The Nutrient Thief

In my recent posts about sugar, I discussed why sugar and excess carbohydrate consumption leads to fat storage (read here!) and places where sugar hides and some strategies to reduce the added sugar you’re consuming (read here!).  My first post explained how over-consuming carbohydrates and sugars raises your blood sugar above your body’s comfort level, and subsequently the body secretes insulin which transports the sugar into fat cells for long-term storage.  Consuming a highly sweetened beverage like soda, or eating a bag of Skittles, will instantly exceed that comfort level and turn on the insulin response and subsequent fat storage mechanism.

But, there’s another reason why excess sugar consumption is unhealthy.  Not only is it bad for your waistline, but it could also be leading to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.

You’ve heard the old adage, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, right?  Well, there’s no such thing as a free digestive process, either!  Digesting and metabolizing carbohydrates and sugar requires specific nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

You can visualize your body as having a “nutrient bank” that collects and stores nutrients from food and vitamins you’re taking.  The body uses these nutrients for all of its processes, from hormone production and regulation to regulating circadian rhythms to your mood and ability to concentrate to athletic performance to repairing and maintaining your tissues.  When you’ve got a full nutrient bank, you’re feeling great! But when your nutrient bank runs low, you are feeling tired, irritable, foggy-brained and maybe you’re getting sick often.

Any time you eat carbohydrates, your body needs the specific vitamins and nutrients mentioned above to digest and metabolize them.  Often, fruits and vegetables contain the very same vitamins and minerals that are needed to digest and metabolize them.  How convenient!  And, fruits and vegetables provide additional vitamins and minerals in addition to what is needed for digestion.  By consistently eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you’re making deposits in your body’s nutrient bank to build a foundation for optimal health.  On the other hand, consuming foods with added sugar that contain few or no nutrients (cookies, crackers, candy, soda) will force your body to make a withdrawal from its nutrient bank.  With time, overconsumption of sugar will lead to insufficiency or deficiency of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc.

The best thing you can do is to be cognizant of how much sugar you’re consuming and try to reduce or avoid when possible.  The FDA has recently announced that it will be requiring changes to nutrition labels in the near future, and food manufacturers must report the added sugar content (vs naturally occurring in fruit, milk, and vegetables).  Many people are unaware of how much sugar may be hiding in foods, or how much sugar consumption can add up over the course of a day. Track how much added sugar you’re consuming in a day, and then think about which strategies from this post you can implement to cut back.

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