If you are an ultimate sweet tooth, you know all too well that all things delicious are packed with sugary goodness. Brownies, doughnuts, cakes, muffins… the sweet list is never-ending (much to our delight).
Unfortunately, besides providing us with moments of tasty indulgence, the benefits of sugar are pretty limited. When consumed in excess, sugar can have a detrimental impact on our health such as increasing our risk of developing diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
More bad news? Sugar not only contributes to the likelihood of these health conditions arising, but also to certain skin conditions. For example, if you are currently suffering from acne, have you ever considered sugar to be the main culprit?
Sugar & Acne: A Match Made in Hell
Most people who are dealing with acne tend to blame the usual suspects for their skin condition, such as hormones and stress. However, what some acne sufferers might not expect is that acne can also be a result of the food they are eating. In some cases, the food itself might not be a problem, but rather, the amount of that particular food consumed.
Dairy is a common example of a food substance that promotes the development of acne. And as you might have guessed by now, so is sugar. What makes this sweet (and addictive) ingredient harmful when consumed in excess?
Your Gut’s Worse Nightmare
Gut health has been a trending news topic in the health circuit recently. Our gut is made up of diverse types of bacteria, both good and bad. As you may have guessed, an excessive amount of sugar in your body feeds the bad bacteria in your gut. When you have too much of these bad bacteria, it can lead to problems such as inflammation. And, when your gut is dealing with inflammation, it can result in acne forming on your skin.
Adding On the Pounds
While there is no concrete evidence of a direct link between sugar levels and obesity, food that contains a high amount of sugar tends to be higher in calories, too. Thus, you can easily consume more than your required calorie intake, when you snack on a bag of potato chips or indulge in a piece of chocolate cake. If this is the norm for you on most days, it is easy to go overboard with your daily calorie intake. This may then lead to weight gain, resulting in a higher level of the androgen hormone, which has been linked to the development of acne.
High Levels of Insulin
When you hear the word ‘insulin’, one of the first things that might cross your mind is sugar — and for good reason. The hormone insulin plays a role in controlling the levels of glucose — in other words, sugar — in our blood. When you consume a high-sugar diet, it can result in an increase in the level of insulin in your body. This increase may then cause your skin to produce too much oil, thus clogging your pores and resulting in acne.
Sugar: The Good vs. The Bad
Despite the harmful effects excessive consumption of sugar may have on our skin health, this does not mean all sugars are bad. The negative health effects we have discussed above are largely due to processed or refined sugar. As you might have guessed, these are sugars found in desserts, junk foods, as well as sweetened beverages.
However, sugar is not all bad. In fact, good kinds of sugar exist too. These are known as unrefined sugars, which are present in fruits and vegetables. Unrefined sugar is considered a good sugar, due to its low glycemic index. Unlike refined sugar — which has a high glycemic index and causes a rapid rise in blood glucose levels — having a low glycemic index means that the glucose levels increase gradually. In turn, this allows the insulin levels to rise at a slower rate, too.
In addition, unrefined sugar retains more of its nutritional content too, as the molasses (a thick syrup resulting from the sugar production) are not removed during its production, unlike in the process of producing refined sugar.
Are There Healthier Alternatives?
Despite knowing the negative health impact resulting from an excessive consumption of refined sugar, it can still be extremely difficult to give up those tasty sweet treats. You might wonder, then, if there are any healthier alternatives to refined sugar?
The good news is that there are substitutes to refined sugar, including:
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Monk fruit sweetener
- Brown rice syrup
While the above-mentioned sweeteners are considered healthier relative to refined sugar, it should be noted that these sugars are still processed. Even if they have a healthier nutritional content compared to refined sugar such as white and brown sugar, it is still important to control your intake of these alternatives.