This past weekend, I took my children to see the new Mary Poppins Returns movie. As I watched Emily Blunt play the role of Mary Poppins, I reminisced about the original movie I saw many years ago in which Julie Andrews sang the favorite, “A spoonful of sugar”.
Emily Blunt did not sing this song in the new movie. Nevertheless, the memory reminded me of all the sweets I consumed over the holiday — cheesecake, a chocolate Santa, Hershey’s kisses from my stocking, candy canes and, oh lord, all of the cookies. I thoroughly enjoyed them even though I know how damaging the sugar can be for my body.
A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but once it’s inside your body it can wreak havoc. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy a sugary sweet now and then, but we should be mindful of the kinds of foods we eat and how much sugar we consume daily. On the Nutrition Facts label, keep an eye out for grams of sugar, especially any “added sugar”, as well as calories, total fat, saturated and trans fat.
A sweet glance
Glucose, sucrose and fructose are simple sugars that taste the same but are used differently in the body.
- Glucose, or blood sugar, circulates in the blood and is used immediately by the body for energy. Glucose is added to processed foods and is found in carbohydrate-rich foods.
- Sucrose, or table sugar, is also found in fruits and vegetables such as pineapple and apricots. The body changes sucrose into glucose and fructose.
- Fructose, or plant sugar, is metabolized in the liver. It is found in honey, flowers, berries and most root vegetables and is included in condiments, soups, cereals, frozen and canned foods and crackers and breads.
Sugar and your body
- Your brain – Fructose affects the brain’s reward center, increasing your desire for food. Long-term fructose consumption can make it harder to learn and remember things.1
- Your skin – A study published in Science Daily showed that fructose can accelerate aging of the skin by reducing the skin’s elasticity and softness. A steady diet of sugary treats can result in reduced elasticity and premature wrinkles.2
- Your weight – The liver can get overloaded if you eat too much sugar. Any leftover sugar that the liver can’t convert into energy is stored as fat. Eating refined carbohydrates and sugary sweets may promote overeating.3
- Your cells – Our cells naturally oxidate, death from stress, but fructose can accelerate the process and harm organs, tissues and proteins.
- Stress – I know that when I’m stressed, I tend to snack on sweets. Well, sugar stresses your body from the inside, elevating your risk of insulin resistance. Instead, exercise! Moving is the best way to reduce stress as it makes you feel good and reduces cortisol, your stress hormone.
- Energy – Refined carbohydrates, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, giving you quick energy. But this short-term fix can leave you more sluggish later. Instead, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals, such as Greek yogurt with fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer.
- According to data published online in the journal Nature Communications, a high-sugar diet might make cancerous tumors more aggressive since cancerous cells feed on sugar.4
It’s not a pretty picture, but there are healthier alternatives to a donut for breakfast or a candy bar for your afternoon snack.
Indulge your sweet tooth with fruit. Try dipping a banana in melted dark chocolate and let it freeze. Top yogurt, cottage cheese or cereal with fruit and nuts or honey. Natural agave is a good idea, too! Sprinkle a baked apple with cinnamon. Freeze grapes for a sweet treat. Snack on trail mix with dark chocolate pieces. Enjoy Animal Crackers which have only 120 calories and 7 grams of sugar per handful.
What healthy ways do you have to satisfy your sweet tooth?