Sugar is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, it is also commonly added to foods and drinks to enhance their flavor and texture.
Sugar has been known and used for thousands of years and its exact origins are not well documented. However, it is believed to have been first discovered and cultivated in ancient civilizations in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
It is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar cane is a tall grass that is grown in warm climates and is harvested for its sweet juice. Sugar beets are a root vegetable that is grown in colder climates and is processed to extract sugar.
To make sugar, the juice from sugar cane or sugar beets is extracted and then boiled down to concentrate the sugar. The resulting syrup is then crystallized to form sugar.
The process of making sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets can involve several steps, including filtration, clarification, and evaporation, and can result in different forms of sugar, such as granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar.
The main ingredients in sugar are glucose and fructose. These are simple sugars that are naturally occurring and are found in many fruits, vegetables, and other foods.
Natural Sugar vs Processed Sugar
There is a difference between natural and processed sugar. Natural sugar is found in whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and is typically consumed in small amounts.
Processed sugar, on the other hand, is refined and often added to foods in large amounts, including in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
In addition, processed sugar has been stripped of most of its nutrients and fiber and can have a negative impact on our health when consumed in large quantities.
Natural sugar, however, when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, can be part of a healthy diet.
While natural sugar can add a touch of sweetness to our diets, consuming too much of it can lead to a variety of health problems.
Harmful Effects of Excessive Consumption of Sugar
Heart disease: Consuming sugar has been linked to high blood pressure and inflammatory changes in the body.
High-sugar diets may also increase triglyceride levels, which is a marker for cardiovascular disease, as well as cause atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty deposits that clog arteries.
Weight gain and obesity: Excessive consumption of sugar (whether processed or natural) can contribute to weight gain and obesity. When we eat more calories than we burn, our bodies store the excess energy as fat.
Compulsive overeating: Consuming large amounts of sugar can trigger the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain, which can create a cycle of cravings for more sugar and can lead to overconsumption.
Metabolic syndrome: Excessive sugar intake is associated with adverse health conditions such as metabolic syndrome.
Inflammatory diseases: Consuming too much added sugar can increase chronic inflammation which is linked to many diseases.
Fatty liver disease: Consuming too much sugar can lead to a greater accumulation of fat which may turn into fatty liver disease.
Diabetes: Consuming too much sugar can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
High blood pressure: Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure.
We need to be mindful of our sugar intake and try to limit it as much as possible.
Sugar also has a negative impact on dental health. The bacteria in our mouths thrive on sugar and produce acid as a byproduct, which can lead to the development of cavities. Additionally, consuming too much sugar can also lead to addiction-like behavior.
While sugar is often marketed as a way to boost energy, consuming too much of it can actually lead to feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.
This is because consuming large amounts of sugar can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash that leaves you feeling tired and sluggish. This is referred to as a “sugar crash” or “energy slump”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults should consume less than 10% of their total daily energy intake from added sugar and ideally less than 5%. This is roughly equivalent to 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for a person on a 2,000-calorie diet.