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The Ups and Downs of Sugar

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Fruits, vegetables, and grains are categorized as carbohydrates and have naturally occurring sugars. They also contain other substances that benefit our health. For example, dietary fiber consists of cellulose, lignin, and pectin, which slow down digestion.

But with the advent of convenience foods – also known as processed foods – in the mid-20th century, companies started adding sugar to enhance the flavor or prolong the shelf life of their products. Without fiber, sugar is easily and quickly absorbed, leading to a surge in glucose and more insulin secretion. Such a situation can make us feel sluggish and irritable due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.

But another concern about sugary drinks is that many contain high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is metabolized by the liver, which converts any excess into fat. If consumption continues unchecked, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis may result. The American Academy of Neurology noted in 2013 that elevated glucose could impair learning and the ability to recall memories.

We need a variety of micronutrients to convert sweets and refined carbohydrates into energy. A lack of wholesome food will cause further malnutrition. Eating too many sweets can increase the urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium. Awareness of sugar’s many drawbacks does not mean we must give it up entirely.

Our knowledge can empower us to be more cautious and make better choices. The thing is, many store-bought food items contain added sugar that we did not suspect. So, here are some practical suggestions and reminders for cutting back on sugar. Get into the habit of reading the nutrition facts on labels. Organic and unrefined products may cost more, but they usually contain more nutrients. Limit your intake of starchy foods and consume them with vegetables that contain fiber. And by all means, drink plenty of water.

Incidentally, please avoid feeding sugar to infants. If you understand the importance of regulating sugar consumption, you will surely want to help your loved ones do the same. As with adopting an organic whole-food vegan diet, the sooner we begin, the better.
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