By Susan Piergeorge, MS, RDN
Excerpted in part from Susan’s book Boomer Be Well! Rebel Against Aging through Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle
Many of us have a sweet tooth of some sort. While consuming foods that contain sugar can be a treat, it is also worth taking a look at what it can do to the body over time.
Let’s start with some basics. Carbohydrates come in two forms: Simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are a smaller molecule and break down more quickly (hence the term simple). Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Other names for sugar include sucrose (table sugar), glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, molasses, brown sugar, dextrose and malt syrup to name of few.
When it comes to metabolism, simple sugars can make blood sugar rise and fall quickly, which can start a hunger and response cycle. This cycle can lead to overeating, because our bodies are truly “craving for more.”
Elevated blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on our bodies over the long term, especially if you have diabetes or metabolic syndrome. A few examples include:
- Increase in infections, such as yeast or urinary tract
- Vision loss or impairment
- Impaired wound healing
- Elevated blood lipid levels
- Impaired kidney function and damage
- Impaired nerve function and damage
- Circulatory problems
- Play a role in the development of wrinkles
What to do? A few tips include:
- Reduce sugar intake
- Start by cutting back or eliminating it.
- Switch to fruit or dried fruit in cereals and oatmeal.
- If you are a juice drinker, cut the juice in your glass to half the amount and add sparkling water.
- Try adding herbs to a beverage instead of sugar. Basil, mint, rosemary all have wonderful flavor and also pack some nutrition. Or, a splash of fruit juice in your iced tea can make for a refreshing change.
- In baking try cutting back on sugar in your cookies by about a third. Substitute with spices such as cinnamon, cloves or anise seed, depending on the recipe. Cinnamon has been shown to help with managing blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure in some individuals. Experiment and see what works for you.
- Read food and beverage labels
- Names for sugar include anything with a word ending in ose, which stands for sugar. Also, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, glucose syrup are a few others.
In Part II, we will review more information about sugar and carbohydrates.