Chances are you’ve experienced a sugar rush – that euphoric, energetic feeling you have after eating certain foods – and the dreaded crash that follows.
While the initial bite of a favorite snack may bring joy, the potential health impacts aren’t so thrilling.
“Consuming too much sugar increases your risk of developing prediabetes, diabetes and a plethora of other chronic health conditions,” says Katherine Masoud, APRN, primary care provider and certified diabetes care and education specialist with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group.
So how do you know when your body has reached its capacity? Masoud shares seven warning signs to watch out for.
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Spotting the red flags
The first step to prevent such chronic health conditions, she adds, is as simple as recognizing these warning signs.
- Weight gain. “Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories and low in nutritional value,” Masoud says. “Eating more empty calories than your burn leads to weight gain.” Being mindful of your sugar intake and limiting it will reduce your risk of weight gain.
- Acne breakouts. “When you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar spikes,” Masoud says. “This causes inflammation and the secretion of sebum (an oily substance in your skin). That, coupled with inflammation, can lead to breakouts.”
- Reaching for multiple snacks. “Our bodies quickly break down sugary foods and drinks, which is why we don’t feel satisfied after,” Masoud says. “If you find yourself reaching for another sugary snack, it’s no coincidence.”
- Mood swings and irritability. Studies suggest that high-sugar diets can increase the risk of mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
- Lack of energy. “While you may get an initial burst of energy after eating sugar, the aftermath lasts much longer,” Masoud says. If you regularly feel fatigued, the soda you drank earlier might be the culprit.
- Craving more sugar. Eating sugar activates our body’s reward circuit. “When we eat sugar, our blood sugar spikes and our bodies react by releasing insulin to lower it to a safe level. Often, the insulin brings blood sugar levels down too low which can cause fatigue, irritability and hunger,” Masoud explains. “Our natural reaction is to reach for more sugar to get that energetic feeling back, which quickly becomes a vicious cycle.”
- Tossing and turning at night. Healthy sleep starts with a healthy diet. “A diet high in sugar can cause restlessness and disrupt sleep,” Masoud says. “This often leads to a cycle where insufficient sleep increases cravings.”
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If you’re seeing the warning signs, what should you do next? Masoud offers these tips:
- Limit sugary drinks like soda, juice and energy drinks. Instead, drink water infused with fruit, sparkling water or unsweetened teas or coffee.
- Switch up dessert. Try having fruit. The natural sweetness will satisfy your sweet tooth and increase your fiber intake. Masoud also recommends Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or dark chocolate chips.
- Include more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and grains. Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugar are as nutritious as fresh ones.
- Read food labels, and pay attention to serving size, to see how many grams of sugar you eat daily.
When to seek help
If you’re concerned about your sugar intake, start by asking your provider about prediabetes and diabetes screening. A simple in-office test can help alert your provider to any issues and ensure you get the treatment you need.