Not Too Sweet: Sugar and Inflammation
Posted on Sep 2, 2021
Many factors influence the inflammatory response, including lack of sleep and exercise, poor health of the gut microbiome, excess weight, and persistent stress and exposure to toxins, pollutants and some medications. What we eat and drink also plays a significant role, including (surprise!) excess intake of added sugar.
People with diets rich in refined sugar may be increasing their risk of chronic inflammation. Research suggests that when people eat and drink less sugar, inflammatory markers in their blood decrease.
Researchers have tried to determine how sugar causes inflammation. Sugar stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes.
People may develop the following from chronic inflammation:
- depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
- body pain
- constant fatigue and insomnia
- constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and other digestive issues
- weight gain
- frequent infections
The good news is that cutting down on sugar may be easier than you think:
Toss the table sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses. Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there.
Swap out the soda. Water is best, but if you want something with a little more flavor, add a slice of fruit to your water.
Eat fresh or frozen fruits. Fruit has sugar too, so limit your daily intake to a fist size serving. If you can only find canned fruit, then choose it canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list.
Add fruit. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, blueberries or strawberries.) Again, limit daily intake to a fist size serving.
Cut the serving back. When baking cookies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. You won’t notice the difference.
Replace it completely. Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
Substitute. Switch out sugar with unsweetened applesauce in recipes (use equal amounts).
Less Wine. Most people don’t know this, but wine has a lot of sugar because it is made with grapes. Limit daily intake to 6 ounces.
Remember to add these to your daily diet:
- Brightly colored, whole vegetables and a fist size serving of fruit
- Omega-3 rich oils from oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed, chia and hemp seed
- Leafy greens, such as spinach, chard and kale
- Spices and herbs, such as ginger, turmeric and parsley
- High fiber foods, such as whole vegetables, fruits, legumes and seeds.
And keep doing these to manage chronic inflammation:
- Drink plenty of water (See my blog post on Back To Basics: The Benefits of Water)
- Get regular exercise (See my blog post on Best Types of Exercise)
- Undertake de-stressing activities (meditation, deep breathing, gardening)
So, kick the sweet stuff to lower your chronic inflammation. Your will mind, body and spirit will thank you!
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