12 Months of Wellness: February

This is the second in a series by Brawlstar skater Sass Magic, continuing each month of 2016 here in the A2D2 blog.

Many of us set lofty New Year's resolutions that are forgotten by March. This year, I'm hoping to change that by taking on a different health challenge every month in a series I'm calling "12 Months of Wellness." The health challenges can be cumulative, so that you continue doing the challenge from month one into month two, and months one and two into month three, or you can just focus on each different challenge as it comes along. Either way, I welcome you to join me for a healthier year! In this second part of the series, I will be focusing on sugar.

Sugar

White table sugar has been compared to cocaine, not only because of the way it looks, but because of its addictive properties. In laboratory experiments, rats are more motivated by sugar than cocaine, which poses interesting questions for human nutrition. Many experts agree that sugar is powerfully addictive and could be at the heart of the American “obesity epidemic.” The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day for women and nine for men, while the average American consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons a day. 

This month, I challenge you to reduce your processed sugar intake, or to cut it out completely. Even just counting how many grams of sugar you are consuming in a day can help you be more aware of what you're putting into your body.

Effects of Sugar on the Body

Too much processed sugar can have many undesirable effects on the mind and body. These include:

  • Tooth decay! Bacteria in your mouth thrive on simple sugars
  • Fructose in sugar causes your body to increase fat storage, leading to obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Excess insulin production, which in turn creates tensed up arteries and wreaks havoc on the circulatory system
  • Spikes in cholesterol level
  • Inhibited sense of fullness after eating, resulting in overeating
  • Sugar crash a half an hour after eating
  • Depression
  • Decreased resistance to sun damage, and increased sagging and wrinkles in the skin

Tips to Reduce Sugar Intake

Sugar can be found in about 75% of processed foods at the grocery store. Reading the ingredients list isn't always enough, because sugar can be disguised under many different names, such as sucrose, syrup, or anything ending in “ose.” To be sure you're avoiding sugar, just check the nutrition label for how many grams are in a serving. If possible, limit the amount of processed foods you're eating, and don't be fooled by perceived “health” foods. Juices, granola bars, yogurt, and other processed foods marketed as nutritious or healthy can still be chock full of sugar. Natural sweeteners, such as molasses, have more nutritional value than white table sugar, but it is important to remember that a gram of sugar is still a gram of sugar, no matter the origin. 

Artificial sweeteners have their own detrimental effects on the body, so I would also caution against using those to replace the sugar in your diet. When you taste something sweet, your body prepares insulin for the onslaught of sugar. If no sugar actually accompanies that sweetness, it can leave you with an energy crash and over time, more severe side effects. The best advice I have is, if it tastes sweet, limit how much of it you consume! 

Because of sugar’s addictive properties, you may experience sugar withdrawals. I started cutting back the sugar in my diet a few months ago, and it took me a couple weeks to adjust. Just remember that you will ultimately be healthier and feel better! I'm looking forward to taking on this challenge with all of you.

Sass Magic is not a doctor, but she is passionate about healthy living and how it relates to roller derby.

Posted on February 3, 2016 .