Sugar is wreaking havoc on our health and here is why!
If I had one food to name public enemy number one above all else, it would be sugar. Sugar has been slowly deteriorating the health of Americans for years. It is not completely your fault if you fall in this boat though. Sugar is sneaky. It creeps itself into all sorts of products under all sorts of names. Sugar is the con man of food.
One of the most worrisome things about sugar is that behind all chronic disease is inflammation. Well let me tell you my friend, sugar causes inflammation in the body. But sugar will deceive you into thinking that you are friends, that you need it to survive, and that you need more and more of it. How does it do it? Through a couple of mechanisms.
First off sugar is addictive. That’s right, the same part of the brain that lights up in a scan when someone takes cocaine, is the same part of the brain that lights up when someone consumes sugar. Sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain when we consume it. This effect on the opiate receptors leads to compulsive behavior and trains the brain to crave the reward given by sugar. So you may find yourself indulging in more sugar, just to get the same feel good effects. And then you do it again. And then you do it again. Until suddenly you are addicted.
Secondly, from an ancestral standpoint, our bodies were not meant to consume high amounts of sugar. Think about the life of a human from Paleolithic times. Would their lives have been similar to ours? Would they have eaten the same foods? The answer is of course a resounding no. Paleolithic people ate when they could find food. They foraged for plants and ate meat from animals they could capture. Most of their sugar consumption would have come from fruit and other plant foods. But, they really only ate fruit when it was in season in the fall because this was really the only time fruit was available. The fruit helped them put on weight for winter during times it might be harder to find food. And the fruit back then was much higher in fiber and much lower in sugar. So when it comes down to it, the Paleolithic people did not eat anywhere close to the same amount of sugar that we eat today.
The main concern of a Paleolithic person would have been wondering how to get access to more food. Since they were highly likely to face the danger of starving, as a survival mechanism, their bodies were designed to help them increase their blood sugar. Let me say that again, their bodies were trying to INCREASE blood sugar. They did not have much of a need for mechanisms that decrease blood sugar. And as I mentioned before, we have the same basic biology as these people. So our bodies are designed to handle a scarcity of food and not an abundance. We have about five hormones that help us to increase our blood sugar, while we have one hormone to help lower our blood sugar. Again, One hormone! And its name is insulin. So, insulin is outnumbered and given a pretty hard job to do!
Today we live in food abundance. In most places you do not need to go very far to find a source of food. Most people do not live with a fear of starvation, at least here in America. We do not need to worry about increasing our blood sugar often due to lack of food. What we do tend to do though, is overindulge in food. Overindulging can be super easy to do and our bodies are hard-wired to over-do sugar once we start consuming it!
Our bodies are filled with a ton of mechanisms that are made to keep our body in balance. For example, our bodies are really great at regulating the amount of salt that we need. When we need more salt, our bodies crave more of it, and when we need less salt, our bodies crave less of it. Seems simple right? Well then comes sugar, that sneaky little con man, this is not the case. Sugar is greedy. Sugar does not have that same off switch that salt and many other nutrients have. If we consume too much sugar, then over time it only causes us to crave more sugar. The more sugar we consume, the higher our blood sugar gets, and the higher our blood sugar gets, the more we crave sugar. It’s like getting stuck on a ride that you just can’t seem to get off.Well there is good news. We have the ability to change this outcome by changing what we put in our bodies! The first step to better blood sugar is making sure you consume enough healthy fats, well-sourced protein, and fiber! A great way to do this is to build a plate that is half vegetables, has about a palm sized portion of protein, contains ample fat, and has optional low sugar fruits such as berries! You can download a visual of how to put a meal together here, and start your journey to better health!