Sugar is perceived as a tempting and harmful element of our diet, a slow-acting poison that should never be consumed in excess, and ideally shunned by the health conscious. Among adults sugar is primarily responsible for diabetes and weight gain, and among children for hyperactivity.

Sugar is also believed to be addictive. Excessive consumption creates a craving for even more. Sugar also depresses your immune system, making it difficult to fight off infections. It also affects oneís brain chemistry leading one to confusion, forgetfulness, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity

Other problems of excessive sugar intake are:

  • Depression
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Insulin resistance

Sugar in food

Sugar in food has two classifications: naturally occurring or added. Items such as milk, fructose in fruit, honey and vegetables and maltose in beer contain naturally occurring sugar. Added sugars originate from corn, beets, grapes, and sugar cane, which are processed before being added to foods. Naturally occurring and added sugar are chemically identical. The body, therefore, cannot tell the difference between them, although, food sources of naturally occurring sugars also provide vitamins and minerals, while foods containing added sugars provide mainly calories and very few vitamins and minerals. For this reason, the calories in added sugar are called "empty calories".

How does sugar make me fat?

After consumption sugar is stored in the liver as glycogen. But the liver can only hold a limited amount. In case of continued ingestion, our system has to find some other place to store it. The liver releases the glycogen to the blood-stream, in the form of fatty acids. The blood takes these fatty acids and stores them in various parts of the body - the belly, the buttocks, the breasts, and the thighs. This leads to obesity.

Does sugar directly cause diabetes?

When one eats, the pancreas sends insulin into the bloodstream. There, the insulin stimulates the cells of the muscles and liver to take in the sugar. Sugar is either:

  • Burned off
  • Stored as starch in the muscles and liver
  • Converted into the fat found in fat cells.

All excess calories, whether from sugar, protein, or fat, are stored. Too many calories of any kind causes weight gain. And weight gain can lead to diabetes. Sugar alone is not responsible, though it is a contributory factor.

Does intense sugar craving indicate something serious?

Intense sugar craving is one of the first signs of the onset of diabetes.

How to stop intense sugar craving?

Sugar craving is caused by three factors. One of them is hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Since your brainís primary source of fuel is blood sugar, hypoglycaemia will induce an immediate desire for sugar.

It may also be caused if your body is deficient in certain nutrients (particularly minerals). The third reason is conditioning wherein you get into the habit of eating sugar-based foods during a particular time of the day and your brain links the two activities together.

The first two factors need to be treated by correcting the imbalance in the diet. Regarding conditioning, it is best to start by identifying when the sugar cravings occur and what activity you are doing at the same time which has been linked by your brain. Once identified, change the nature of activity by replacing sugar-based items with other types of food.

Is it advisable to remove sugar completely from the diet?

If you are addicted to sugar it should be removed from your diet, but it is not advisable to remove it all at once. One should cut down gradually. Allow your body to gradually recover from its sugar addiction.

How to keep control over sugar intake?

Check out the nutritional content of everything that you eat so that you are aware of exactly how much sugar is going into the body. It is important to be aware that carbohydrates are simple sugars. Awareness of how many grams of carbohydrates are going into the body will discourage anyone from going in for more sugar. Replace pure sugar with a sweetener in as many things as possible. Having all drinks with sweetener instead of sugar can make a very big difference to start with.

What is the alternative to sugar?

Sugar should ideally not be replaced with artificial sweeteners. Instead, try Molasses or Stevia, both of which are natural sweeteners that have added health benefits. Fresh fruit tastes superb and naturally sweet.