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Say No To Hidden Sugars For Better Digestive Health

Written by Jillian Lai Mei Siew on Fri, 11 November 2022

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Let me draw you a sweet picture. It's your birthday. Your mom has baked the most decadent chocolate cake. There's a mountain of sweets and candies your friends and family bought for you. There's another pile of muffins and scones waiting for you. Your biggest dilemma for the moment is what to have first. Life is good. So good that you ignore the devil dressed in red velvet. We're talking about the added sugars you're about to indulge in. Added sugar doesn't come alone. It comes with the lurking threat of diseases like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Not to mention how it harms your digestive and liver health. Let's have a look at how this devil in disguise works.

Added sugars: The Sweet Saboteur

Added sugars mean exactly what their name suggests- they are sugars that don't exist naturally in the food, they're added. They're added to a lot of food items, especially the processed foods. This includes sugars and syrups added to products like sodas, yoghurt, candies, cereals, and cookies or even the sugar you add to your morning coffee.

Too Much Sugar Isn't So Sweet for Your Health

Added sugars contribute calories, but no essential nutrients. Eating too many foods with added sugars sets the stage for potential health problems including weight gain, obesity, tooth decay, acne, etc. It can contribute to more serious problems like reduced heart health and risk of heart disease due to increased triglyceride levels in the blood.

These sugars can lead to a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels and cause a temporary spike in energy followed by a crash. Added sugars can also lower your energy levels and alertness and high intake may lead to depression.

Added sugars can also affect digestive organs and cause problems.

  • Excessive sugar can affect the balance of the gut flora and lead to digestive issues like IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or SIBO(Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). Here, the levels of good bacteria plummet. IBS is associated with a number of gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea, etc.
  • Added sugars likely contain fructose which is broken down in the liver and transformed into fats. Excessive fructose intake can cause liver damage by overburdening the liver. It can also increase the risk of diseases like Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
  • These sugars overwork the pancreas and may lead to insulin resistance- a condition where the cells can not absorb and utilise blood sugar for energy.
  • Excessive added sugars are also dangerous for people with diabetes. High amounts of blood sugar levels in them can lead to diabetic gastroparesis, a condition in which stomach muscles are affected. The digestion process is slowed down due to the stomach being unable to empty its contents in the intestine. This causes gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn.

HCFS and the problem it causes

HCFS is a villain hidden in plain sight. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. It has a great contribution to today's growing obesity figures. It contains no essential nutrients and is basically just empty calories.

Fructose is not digested directly. It undergoes certain conversions in our liver to ultimately provide us with energy. HFCS contains slightly more fructose than table sugar.

Excess fructose can lead to an increase in fat accumulation in the liver. This can lead to fatty liver disease.

HCFS can also lead to other problems like diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, etc.

Where to draw the line?

If you're like many people, you're probably eating and drinking more sugar than you realize. Added sugars should not make up more than 10% of your daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 200 calories a day should come from added sugars. That's about 12 teaspoons (48 grams) of sugar.

1. Dusting off the sugarcoat

You must be wondering how to eliminate sugar from your diet in a sustainable way.

Here we have a few tips that could help you.

  • Eat fruit for dessert instead of cookies or pastries.
  • Swap sugary cereals for unsweetened cereal. Maybe you could add some fruit.
  • Drink water, other calorie-free drinks or low-fat milk instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks.
  • Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup.
  • Even if you choose to have added sugars, do so in limited amounts. For example, take just one teaspoon of sugar instead of two with your coffee or tea.
  • Check the ingredients list on packaged foods for added sugars before making your purchase. Added sugars go by a lot of different names like brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, sucrose, trehalose, etc

2. Sweeten the deal

After reading this blog, you're probably ready to swear off sugar for your life. We have some good news for you. Some natural sweeteners that are considered to be generally safe include fruit juices and nectars, honey, molasses, and maple syrup.

With such a huge list of enticing desserts and processed foods available today, it is hard to steer clear of added sugars. However, believe us, the tassel will be worth the hassle. So take the first step in limiting your sugar today.

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Jillian Lai Mei Siew

As the Product Consultant Manager of Mega BiO-LiFE, Jillian Lai Mei Siew, has the role of providing a productive team spirit among all Product Consultants to equip them with the right health nutritional information. Jillian is a BSc in Nutrition and Community Health, and a MSc in Nutritional Sciences an from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Affiliated to the Professional Affiliation Languages & Dialects Nutrition Society of Malaysia, NSM, Jillian can speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay.

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