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Sinful Sugar (& How It's REALLY Hurting You!)

Sugar has become an integral part of our modern diet. From desserts to drinks, it seems to be (and is) lurking everywhere. While it may bring temporary pleasure to our taste buds, the science behind sugar reveals a darker side. In this blog, we will delve into why sugar is bad for you, what it does to your body and brain (and your menopause!), where it hides in your food, and give you some tips to ditch the sweet stuff!

Some Sweet Science (Why Sugar IS bad for you!)

Empty Calories: One of the primary reasons sugar is detrimental to health is that it provides empty calories. These are calories devoid of essential nutrients, which can lead to overconsumption and weight gain.

Insulin Resistance: Consuming excess sugar can lead to insulin resistance, a condition where your cells become less responsive to insulin. This can eventually result in type 2 diabetes.

Heart Health: High sugar intake has been linked to heart disease. It can increase triglyceride levels, lower good HDL cholesterol, and contribute to hypertension.

Fatty Liver Disease: Excessive sugar consumption, particularly fructose, can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that can progress to liver cirrhosis.

Inflammation: Sugar can trigger inflammation in the body, which is believed to play a role in various chronic diseases, including cancer.

What Sugar Does to Your Body

Blood Sugar Spikes: When you consume sugary foods or drinks, your blood sugar levels spike rapidly. This can lead to an energy crash shortly after, leaving you feeling tired and irritable - not helpful if we are already struggling with hormone imbalances in menopause.

Cravings and Addiction: Sugar can activate the brain's reward system, leading to cravings and addiction-like behaviors. This is why it can be challenging to cut back on sugar once you've developed a habit - make no mistake, sugar IS addictive!

Tooth Decay: Sugar is a primary culprit behind tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar, producing acids that erode tooth enamel.

Too much sugar can also worsen menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes. High blood sugar has been linked to hot flashes. So, it makes sense that if sugar impacts blood sugar levels, it might also increase the number and intensity of your hot flashes, as suggested in different studies. Combine this with the other health issues, and suddenly it doesn't seem so sweet!

What Sugar Does to Your Brain

Dopamine Release: Sugar consumption triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This creates a pleasurable sensation that can lead to cravings.

Neurological Effects: Excessive sugar intake has been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Where Sugar Hides in Your Food

  • Sugary Beverages: Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks often contain large amounts of added sugar.
  • Processed Foods: Sugar is commonly found in processed foods like sauces, salad dressings, and even savory snacks.
  • Desserts and Sweets: Obviously, sugary desserts like cookies, cakes, and candies are packed with sugar.
  • Hidden Sugars: Be cautious of foods labeled as "low-fat" or "healthy," as they may contain added sugars to compensate for reduced fat content.
  • The Names: Sugar has a LOT of pen names...
    • Sucrose: This is the chemical name for table sugar, which is made up of glucose and fructose.
    • High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): A commonly used sweetener made from corn starch, HFCS is prevalent in many processed foods and beverages.
    • Fructose: A natural sugar found in fruits, but it's also used as an added sweetener.
    • Glucose: Another natural sugar that can be used as an ingredient in processed foods.
    • Corn Syrup: Often used as a sweetener and is similar to high-fructose corn syrup but with a lower fructose content.
    • Agave Nectar: A sweet syrup derived from the agave plant, often used as a natural sweetener in various products.
    • Honey: While natural, honey is still a form of sugar and is used in many foods and beverages as a sweetener.
    • Maple Syrup: Like honey, maple syrup is a natural sweetener used in various foods and baked goods.
    • Molasses: A byproduct of sugar production, molasses is sometimes used as a sweetener and flavoring agent.
    • Brown Sugar: Typically, brown sugar is a mixture of white sugar and molasses. It's used in baking and cooking.
    • Confectioner's Sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, it is finely ground sugar mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent caking.
    • Raw Sugar: This is less processed than white sugar and may contain some molasses, giving it a slightly different flavor.
    • Evaporated Cane Juice: Often marketed as a more natural sweetener, it's still a form of sugar.
    • Fruit Juice Concentrate: Fruit juices can be used as sweeteners in various products, and they contribute natural sugars.
    • Barley Malt Syrup: Made from malted barley, it's a less common sweetener used in some foods.
    • Rice Syrup: Made from rice starch, it's used as a sweetener in certain products, especially in some alternative or vegan food items.
    • Date Sugar: Made from dried, ground dates, it's used as a sweetener in health food products.
    • Coconut Sugar: Derived from the sap of coconut palm trees, it's used as an alternative sweetener.
    • Turbinado Sugar: A less refined form of sugar with larger crystals, often used as a topping for baked goods.
    • Beet Sugar: Sugar made from sugar beets, similar to cane sugar.

But that's not all of them... There are several chemical compounds that are classified as sugars, sugar-like substances, or artificial sweeteners. Here are some examples:

    • Fructose: Fructose is another monosaccharide sugar found naturally in fruits and honey. It's used as a sweetener in various processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
    • Aspartame: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener made from the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It's used in many sugar-free and "diet" products.
    • Saccharin: Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners, often used in tabletop sweeteners and sugar-free products. It has a long history of safe use.
    • Steviol Glycosides (Stevia): Steviol glycosides are natural sweeteners derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. They are used as a sugar substitute in many products and are much sweeter than sucrose.
    • Sucralose: Sucralose is an artificial sweetener made by chlorinating sucrose. It is heat-stable and often used in cooking and baking.
    • Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K): Acesulfame potassium is a calorie-free artificial sweetener used in a variety of products, including soft drinks and sugar-free gum.
    • Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. It's used as a sugar substitute with fewer calories than sugar.
    • Xylitol: Xylitol is another sugar alcohol commonly found in sugar-free gum and dental products. It has a similar sweetness to sucrose.
    • Mannitol: Mannitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener and a sugar substitute in some dietary products.

These compounds vary in their sweetness, calorie content, and metabolic effects. While some are natural sugars found in foods, others are artificially synthesized for use as sweeteners in low-calorie or sugar-free products. It's essential to be aware of these compounds and their presence in food and beverage labels, especially if you have dietary restrictions or are trying to reduce sugar intake.

Ten Tips to Manage Sugar Consumption:

  1. Read Labels: Always check food labels for hidden sugars. Look for alternative names like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and maltose.
  2. Cook at Home: Preparing meals at home allows you to control sugar content and use healthier alternatives.
  3. Choose Whole Fruits: Opt for whole fruits over fruit juices or fruit-flavored snacks, as they contain natural sugars along with fiber and nutrients.
  4. Limit Sugary Drinks: Reduce or eliminate sugary beverages from your diet and choose water, herbal tea, or unsweetened options.
  5. Practice Moderation: It's okay to enjoy sweets occasionally, but do so in moderation.
  6. Opt for Unsweetened: Choose unsweetened versions of yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.
  7. Snack Wisely: Opt for healthier snacks like nuts, seeds, or vegetables with hummus instead of sugary snacks.
  8. Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  9. Plan Your Meals: Plan balanced meals that include protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
  10. Seek Support: If you find it challenging to reduce sugar intake, seek support from a healthcare professional or a nutritionist.

Too Much Sugar:

  1. Weight gain. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. Being mindful of your sugar intake and limiting it will reduce your risk of weight gain.
  2. Acne breakouts. When you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar spikes. This causes inflammation and the secretion of sebum (an oily substance in your skin). That, coupled with inflammation, can lead to breakouts.
  3. Reaching for multiple snacks. Our bodies quickly break down sugary foods and drinks, which is why we don’t feel satisfied after. If you find yourself reaching for another sugary snack, it’s no coincidence.
  4. Mood swings and irritability. Studies suggest that high-sugar diets can increase the risk of mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
  5. Lack of energy. While you may get an initial burst of energy after eating sugar, the aftermath lasts much longer. If you regularly feel fatigued, the sugar you consumed earlier might be the culprit.
  6. Craving more sugar. Eating sugar activates our body’s reward circuit. When we eat sugar, our blood sugar spikes and our bodies react by releasing insulin to lower it to a safe level. Often, the insulin brings blood sugar levels down too low which can cause fatigue, irritability and hunger. Our natural reaction is to reach for more sugar to get that energetic feeling back, which quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
  7. Tossing and turning at night. Healthy sleep starts with a healthy diet. A diet high in sugar can cause restlessness and disrupt sleep. This often leads to a cycle where insufficient sleep increases cravings.


Understanding the science behind why sugar is bad for you empowers you to make healthier choices. While it's difficult to completely eliminate sugar from your diet, managing your consumption and making informed choices can go a long way in improving your overall health and well-being. By following the ten tips provided, you can take the first steps toward a healthier, sugar-controlled lifestyle. Your body and brain will thank you for it.