Let’s not sugar-coat it, sugar has a bad rap. Too much of it can negatively impact our health, but many people still consume much more sugar than the body needs.  

Sugar isn’t the enemy, in fact, it’s a vital source of energy. Sugars that occur naturally in foods that also have nutrients do support a healthy lifestyle, but the body doesn’t need added sugar to function. 

When consumed, the body breaks it down for the liver and muscles to store and use. As it enters the bloodstream, blood glucose levels increase, and the pancreas secretes insulin to help the glucose get where it needs to go. When we have more than our body needs, it gets stored in fat cells leading to insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of systemic inflammation, Type 2 diabetes and other diseases. 

Look for these common signs that you might be over doing it on sugar. 

Sweet cravings

Eating a lot of sugar actually makes you crave more sugar. If you feel like you’re in constant need of a ‘fix,’ you may have too many sugary foods in your diet. 

Irritability 

While many factors can contribute to mood changes, fluctuating blood sugar levels can have a very negative impact on your mood and mental state. 

Increased hunger

Consuming too much sugar and not eating enough protein and healthy fats can leave you feeling unsatisfied and craving more food than your body actually needs. This can lead to unnecessary weight gain, particularly in the midsection. 

Energy highs and lows

If you feel super energized right after you’ve eaten, then crash a little while later, you may be making food choices that favour the quick energy burst of sugar. 

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, just a few changes in your diet can make a big difference in how you feel. 

Making healthier choices starts with knowing where sugar is hiding. Candy and desserts are obvious, but what about foods that appear healthy? Granola bars and stir-fry sauces have plenty of added sugar. You may be surprised at how much your favourite coffee drink or yogurt snack packs. Sugar hides in many foods because our taste buds love the sweetness, which encourages us to buy them! 

Learning its different names can make you an expert at reading labels and identifying where there may be too much added sugar. Dextrose, fructose, galactose, beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, agave and brown rice syrup are just a few. There are over 50 different names for sugar, so get to know them and try to avoid foods that list them in the first five ingredients. 

To reduce cravings and feel more satisfied, learn what to add to your diet, not just what to take away. When choosing snacks and meals, include protein and healthy fats to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full. If you are used to grabbing a granola bar, try an apple with a tablespoon of nut butter instead. If flavoured yogurt is a go-to, buy the plain variety and add some fresh berries.   

It may take time for your taste buds to adjust, but the effort is well worth the results!