Updated: Jan 27
What is refined sugar?
When sugars are extracted from natural sources (fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, grains, etc) and are processed, it creates refined sugars such as table sugar or more commonly high fructose corn syrup. Table Sugar is made from cutting and soaking sugar beets or sugar cane in water, and high fructose corn syrup is made from corn after it is milled into corn starch. Refining sugar to be used in food as an ingredient boosts that food's flavor and makes it more appealing to the consumer. The sugar industry is sneaky with its labeling of sugars using alternate names for them within your foods. The image below made by @thelittlemuscle on Instagram provides a great visual of hidden sugars found within your foods.
What happens when we eat a lot of refined sugar?
Refined sugar is found in all processed goods and has been linked to a variety of detrimental health effects. For instance, higher levels of central adiposity (belly fat) is associated with the consumption of refined sugars. Central adiposity is known to be associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In addition to increased disease risk, refined sugars are also linked to a condition called leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that is responsible for signaling to your body that you are satiated or "full". When this hormone isn't functioning properly, then you are more likely to consume more than your body needs which can cause you to gain weight, be overweight, or be obese.
What's the difference between refined sugars and natural sugars?
The biggest difference between refined sugars and natural sugars is their nutrient profiles. Refined sugars are going to be found in foods that are considered "less nutritious". These foods tend to be high in fat, and don't possess a wide spectrum of micronutrients. Natural sugars are found in foods considered to be "more nutritious" and are rich in micronutrients, antioxidants, and possess fiber to encourage regular
digestion and healthy gut bacteria. Eating foods that are rich in natural sugars also have the ability to slow down glucose (blood sugar) absorption in the intestine after a meal causing your blood sugar to spike gradually compared to refined sugar which can cause your blood glucose levels to spike and come back down.
(Note: juices and smoothies are delicious, but removes their fiber and some of their nutrients)
How does refined sugar consumption impact your mood?
Now if you have worked with me or have sifted through my site at all, my biggest passion is spreading joy. That is why I called my business Joyous Coaching. To help you find your own joy, let's take a look at sugar intake and how it impacts our mood.
With all the adverse health effects that refined sugar can cause, it is no surprise that refined sugar consumption is linked to an increased likelihood of developing depression. Refined sugar is known to cause an inflammatory response within the body increasing that risk for depression amongst other inflammatory diseases (asthma, cancer, metabolic disease). This increase in inflammation can disrupt your sleep patterns, cause loss of appetite, and heightened perceptions of pain which are all associated with depressive symptoms.
Disclaimer: If you feel as if you are struggling with depression, please reach out to a licensed healthcare provider as I am just a certified health and life coach, not a psychotherapist.
Eating large quantities of refined sugars is also associated with mood swings (from the spike and decline in blood sugar), acne, and fatigue.
Ways to cut down on refined sugars
Cutting down on refined sugars is hard to do, especially since it is incredibly addicting (more than cocaine), but it is completely possible to be done! One way to do so is to slowly cut back on your consumption of refined sugars. This slow cut back will allow you to decrease your desire for sugar slowly to where you don't find yourself craving it as much if at all. Another way is to participate in a cleanse where you are held accountable and guided by a certified coach (like myself) to decrease your refined sugar cravings and increase your desire for natural sugars found in whole unprocessed foods.
For more information on my cleanse please click here.