Often, when one thinks about cholesterol, what comes to mind is fat and sinfully delicious burgers coupled with fries from the popular fast food chains. Well, that’s a known fact. What most people do not know is that it is not just fat and fatty foods that affect the cholesterol levels. It could be a number of factors, including stress, lack of exercise, and sugars!
Did you know that excessively eating foods rich in sugar can actually have a direct effect on your blood cholesterol levels? A high-sugar diet is not just linked to diabetes but has been proven to cause low levels of good cholesterol or high density lipoprotein (HDL). What does that mean? Because cholesterol levels are inversely proportional to each other, low levels of HDL mean high levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called “bad cholesterol”, and triglycerides.
Sources of Sugar
Not all sugars are bad. In fact, the body actually needs sugar to survive. Still, like every other thing on Earth, there is a limit to what the body actually needs. Simple sugars are highly discouraged because they break down too easily. That’s the reason why it is best to avoid processed foods and drinks.
In the past, people had counted on fruits, real fruits to give the juice and food. These days, it is easy to simply pick a carton of juice off the grocery store shelf. How sure are you that those are healthy? Well, you simply have to learn to read the label. After all, food manufacturers are required to place all the ingredients they use on those tiny labels.
You might think that “evaporated cane juice” is innocent but that only translates to “sugar”! Check the label closely and look for items that end with “-ose” because those mean sugar. Yes! “Dextrose”, “fructose”, and “sucrose” are various types of sugar. Go through the items in the supermarket and you’ll surely find most of the processed food stuff containing these sugars. It can get confusing to distinguish which ones to buy. A great piece of advice would be to avoid them entirely, if possible. Stick to fresh fruits and vegetables as much as you can.
Just because they don’t appear in the labels, it doesn’t mean that fruits and vegetables don’t have sugar. On the contrary, sugar content makes these food items tasty. Still, the sugar levels are within a good range and aren’t broken down as fast as the simple sugars offered in the sugary processed foods, soft drinks, and high-energy drinks.
Knowing Your Limits
If sugar is needed by the body, how is too much? Based on extensive studies done by the American Heart Association (AHA), most men need around 150 calories a day while most women need around 100 calories a day. If that is translated to sugar, then men need 9 teaspoons while women need only 6.
Now, check your diet. Any food with carbohydrates (including bread and rice) contains sugar. How many 12-ounce cans of regular soda do you drink daily? Each can has 8–10 teaspoons of sugar. Even 1 can of soda is more than enough to meet the daily limit. But you also eat other foods! Even without doing complex Math, you’ll see that indulging in soft drinks and sugary drinks pushes you well over what you need for the day.
It might be good to start counting your calories now – not just for avoiding obesity but also to keep your cholesterol levels in check.