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Why is White Sugar harmful? What are the best alternatives?

White sugar, or should we say “sugar” in general, is linked to various health problems like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, and even cancer. Decreased sugar intake can help prevent the chances of encountering such health problems and results in a better quality of life. 
As more and more research on white sugar and its negative health impacts comes to light, people have become highly cautious with the increased sugar intake in their diet. Some people have entirely removed sugar from their diet to reduce significant health risks associated with sugar intake. 
Unfortunately, some people mistakenly believe that all sugars are harmful to your health, but it cannot be further from the truth as not all sugars are harmful to your health. The sugar in fruits and vegetables is natural and poses little to no health risk. The sugar that poses the most threat is white sugar or refined sugar. White sugar is prepared using additives and chemicals. It is not extracted in its purest form. It has to undergo an extensive refining process which is why it has a lot of calories. High carb count and less nutrition make white sugar an unpopular ingredient in the food.
Here are some of the reasons why white sugar is considered harmful. 

1. White sugar consumption causes uncontrolled changes in blood sugar levels. 

White sugar consumption drastically affects our blood sugar levels by causing a rapid spike in blood glucose levels in the body. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause exhaustion, mood swings, and even depression. Blood sugar levels rise and fall as a result of white sugar consumption. It also causes more sugar cravings and extra hunger due to the high amounts of carbohydrates present in white sugar. People who restrict sugar intake in their diet report having fewer sugar cravings and also feel more emotionally stable and motivated. 

2. White sugar causes insulin resistance.  

White sugar consumption can lead to weight gain due to the high calories present in white sugar. Aside from weight gain, it also causes insulin resistance. Insulin is secreted by our body to regulate the blood sugar levels inside the body. When blood sugar levels become too high, our pancreas goes into overdrive by pumping more and more insulin into the body to regulate the increasing blood sugar levels. Increased blood sugar level ultimately leads to our body developing insulin resistance. When our body resists insulin, our blood sugar levels stop being regulated effectively. Insulin resistance, in turn, contributes to diabetes. 

3. White sugar leads to many diseases. 

White sugar contains higher amounts of fructose and glucose than natural sugars. The liver does not easily break down fructose. The liver is the organ responsible for breaking down fructose. The liver breaks down fructose into triglycerides (fat), which can amass over time unless you burn the fat out regularly. The accumulated fat can lead to various diseases and health issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. Obesity has become a significant health issue in recent years, and white sugar contributes to this problem significantly. Obesity is linked with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cholesterol. It is essential to restrict white sugar intake to prevent such problems. 

4. White sugar consumption is linked to cancer. 

Cancer is a debilitating disease that can break you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Various studies suggest a link between foods with a high glycemic index and cancer. White sugar has a high glycemic index, which is linked to cancer. High sugar intake can lead to cancer of various types like breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc. Since white sugar is a critical ingredient in lots of processed food, it can be hard to avoid it altogether. Eating foods with a high quantity of sugar contributes to the problem of obesity. Eating unprocessed food or minimally processed foods reduces the risk of cancer significantly. 

5. White sugar can be addictive. 

Yes, it may not seem like a big deal, but sugar can be highly addictive. People who tried to cut out sugar entirely from their diet can attest to this. When you abruptly cut out sugar from your diet, you begin to have excess cravings. Not only this, but you may observe some withdrawal symptoms as well. The sweet taste buds trigger dopamine release, which is why we experience pleasure in eating sweet food. The release of dopamine (the pleasure hormone) is what contributes to our cravings for sugar now and then. It is as addicting as drugs and cigarettes. 

6. Excess white sugar consumption can affect your mental health.

Studies have shown a link between excess white sugar consumption and depression. It is also known to drain energy from the body, making you look exhausted and irritable. Constant mood swings are also observed in people who indulge in white sugar consumption. Sugar consumption triggers the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) which is why we love to indulge in it in the first place. When the dopamine effect wears off, people end up in the vicious cycle of binging and craving until they become massively heavy. White sugar consumption is linked with high amounts of stress as well. It is overall bad for your mental health. 
Sugar can be pretty addictive. It can be challenging for someone who has a sweet tooth to avoid sugar and cut it out entirely from their diet, as sugar is present in almost all foods we eat. Even if they succeed in avoiding sugar for some time, it will only be a matter of time before they crave something sweet. 
Luckily, it is possible to give in to that craving once in a while without dealing with any substantial health risk as there is a wide range of natural and artificial “white sugar” alternatives or sugar sweeteners available on the market. Not only do they help cut down white sugar intake, but they are also considered a better alternative for white sugar. 
Some of the best alternatives to white sugar are: 
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1. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar, is considered a better alternative to white sugar due to several reasons. Coconut palm sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm rather than the coconut itself. People who are health conscious opt for coconut sugar instead of white sugar because of its low glycemic index and low fructose. 

Glycemic Index (GI) indicates the number of carbohydrates present in food. Consuming high in glycemic index can drastically increase blood sugar levels and increase the chances of being diagnosed with diabetes. The glycemic index count of coconut sugar is relatively lower than the glycemic index count of white sugar. Coconut sugar prevents low blood sugar. 

Coconut sugar also has a lower amount of fructose present in it as compared to white sugar. Fructose, which is converted into triglycerides (fats) upon breakdown, is not easily broken down by the liver. Coconut sugar contains a higher amount of sucrose than fructose. People choose to buy coconut sugar because it is packed with iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener. Unlike white sugar, it does not have to go through an extensive refining process. 

2. Palm Sugar 

Palm sugar is another great alternative to white sugar. People often think that palm sugar and coconut sugar are the same as coconut sugar is sometimes called coconut palm sugar. The two sugars are not the same. Coconut sugar is extracted from coconut palm tree’s sap, whereas palm sugar is derived from the trunks of the coconut palm tree. Their flavors also differ, with coconut sugar offering a butterscotch caramel taste and palm sugar offering a caramel taste with smoky overtones.

Buy palm sugar if you want to keep the glycemic index of your food low, as palm sugar is not only low in the glycemic index but is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It is a natural alternative to sugar. It is less sweet than white sugar as it contains some nutrients, whereas white sugar is entirely devoid of nutrients. Palm sugar does not undergo an extensive refining process, unlike white sugar. It is, however, more expensive than white sugar as the preparation of palm sugar is rather labor-intensive. Those who are health-conscious should substitute white sugar with palm sugar due to its nutritional content. 

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3. Honey

Honey and white sugar can both add some sweetness to your food and drinks. Their nutritional value differs as well. Honey is an excellent substitute for white sugar due to the numerous health benefits honey offers. Instead of white sugar, honey does not undergo an extensive refining process like white sugar. It is prepared through pasteurization. People can use honey instead of white sugar in their milk to reap the health benefits of honey. 
People who cut out sugar from their diet only need a tinge of honey in their food or milk to get the same jolt of sweetness that white sugar offers. However, it should be noted that consuming excess honey can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, etc. People diagnosed with diabetes can opt for honey as a sugar substitute, but they should be cautious and use it in moderation only. 
Honey has a higher content of fructose than glucose, which contributes to its delicate taste and sweetness. Using honey as the secret sugar substitute in food can enhance the overall taste of the food. It possesses antibacterial characteristics, which may aid in the killing of pathogens.
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4. Dates Powder 

Dates powder, or date sugar, is another excellent alternative to white sugar or refined sugar that you can use in your food. They are natural sweeteners that are entirely loaded with essential nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, etc. When you substitute white sugar with dry dates powder, you satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy numerous health benefits associated with it. 

Dry dates powder contains a higher antioxidant content than any other natural sugar present in the market. Along with having antioxidant properties, it also boosts immunity. The sugar present in dry dates powder is exceptionally healthy. The natural sugar present in dry dates powder is complex carbohydrates that help keep excess hunger at bay. It fights off severe fatigue and instead keeps you energized all day. It can also relieve constipation. It is also highly effective in regulating blood sugar levels. 

Dates powder has a caramel-like taste which is why it can be used instead of white sugar. They are jam-packed with fibers, nutrients, and antioxidants. Due to these properties, dry dates are considered a better alternative to white sugar. They are high in calories, though, which is why they should be consumed at moderate levels. 
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Conclusion

This article discussed the adverse health effects of consuming refined sugar like white sugar. White sugar consumption can lead to various cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, tooth decay, etc. Some studies have also found a link between depression and high amounts of white sugar consumption. People are replacing white sugar with natural sugar or sweeteners rather than cutting sugar altogether from their diet. There is a misconception that all sugars are harmful to your health. It should be emphasized that only refined sugar fits the bill for harmful sugar. Natural sugar has no damaging effects on health whatsoever as it is not refined with chemicals, unlike white sugar. 

People who follow a strict diet or plan to lose weight often commit to “no sugar” and food with a low glycemic index. Following a strict diet plan can be hard to commit to at first but not impossible. Replacing refined sugar with natural sweeteners is a way better alternative for your health than giving in to refined sugar cravings. The positive health effects experienced by people who consume natural sweeteners instead of refined sugars are countless. It is good not only for your physical health but also for your mental health and overall well-being. 

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