Do you know how many grams of sugar are in whatever you’re eating or drinking?

If it’s packaged food, you can easily calculate how many grams of sugar are in it. 

By looking at the nutrition label, you’ll find sugars listed under carbohydrates. Dividing that number by four gives you the number of teaspoons of sugar in your food. 

When you do this for the first time, you’ll be shocked to discover the amount of sugar present in common packaged foods and soft drinks. For example, a 300ml bottle of soda has a whopping eight teaspoons of sugar.

No wonder most adults struggle with excess weight or are obese. But remember that gaining fat has little to do with eating fat. Sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, makes you fat. 

But, the question is, how does it make you fat?

First, sugar is not bad in itself. Your body burns sugar to give you the energy needed for everyday activities.

Most carbohydrates, whether healthy or unhealthy, are usually broken down in your body into a simple form that the body can use. Complex sugars such as oats contain longer chains of sugar molecules called polysaccharides. 

These are broken down further into a simple form called monosaccharides that the body can turn into energy. Glucose is the simplest form the body can use and is the primary fuel for your body.

How does sugar cause fat storage? 

You are more likely to gain fat if you have excess sugar in the form of glucose floating in your bloodstream. This usually happens when you give your body more fuel than it needs by eating foods high in sugar. 

When you do this, your liver’s sugar storage capacity reaches its max, and the excess sugar is converted into fatty acids and stored as adipose tissue all over your body.

These fatty acids get stored depending on your body structure. For most people, excess fat accumulates in some common problem areas around the stomach for men and hips, thighs and breasts for women.

If you do not stop or reduce your intake of sugary foods, your adipose tissues get full and cannot hold any more fatty acids. This is bad because these fatty acids begin to spill and get stored in and around your vital organs like your liver and heart.

This will, in turn, affect the proper functioning of these organs and can also lead to:

  • A lowered metabolism.
  • High blood pressure.
  • A weakened immune system.

Relationship between too much sugar, insulin and fat gain

The second problem is excess insulin which results from a perpetually high blood glucose level.

Your body releases insulin at high levels whenever you eat simple carbohydrates that are high in simple sugars. Examples of foods that spike your insulin include white bread, white rice, fruit juice, bagels, crackers, cornflakes, sugary drinks, beer, sports drinks etc.

Every time there is an insulin spike from eating lots of sugar, two things happen.

  1. Your body’s fat-burning process stops to allow the sugar from whatever food you just ate to be burned for energy.
  2. Insulin drives the remaining sugar into your muscles for immediate use or storage.

Unfortunately, our bodies can only hold some energy in a form called glycogen for immediate use. And since our muscles can only have a limited amount of energy, these energy stores fill up quickly. The excess sugars are then converted into fat and are stored as body fat on your stubborn trouble spots.

To make matters worse, once the excess blood sugar has been removed from your bloodstream, you will experience a sugar crash which causes:

  • A sharp increase in appetite, which for most people is remedied by eating more food.
  • Increases in the levels of cortisol.

The effect of cortisol on gaining fat

Cortisol triggers the release of stored sugar from the liver to stabilize your sugar levels back. This stored sugar, combined with more glucose from the meal you eat from your increased appetite, begins the fat storing process over again. Your metabolism also takes a nosedive every time this happens.

If, for example, you eat sugar-laden foods every 2-3 hours as most people do, losing fat and getting leaner will become difficult because you will perpetually be in a fat-storing mode.

This process of constant blood sugar fluctuations sends your body on a fat-gaining roller coaster that can last months or even years.

Besides lowering your metabolism, excess cortisol in your body leads to obesity, allergies, a weakened immune system and other serious side effects.

Make Better Food Choices

healthy sugar

At this point, you might wonder which carbohydrates are the best for keeping your sugar levels stable and avoiding gaining fat. 

It is important to note that carbohydrates are not bad in themselves. But, there are certain types of carbs that trigger a strong insulin response that you must stay away from or eat very little.

And then there are those carbs that don’t spike your insulin but instead provide a steady flow of energy for extended periods. 

These includes:

  • Fruits include grapefruit, apples, oranges, pears, plums, grapes, and bananas.
  • Oats, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bran cereal, barley.
  • Whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, green maize, sweet potatoes and yams

Fat and proteins such as milk, yoghurt and eggs have little effect on insulin and must comprise close to 50 per cent of your diet for weight loss and building a healthy body.

Minimize Your Sugar Intake

Eliminate processed foods because they are mostly simple or refined sugars and are likely to have artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are worse than regular sugar and have the same effect as sugar on your body.

Keep off the so-called healthy juices because they are no different from soda. Make your fresh juices from fresh fruits and vegetables, or stick to eating the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits.

Be careful with many processed healthy food products. Like I said at the beginning of this article, it is crucial to learn to read food labels to spot and keep off foods that contain too much sugar.

Take Away

Your aim is not to cut out all sugar in one go. You can start small by eliminating the most obvious culprits listed above and work on becoming more aware of every food you eat. Making this one change will dramatically improve your health, energy levels and focus.

Get started today by taking control of your diet and health.