By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Sugar, sugar, sugar. We hear so much about it: it’s so bad for your health, it will give you diseases, it will make you gain weight, etc. While this is all true in the long run, I want to draw attention to why it’s so bad for us in the immediate ‘here and now’. I think the real issue is actually what sugar does to us on a daily basis that can be destructive.
In the short term, high sugar consumption can contribute to fatigue, exhaustion, lack of productivity, and can make you feel bad overall. Let’s understand why.
Have you ever noticed that when you have a banana by itself, or better yet a piece of candy, that you feel hungry soon after? When we have a simple carbohydrate, that means there is very little fat, protein or fiber along with it, and our bodies digest it rather quickly. When we digest food rapidly it ends up in our bloodstream faster, and causes our blood sugar to rise a bit (how much depends on the person and what was consumed). When this happens, insulin is signaled for release into the blood vessels to remove the sugar, taking it to the muscles, and then once again the sugar in the blood is less than it was before and therefore we may feel hungry again (20 minutes later). If we continued to do this kind of thing over and over during the day we’d not only eat probably more than we wanted to, but we’d feel tired due to all of the ups and downs that are happening in our blood vessels, and we might experience more persistent hunger and fatigue.
On the other hand, if we eat that same banana or that piece of candy with a meal or with something that has protein, fat or fiber (like banana with almond butter, or the piece of candy along with a meal); digestion is slowed due to the fat, fiber and protein causing more time for digestion and therefore the fuel enters the bloodstream more slowly, less insulin has to be released to remove the blood sugar to the tissues, and suddenly we realize we feel more full and satiated. Exactly what we’re looking for.
So what does sugar metabolism have to do with your daily habit of consumption even if you don’t eat candy or bananas (I actually love bananas see why here)? Many of us consume more sugar than we realize through sources like adding sugar to our coffee, sugar added in processed foods, sugar on our oatmeal, eating more that 2-3 servings fruit daily (fruit works a little differently than as mentioned before but if we eat too much of it, it still adds up!), cocktails and more. If we’re consuming more sugar than we realize, our bodies may constantly be in a state of slightly elevated blood sugar to slightly low blood sugar and then we eat something because we’re hungry and the cycle repeats. This process may leave you napping at your desk, feeling too tired to go to the gym, and low on energy overall.
It’s important to really choose where our sugar comes from and to cut back in places that we can, to help to promote more energy in the short term, but also in the long run to help us stay healthy, maintain weight and prevent inflammation.
For more energy, work toward lowering your overall sugar intake and try to keep it balanced!
If you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels, our 60-Day Guided Reboot Program for Diabetes is lead by a nutritionist who helps you complete a juice cleanse with your sugar in check. Learn more.