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Effects Of Sugar and Processed Foods on Our Health & Well-Being

Both sugar and processed foods are considered extremely unhealthy and can have detrimental effects on not just our physical health but also our mental health.

Aarushi Chadha
While not all processed foods are not inherently bad, however, there are some that contain stabilizers, preservatives, and other ingredients to make them more palatable, cheap, and convenient

While both sugar and processed foods are considered extremely unhealthy, eating them in small quantities is totally fine. The effect of sugar and processed foods is compounded. This means that eating food that is extremely processed and has a high sugar content on a regular basis can increase our risk of several serious medical conditions. Let us take a look at the effects of sugar and processed foods in order to understand their effect on our health and well-being.

Effects of sugar on our health

Sugar is a term used to define sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates. It is naturally found in the tissues of most plants. Honey and fruits are natural sources of simple sugar. White sugar is a refined source of sucrose and it is especially concentrated in sugarcane and sugar beet. White sugar is used to prepare food and is added to commercially available processed foods and beverages.

Sugar consumption skyrocketed in the latter half of the 20th century, which led to hundreds of researchers that have been able to conclude the damaging effect of a diet rich in sugar on our health. According to the NHS (National Health Service of United Kingdom), sugar should not make up more than 5% of the calories we consume during the day. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to a myriad of health issues.

  • Studies indicate that sugar is a major contributor to obesity. Beverages that are sweetened are loaded with fructose, a simple sugar that increases our hunger and desire for food. Therefore, most carbonated beverages are a source of empty liquid calories that do not curb our hunger and makes us gain weight.

  • As we have learned earlier, high-sugar diets can lead to obesity. It also leads to high triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels which put at an increased risk for heart disease. High sugar diets are also linked with atherosclerosis, a disease that is characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits. Studies show that excessive sugar intake can also increase the risk of stroke.

  • Did you know that our mood is directly affected by the food we eat? Our gut is full of bacteria that help regulate serotonin, a hormone that regulates our mood. Healthy and nutritious foods not only feed the bacteria in our gut but also increases their numbers, thereby, making us happier. A diet rich in added sugar and processed foods can cause mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is also linked to cognitive impairments, memory problems, and emotional disorders.

Effects of processed foods on our health

Today, it is hard to avoid processed foods. Almost everything on our plate has gone through a process of enrichment, refinement, and packaging. While not all processed foods are not inherently bad, however, there are some that contain stabilizers, preservatives, and other ingredients to make them more palatable, cheap, and convenient. There are several risks involved with processed foods-

  • Despite its high caloric content, processed food is digested more quicker than unprocessed whole foods. So, our body burns less energy while digesting these foods. Processed foods also have a high sugar content that makes us crave other similar processed meals and snacks. This leads to weight gain.

  • Heavy processing of food grains, vegetables, and fruits strip them of their basic nutrients. Therefore, nowadays many foods are being fortified with fibre, vitamins, and minerals in order to appeal to more health-conscious people.

  • Consuming processed foods put people at risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease also known as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include blood in stool, weight loss, sudden fever, and fatigue. One of the biggest reasons behind this is emulsifiers, an ingredient that is heavily used in processed foods that helps extend the shelf life of the food and help it hold its shape. IBD can be treated with medications and is prevented by regularly consuming good-quality protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

  • Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions that occur together and increase our risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Symptoms include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal triglyceride levels, abnormal cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar. Eating highly processed foods that are high in fat and sodium content puts people at risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, eating whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits, and by regularly exercising.

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