Sugar and Heart Disease

This post is as much a “REFRESHER” for me as it is an informative bit of information for my readers.

During Covid-19 I have been leaning into more sugary treats. I’m not alone when I confess this. Sugar is a “comfort” food that is easy to love and get hooked on. It’s basically a drug. Some nutritionist, authors and medical professionals call it “white death”.

According to Harvard Medical School “TOO MUCH SUGAR CAN BE ONE OF THE GREATEST THREATS TO CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE”.

Sugar is pervasive in our day to day food consumption. It’s in everything…or almost everything.

Sugar from fruits and vegetables, grain and unsweetened dairy is, for the most part, okay. As long as it is a whole food, unprocessed and is high in fibre, minerals, antioxidant etc. it is on the good side of the chart. Your body digests whole foods slowly and the sugar from these whole foods gives your cells a steady supply of energy. This kind of “natural sugar” will not spike your blood sugar like added refined sugar will do.

The aisles of grocery stores are lined with processed foods. The “two working parents” society we live in has spawned a “fast and convenient” breakfast, lunch and dinner generation. In order for food processing manufacturers to be able to put out tasty fast food that has an extended shelf life they need to add sugar.

The Standard North American Diet, is laced with sugar and the culprits are soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit flavoured yogurts, cereals, cookies, pastries, cakes and all other processed foods. This includes ketchup, salad dressings, sauces, bread, soup, baby formula and puréed foods etc. Pull out a few things from your pantry and check the labels. I bet you find sugar in things you never expect it to be in.

According to the National Cancer Institute, adult men consume an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day equaling an extra 384 calories.

Too much sugar plays a role in obesity and the rise of diabetes. But an area you would not think about is your heart health. Sugar can play a major role in damaging your cardiovascular health. In a study done by JAMA Internal Medicine they found an association between a high sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease. Just 20% of calories from sugar added a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with those consuming only 8% of their calories from sugar. The higher the sugar intake the higher the risk.

Sugar overworks you liver. Your liver metabolizes sugar like it would alcohol and converts this to fat. This accumulation, potential for fatty liver, is a contributor to diabetes and heart disease. Sugar raises your blood pressure, increases inflammation and damages all things related to your heart.

BOTTOM LINE: We consume way too much sugar. And consider this…..SUGAR IS ADDICTING! Just like alcohol and street drugs, sugar latches on to the “rewards” part of your brain and the more you eat, the more you want. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s hard to break a sugar habit just like it’s hard to quit smoking or give up other addictive behaviour.

How much sugar is safe? So 24 teaspoons is too much. The American Heart Association suggests that men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons or 36 grams, 150 calories of added sugar per day. That converts to one 12 ounce serving of a soft drink. Not very much right?

The best way to avoid added sugar in your diet is to become familiar with the food labels on your grocery store purchases. Sugar is listed by many different names so you must watch for these names and know they are sugar. These names are: brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, anything ending in “ose” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose. When you read labels and you see that ONE SERVING 5 grams of sugar….remember that is for ONE SERVING….but you are probably having 4 or 5 servings which converts to 20 grams. That’s a lot of sugar when you are only suppose to have 36 grams per day for a grown man.

Something else to be aware of….white breads, white rice, white pastas….refined starch acts like sugar in the body increasing glucose levels also contributing to heart disease.

The best way to get your “sweet tooth” satisfied is to eat fresh fruit in moderation. The fruit will also give you vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc. Sugar in any other form is inflammatory to your arteries putting stress on your heart. As you continue to eat sugar the inflammation continues and could lead to heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Okay…that was the “refresher” I needed to get back on track with my overindulgence of sweet treats during our Covid-19 hibernation. I will be more aware going forward. Hope you will too. It’s highly motivating to want to keep your “ticker” ticking!!!


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