Stop eating rice? That may sound like a very tall task to most people in Singapore. To be honest, I wrote that title to get your attention. It was a little tongue-in-cheek. I enjoy eating rice and I am not trying to get you to completely eliminate rice (and other simple carbohydrates) from your diet. I don’t think I could be very successful trying to get you to do that.
But there are important reasons to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates, rice included, that you eat on a regular basis.
Before we dive into the top three reason, I think it’s important to go over some basic terminology so these concepts are as clear as possible.
We are going to mainly discuss the health effects of consuming simple carbohydrates. So, what is a simple carbohydrate?
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Simple carbohydrates are types of sugars that are made up of one or two sugar molecules. They are not complex and they are easily broken down by your digestive system to generate energy quickly. I will use the term carbohydrate and sugar interchangeably because they are really the same thing.
By contrast, complex carbohydrates are made up of multiple sugar molecules and are broken down more slowly.
There are five simple sugars: glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, and lactose.
Foods Primarily made up of Simple Sugars:
- Sugary drinks
- Cookies, biscuits, and crackers
- Milk and milk products
- Artificial sweeteners
Let’s look at the top three reasons you should reduce consuming simple carbohydrates/ sugars.
#1 Elevated Blood Sugar Levels and Diabetes Risk
Fortunately there is a growing level of awareness of the dangers of diabetes in Singapore. The Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Board have important campaigns and initiatives to educate the public on this condition and how our dietary choices affect our health. Most people understand that poor dietary habits can lead to diabetes.
Diabetes is fundamentally a condition that occurs when a person has elevated blood sugar for a long period of time and the innate mechanism of sugar metabolism stops working properly.
Here are the basics:
When a person consumes foods high in sugar, like say white rice or a Coke, that sugary food is rapidly broken down in their mouth and in their stomach and then absorbed into their blood stream. The person’s innate intelligence senses the high level of sugar in the blood stream and causes the person’s pancreas to secrete a specific hormone known as insulin.
Insulin then causes the person’s body cells to take in the sugar. Inside the body cells sugar molecules are then broken down and converted into usable energy. The breaking down and conversion of sugar molecules into usable energy is known as metabolism.
Insulin is a critically important hormone for a number of important processes in our bodies.
A problem occurs when we continually consume foods that are high in sugar. This is mainly a problem of overexposure or overstimulation. Continual sugar intake will constantly stress our pancreas/ insulin system and over time this system may become dysfunctional in significant ways
There may be too much sugar present in the person’s blood stream and that person doesn’t require the energy to function, so their blood sugar remains high and insulin is being secreted continually. Over time the cells of the pancreases that secreted the insulin will stop functioning and insulin will not be released. This is known as diabetes.
To recap: we eat sugar over and over for a long period of time. Insulin is released over and over for a long period of time, but the effect of that insulin has less of an impact over time. Our body cells become less sensitive to the insulin or insensitive all-together. We then stop releasing insulin. As a result, our blood sugar remains high because of the lack of insulin and out inability absorb the sugar in the blood stream.
If a person has a high blood sugar for extended periods of time, this will wreak havoc on their health and will, in time, lead to major health complications and possibly death.
Complications Associated with Diabetes
- Increased urination, thirst, and hunger
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue, low energy, general lethargy
- Vision problems, including blindness
- Blood vessel damage
- Kidney damage
- Muscle breakdown
- Cardiovascular disease, Artery disease
- Joint pain and joint damage
Many of the above complication occur after ten to twenty years of elevated blood sugar levels, but our daily decisions on what we eat profoundly affects our long-term health outlook.
Commit to a low sugar diet and reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
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#2 Sugar Makes You Fat
It is true that our brains and our entire bodies prefer carbohydrates as our primary source of energy. We can burn sugar fast to generate the necessary energy for the important activities of our lives.
Our bodies also have a form of storage for our energy needs known as FAT. Fat is a structure that is stored in various areas of our bodies to be broken down for energy when we do not have adequate carbohydrates for fuel. This occurs when we are in a fasting state.
But here is the problem: we are rarely in a true fasting state because most people consume a lot of calories in the form of carbohydrates. Many people snack on unhealthy, processed, and sugary foods constantly.
When we have blood sugar that exceeds our energy needs, our body’s innate intelligence converts the sugar to fat for storage for future use.
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To make things simple, eating fat does not make you fat. Eating a lot of sugar makes you fat.
There are a lot of well documented health problems associated with being overweight or obese
Problems Associated with Being Fat:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Tiredness and Fatigue
- Breathing Problems
- Early Death
One of the fastest ways to lose weight and to improve your overall vitality is to drastically reduce your sugar intake.
#3 Sugar Causes Inflammation
Probably the most significant reason that a high carbohydrate diet is bad for you is that sugar promotes INFLAMMATION in your body. Inflammation is a metabolic state that is present when you encounter an injury of some kind. Think of what happens when you sprain your ankle. The swelling, heat, and pain associated with the injury is important for healing.
Inflammation is coordinated through a complex interplay between your nervous system and immune system. It is a cascade of chemical reactions that promotes tissue healing and recovery. Again, inflammation is a normal, healthy physiological process, essential for survival. A problem occurs when we are in a prolonged state of inflammation caused by what we eat.
Related Article: What is Inflammation?
Inflammation caused by your dietary habits is different as it is more widespread and occurs on a sub-cellular level. High blood sugar will lead to an increase in free radicals which will cause damage to your tissue and can cause the proteins in your blood to take on sugar-like properties. This is a major trigger for inflammation.
Continually stimulating your insulin system will also lead to inflammation. Insulin is a major driver of inflammation and inflammation is a major cause of a variety of health problems.
Conditions and Diseases Caused By Inflammation
- Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Elevated Cholesterol
- Joint Pain and Pain Syndromes
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Diabetic Complications
- Allergic Reactions
- Irritable Bowel
- Certain types of Cancers
- Eczema and Skin Allergies
As you can see, inflammation is a very widespread health challenge.
Make Better Choices and Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Stay tuned. In our next post we will discuss some common sense recommendations to improve your dietary habits and to reduce the negative effects of a high sugar diet.
Remember, your nerve system controls your digestive system and your metabolism. Keep your nerve system healthy and strong with chiropractic care and take your health to the next level.
Align Your Spine, Maximize Your Life.