
Fructose consumption accelerates the usual oxidation process in your cells, resulting in tissues becoming damaged. This can lead to health implications such as liver and kidney disease, and even cataracts. Eating excess sugar over a continuous time frame is therefore not only potentially harmful to your waistline (and the health implications associated with that), but for our internal health, too.
Although sugar is essential for energy release, the liver is only able to metabolize so much. So, any Fructose left over is converted into fat in the liver, elevating the likelihood of weight gain. Again, to be expected this time of year – we’re all guilty of adding a few pounds over the holiday season! However, eating too much sugar can also make you want to eat more, as your body is trying to constantly balance and re-surge its blood sugar levels. However, it’s just good practice to be conscious of this as we reach for our umpteenth candy cane!
Did you know that eating too much sugar long term can hinder the repair of collagen in your skin, which is essential for looking smooth and wrinkle-free? Sugary treats can result in reduced elasticity and premature aging.
Fructose, when eaten regularly, can excite the brain’s reward center by firing off chemicals and neurotransmitters telling you you're happy and in pleasure. But, over an excessive period of time, this can start to affect how well our memories are stored and how quickly we can pick up new skills. To stay in peak mental shape over the holiday season, it's healthy to be mindful of how much Christmas candy you’re consuming.
As with most things, sugar in moderation can be great, particularly around Christmas time! The problems occur when your daily intake exceeds what your body needs, can deal with, and if this is sustained over a long period. On our over indulgent days, sugar can be hidden in many foods and drinks without us even realizing, especially when we rely so much on grab-and-go, processed, convenient foods. Even more so when they’re wrapped in gorgeously tempting festive packaging!
So, simply pay a little more attention to what and how much you’re putting in your body this season, as it can negatively effect your health and appearance quite significantly. But, don't let your fear of sugar and it's effects consume you either... It's been a hard enough year as it is!