There are several ways sugar makes you gain weight and a sugar addiction isn't the only one! On average, most Americans consume 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day! That's an extra 400 calories per day! According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 100 calories per day coming from sugar (or a little bit more than 6 teaspoons); but when considering this, you have to remember that many of the foods we eat nowadays already have added sugar, whether it be from white sugar or syrup. These days foods and beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, candies, sugary cereals, and desserts, are adding up to far too much sugar in our diets. There are several problems linked to a high intake of added sugar and most of these lead to unintentional weight gain. Here are 7 ways sugar makes you gain weight and tips for avoiding these traps!
1. Excess Energy
One of the first ways sugar makes you gain weight is by providing extra calories that do not provide your body any nutrition. Added sugar is very easy to consume in excess, especially in liquid form like juices and soda, providing added calories without filling you up. If you consider that one pound equals 3,500 calories and that on average we all consume about 400 added calories from sugar each day, then over time this will add up to about a one pound weight gain every 8-9 days! Over the course of a year, that's an additional 42 pounds!
2. Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone in your body that allows the food you eat to be taken into your cells to be used for energy. Without insulin our cells would starve and die. Whenever you eat, in a healthy person, this signals your body to secrete insulin. It's important that your body remains sensitive to insulin so that your body can get the energy and nutrients that it needs. When you eat too much sugar, your body becomes resistant to insulin and your cells never receive the energy that they need. Over time, this leads to Type 2 Diabetes, which puts you at risk for several other diseases too!
3. Empty Calories
As I mentioned earlier, sugar provides a lot of calories without offering any nutritional value. Most people that consume a lot of added sugar tend to eat a diet low in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. These kinds of foods, the healthy foods, provide the vitamins and minerals that we need to fight off disease and stay healthy. They are also a great source of fiber, which is crucial for our overall health!
After consumption, sugar is digested and absorbed very quickly, causing your blood sugar to sky rocket and then crash shortly after. This might fill you up temporarily but it will leave you with a low blood sugar and hungry only minutes later. Since sugar doesn't provide your body any nutrients that it needs, sugar will never satisfy your body and will only be a source of added calories, leading to food cravings shortly after.
Sugar is also known to cause poor sleeping habits. This is a vicious cycle because poor sleep can then lead to overeating. When you are tired and don't get enough sleep, your body is constantly looking for energy and that usually comes in the form of food, often sugary foods too!
6. Increases Dopamine
As I mentioned above, when you consume sugar, your body produces insulin to help carry the sugar into your cells. When sugar is consumed in excess, this frequent surge of insulin can lead to insulin resistance, causing high amounts of insulin to float in your blood stream. This can prevent dopamine, your feel good hormone, from clearing from the brain, increasing the pleasure associated with eating; this is the same pleasure center that is stimulated by addictive drugs like cocaine! Over time, this makes your body want to eat even when you do not feel hungry, but for pleasure instead.
7. Increases Appetite
Because sugar acts on the pleasure centers in the brain, sugar consumption makes your body want more of the temporary good feeling associated with sugar. Since sugar provides empty calories, your body is never satisfied after sugar consumption only. Sugar increases your blood sugar, allowing it to drop shortly after, leaving you hungry even after eating a lot of sugar.
While there is nothing wrong with an occasional treat every now and then, excess sugar wreaks far more havoc on your body than weight gain! A diet high in fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains will provide you with the tools that you need to stay healthy lifelong. The next time you have a craving for something sweet, reach for a piece of fruit or a snack low in sugar instead! Do you eat a lot of sugar? If so, how could you reduce the amount that you consume?