We all know refined and processed sugar is not a healthy option but, man, is it addictive. Breaking the habit of reaching for a sweet treat can be one of the hardest ones to realign — but it’s worth it. Processed and refined sugar can have detrimental effects on the body. The liver stores excess sugar as glycogen, which is a storage friendly version of glucose. And if you consume refined sugar daily, you may be overloading the limited storage space of the liver and cause it to expand. When your liver reaches its maximum capacity, the excess glycogen can be converted into fatty acids and deposited in the inactive parts of the body.
Eating too much refined sugar can also have negative effects on your heart. Eating large amounts of refined sugar may be responsible for higher triglycerides and low HDL — or “good” — cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol helps to transport cholesterol from the body’s cells back to the liver, so low levels may result in an increased risk of heart disease.
Even more worrisome is the addictive nature of refined sugar. When you eat something that contains a large amount of processed sugar, it can cause a huge release of dopamine (a brain chemical that helps us feel happiness or pleasure) in the reward center of the brain, one that is not comparable to anything else that occurs naturally in our food.
And I know it’s easy to scoff at the idea of substituting fruit for your afternoon chocolate fix, but trust me, it really can help. Fruit is naturally sweet — is there anything more refreshing than a bowl of cherries on a warm summer’s day? But because of its raw sugar content, it’s important to select the right fruit options. It is possible to overdose on fruit and other healthy options. I recommend picking fruit that is high in fiber to help keep you full longer, like an apple or a pear. Other great options are dark, rich colored berries: raspberries, blueberries, cherries, or pomegranate.
Unfortunately though there are some fruits you need to avoid. Bananas, grapes, figs, dates, and all dried fruit contain too much sugar and aren’t the best options for your weight-loss journey.
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