We have probably all heard several times that sugar is bad for us and that we should keep our intake down, but have you ever wondered why? Have a look below!
Sugar is addictive
When we eat sugar or food containing it, dopamine, a “reward”-chemical that makes us feel good, is released in an area of our brain. Therefore, as a result of consuming sugar, we temporarily feel good; we are “rewarded”. It is human nature to want to feel good, so in order to get that feeling again and again, we consume sugar regularly. However, the more sugar we consume, the higher our tolerance becomes, which means we will need more sugar to reach that same “high” again. The dopamine release as a response to sugar consumption is likely to have developed because throughout human history, food was mostly scarce and when there was food available, humans had to take what they could get to protect themselves from starvation. Through the dopamine release, people were encouraged to eat as much as they could while food was available. Nowadays, we have more than enough food in the western world, but our biology has not (yet anyway) adjusted to prevent us from overconsuming foods that are bad for us in large quantities.
No beneficial nutrients
Usually, the sugar that is added to food and that we use to add to coffee, cakes and many other foods is refined sugar that has undergone processing. During processing, pure sugar is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets. All the nutrients that would be beneficial to us are stripped away, and just the sweet, pure sugar that can only provide us with empty calories remains.
Quick energy with a crash
Refined sugar raises our blood sugar levels quickly and steeply and gives us a burst of energy when that sugar is absorbed into our cells, but that energy does not last very long. As soon as the short-lived effect wears off, we are back to feeling tired and sluggish. More complex carbohydrates that raise our blood sugar levels more slowly and gradually are a better option to keep our energy up for longer.
As discussed before, eating sugar makes us want to eat more sugar which provides us with empty calories but no beneficial nutrients. In addition to that, the fact that sugar causes a quick burst of energy with a crash afterwards makes us want to eat more of it to keep our energy levels high. For all those reasons, we are inclined to eat more sugar than is good for us, which adds empty calories to our diet and can therefore cause weight gain over a longer period of time.
It’s bad for your teeth
Whenever we eat sugar, certain bacteria that then consume and digest the sugar, produce acid in our mouth as a result. If we eat too much sugar and too much acid is produced over a long period of time, the tooth enamel can get damaged which causes cavities.
Next time you are craving something sweet in the afternoon, maybe try having a piece of fruit which does contain natural sugars, but in addition to that contains fiber and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are beneficial to you!