Sugar is delicious, and Americans are eating a LOT of it. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about 130 pounds of sugar a year. But sugar, especially in excessive amounts, does more harm than good to your health in many ways, ranging from adding wrinkles to your face to diabetes.
So, how do you know if you’re eating too much sugar? Here are 10 red flags that your body may show you that it’s time to keep your craving of sweets in check:
1. Constant Hunger
If you find it hard to quit sugar, you’re not alone. The unstoppable desire to consume sugar works in a way similar to drug addiction. When you eat sugar, your brain rewards you with pleasure, but in order to feel that pleasure again, you have to keep eating more sugar. The more you eat, the more you crave, and the cycle continues.
Fortunately, you can beat sugar cravings and unhealthy snacking by eating foods that fill you up and keep you full for a long time. Bananas, beans and oats are some of the most filling foods, whereas ice cream, cookies, and potato chips leave you desiring more.
2. Foods Don’t Taste as Sweet as Before
Eating too much sugar bombards your taste buds, reducing their sensitivity to sweetness. Once the taste buds get used to sugar, sugary foods won’t seem sweet enough anymore. Hence, you will start craving for even sweeter foods over time. Fortunately, it can be reversed by cutting sugar intake. It’s going to be difficult in the beginning, but once you succeed, you will also lower the tolerance level and be satisfied with lower sugar amounts. After a certain period of time, some things will become just too sweet for you.
3. More Lines and Wrinkles
Aging is not the only way you can get wrinkles, deep lines, and sagging skin. They can also be byproducts of eating too much sugar. After sugar is ingested, it goes through a process known as glycation, in which excess sugar molecules attach themselves to collagen fibers and ultimately cause them to lose their strength and flexibility. As a result, your skin becomes less elastic and more vulnerable to sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles. Sugar also links collagen molecules together, which makes it more difficult for them to be repaired after being damaged.
4. Constant Tiredness
Ever wonder why you want to take an afternoon nap after chowing down on something indulgent? If you need a cup of coffee after eating a sugary meal or start to fall asleep, it could be due to wavering blood sugar levels. Eating lots of sugar reduces the activity of what is called orexin, a brain chemical that keeps you feeling awake. With a high blood sugar level, your body will also have trouble storing and absorbing glucose properly, and body cells won’t receive the energy they need. As a result, you’re going to feel pretty sleepy.
5. Weight Gain
It doesn’t sound surprising that too much sugar intake adds pounds to the waistline. Sugar is free of fiber and protein, so it does not grant a feeling of fullness but leads to cravings for more sugar. The more sugar we consume, the more calories we ingest. Sugar triggers the release of insulin which carries sugar to the organs in order to be used for energy. Hence, excessive intake of sugar sends a message to the body to produce more insulin, which overwhelms the pancreas and causes insulin resistance over time. Insulin resistance is linked to weight gain, obesity, as well as diabetes.
6. Easily Getting Thirsty
Ever wonder why ice cream makes you thirsty after eating it? Soon after we eat ice cream, or high-sugar foods in general, particles of sugar are absorbed into the bloodstreams. Ice cream has salts, sugars, fats, amino acids, and more for your body to absorb into the blood stream. As your blood becomes more saturated, your body will send a message to the brain, telling it that additional fluids are needed. So you become thirsty. Of course, you ought to drink at this time, but it’s better if you choose water or tea without sugar.
7. Frequent Trips to the Bathroom
When there is excess sugar in the blood, the kidneys work harder to remove it. If the kidneys cannot filter all the sugar, the body will work to regulate sugar levels by diluting the blood with fluid taken from bodily tissues. It’s then excreted as urine. This leads to dehydration and thirst, as well as more bathroom calls. As water is consumed to quench thirst, urination occurs more frequently. Drinking more water is good, as it helps the kidneys remove the sugar.
8. You Can’t Concentrate
Eating too much sugar can actually have a negative biological impact on your mind and emotions. Sugar forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane, compromising the nerve cells’ ability to communicate with each other. This usually creates a brain fog or mind blanking.
Another way sugar affects focus is through its addictive qualities. Yes, the previously mentioned rewarding mechanism is to blame again. When we taste sugar, the reward chemicals spike in the brain and reinforce the need for more sugar. When you’re battling an addiction-fueled craving, your train of thought is disrupted, and you find it hard to devote full mental energy into tasks at hand.
9. Mood Swings
Sugar leads to highs and lows. People who eat too much sugar are easily caught into a vicious cycle of binge eating, dopamine spikes, a powerful emotional crash, and then more cravings and withdrawal. As a result, we have shorter tempers, lower patience, and even feelings of depression. What’s worse, sugar can also weaken your body’s ability to respond to stress, which can trigger your anxiety and prevent you from dealing with the root cause of it.
10. Muscle and Joint Pain
Pain in the joints is no joke. High sugar intake can contribute to joint pain and stiffness experienced with aging through the process of glycation. It happens when sugar bonds with proteins to form compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGE). These compounds damage cells in the body by accelerating oxidation and messing with normal cell behavior. AGEs are believed to play a major role in aging as well as contributing to many age-related chronic diseases. AGEs building up in joint tissues cause changes in articular cartilage, making the cartilage more vulnerable to damage and development of osteoarthritis.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.