Just think how our eating habits have evolved with our busy lifestyle. We shovel in a fast bite at our desk and inhale dinner while standing over the kitchen counter, so we can spend more time on work and errands. We also eat late at night in front of the TV, or even skip meals altogether. Then, think about our food choices: Packaged, processed convenience foods loaded with hidden salt, fat and sugar. (And in the dog days of summer, you may have even opted for a dinner of popsicles or ice cream.) These foods not only do a number on our waistline; they wreak havoc on our hormones.
Energy Highs and Lows
When we consume foods high in sugar (glucose), the glucose enters the bloodstream, quickly causing blood sugars to rise. The pancreas responds by secreting insulin which then causes a surge of sugars to enter the cells to either be used as energy or stored as fat for later use. Blood sugars then fall to normal or possibly just below normal levels. While this is happening, we experience a “sugar rush” of hyperactivity (all too commonly seen in kids) only to be followed by the “crash”—fatigue, drowsiness and poor concentration. Naturally, as blood sugars fall, the body works to maintain balance by causing a craving—most likely for more sugar—and the whole process starts all over again.
Sugar’s Long-Term Effects Aren’t Sweet
Most foods containing sugar, especially refined white sugar, have very little nutritional value and are often referred to as “empty” calories. Beyond this, insulin is also secreted in proportion to the amount of sugar consumed. Since insulin is the only hormone that instructs the body to store energy as fat, it’s a nemesis if it becomes too high. Repeatedly eating sugar throughout the day eventually leads to chronically high insulin and ultimately to insulin resistance.
Let me explain. Imagine insulin as a truck that carries sugar into cells and enters the cell upon arrival by using the garage door opener. Think of insulin resistance as the insulin truck arriving at the cell, but the garage door opener won’t work until six insulin trucks are waiting, rather than just one. Soon, we will have a traffic jam of insulin trucks throughout the body, or chronically high insulin. At this juncture, weight loss becomes very difficult and there is often an increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, abdominal fat, breast and prostate cancer risk and more. Need a few more reasons to avoid sugar? Here are some of the hormonal and health consequences of having a sweet tooth:
Your Best Sweetener Options
For optimal health (and insulin levels) I recommend that you cut out or reduce your sugar intake. Sugar comes in a variety of forms and faces, including: table sugar (sucrose), rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, foods/drinks containing high fructose corn syrup, packaged foods, candies, soda, juice, etc., as well as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and all other forms of artificial sweeteners. Instead reach for natural alternatives such as date paste, raisins, honey, apple sauce, coconut sap, erythritol, and stevia. Spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, or cocoa can also add flavor and sweetness to recipes.