How Sugar Intake Destroys Your Child’s Long-Term Health
If you’re trying to keep your kids away from fast food and GMOs, you’re not doing them any favors if you’re still giving them sugar. Sugar intake destroys your child’s long-term health.
If you’re a parent, you probably joke about the way sugar influences your child’s crazy behavior. However, sugar causes significant health problems that go beyond hyperactivity.
A 2013 Credit Suisse Research Institute report stated that up to 40% of the healthcare costs in the U.S. are going toward health complications caused by sugar (1). In fact, Dr. Robert Lustig believes that 75 percent of the medical problems that plague Americans are preventable.
The culprit behind heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers isn’t just high-fructose corn syrup; it’s all types of sugar, including honey and maple syrup.
That might come as a surprise to you, especially following the low-fat trend of the past few decades. Fat is not the enemy.
You’re probably not feeding your children spoonfuls of the white granulated stuff, but sugar is hidden in all kinds of processed foods.
If you’re child(ren) starts their day off with a bowl of cereal, you need to read the rest of this article.
How Sugar Intake Destroys Your Child’s Long-Term Health
Eating Sugar Can Lead to Malnutrition
Do you have a picky eater? He or she may just be eating too much sugar throughout the day.
According to research, as sugar increases your blood glucose, your appetite goes away (2). Sugar can make you feel full, and if you’re eating it throughout the day, you might not get hungry enough to reach for nutritious food.
If you’re eating candy bars to tide you over until dinner, you may never get to that dinner. If eating like this becomes a habit, your child could end up neglecting to get proper nutrition.
Fullness aside, if your child is eating too much sugar throughout the day (think cereal, fruit juice, etc), they are going to be less receptive to eating healthy foods that don’t TASTE like they are full of sugar (lean chicken breast, broccoli, brown rice, etc.).
Sugar Causes Virus-Like Symptoms
Many kids are diagnosed with allergies and on long-term medication for it. Others never seem to shake that runny nose.
These symptoms can be caused by excess sugar consumption.
If your child seems fine during the day but develops a cough every night, sugar could be causing inflammation and reflux. The combination of sugar and dairy can create an acidic environment that leads to muscle spasms in the larynx, leading to a barking cough.
Acid-reducing medication only masks the problem. In addition, sugar can weaken the immune system.
In humans, sugar and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) compete with each other, explains this article by Livestrong. If you eat a lot of sugar, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin C.
This can affect your child’s immunity and make him or her more susceptible to colds. If your child seems to catch every illness that goes around his school, try removing the majority of sugar from the diet.
Sugar Can Make Your Child Fat
Scientists have recently begun to agree on the fact that fat doesn’t necessarily lead to obesity. Giving your child plenty of healthy fats will help with his or her brain development and heart health.
Giving your child sugar can lead to obesity. Many parents think they’re safe from this consequence, because they don’t let their kids eat candy.
However, numerous studies have found that sugar-sweetened beverages may be the biggest link to childhood obesity. The World Health Organization recommends limiting sugars from fruit juices, honey syrups and those added to processed foods and beverages to 5% of the total daily calories.
According to this review, it’s hard to keep the consumption of added sugar down that low (3). Admittedly, with sugar added to so many processed foods in the U.S., this can be a daunting task.
Instead of counting sugar calories, simply focus on feeding your children real foods that don’t come from a package.
Kids tend to love fruit. Providing them with plenty of fresh fruit isn’t considered a no-no.
Serving them fruit juice is. Most fruit juices contain ADDED sugar. Even juice that comes straight from the fruit can cause a sugar overload.
That is because fruits contain natural fiber, which helps keep you full.
Think of it this way: A glass of orange juice can contain the sugar content of 5-7 freshly squeezed oranges. But you’d have a MUCH harder time eating 5-7 whole oranges in one sitting, because the fiber begins to fill you up.
Alex and I recommend avoiding ALL fruit juices for this reason. Another option is to make it yourself and dilute it with water!
If your child is already overweight, cutting back on sugars has been shown to help shed pounds. If your child is a healthy weight, start transitioning away from sugar now to lower his or her risk of obesity later in life.
Sugar Can Cause Skin Issues
It’s hard enough being a kid without having to worry about rashes and skin problems. However, children who eat too much sugar may be more likely to suffer from acne, dandruff and rosacea.
When you consistently eat too much sugar, your body becomes insulin resistant. Insulin resistance can cause hair growth on the body and dark patches on the skin, according to Total Dermatology.
Sugar also causes inflammation, which may be the trigger behind acne. Sugar can also bond to proteins in your skin through a process called glycation.
Over time, glycation leads to collagen loss, sagging skin and wrinkles. Although your child might not care about that now, this effect can be hard to reverse when he or she is older.
Sugar Can Make It Hard for Your Child to Learn
This might be the scariest of them all, aside from childhood obesity.
“What did you do at school today?” you ask.
“Nothing,” your child mumbles.
Maybe he or she just doesn’t want to talk about it. However, there’s a chance that sugar is interfering with your kid’s ability to learn and remember.
High-sugar diets reduce the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), according to scientists (4). This chemical helps with the creation of memories and the development of complex ways of thinking.
This chemical also assists with the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to new information and experiences. Less BDNF in the brain leads to a lower propensity for learning new things.
What Should You Do About Sugar in Your Child’s Diet?
Your child is probably always going to light up at the promise of a lollipop.
Removing sugar from the diet altogether can be difficult, and can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
It can also be difficult for your child to understand when his or her friends are still consuming these delicious, sugar-laden foods and beverages.
Start slow by trading out one sugary item at a time. Your child likely won’t understand if you forbid them from eating any and all sugary products and don’t give them any reasonable substitutions.
Beginning with beverages may be your best bet. Encourage your child to drink water instead of soda, juice, and chocolate milk.
Even if your child plays sports, water is hydrating enough. Organic fruit drinks or 100% juice is no better than the alternative.
If you really can’t convince your kids to ditch the juice, gradually water it down until they end up drinking water without even noticing it.
Other options include adding lemon or lime juice to water or giving your child fruit-infused waters. They look fun and still taste a little sweet!
Don’t fool yourself into thinking honey and syrups are healthier than refined white sugar. When it comes to promoting inflammation and disease, they’re just as bad.
They’re definitely BETTER for you, but this does not make them “good for you.”
Plus, the sweet taste contributes to ongoing sugar cravings. Even the taste of artificial sweeteners can trick the body into launching inflammatory processes.
Slowly gravitate toward instilling a taste for the flavors of real food instead of sugary sweetness, and your child may thank you for it later.
According to this study, subbing sugars with complex carbs (think sweet potatoes, quinoa, and rolled oats) can improve a child’s health and well-being within a matter of days (6).
A great example of this is to make them a bowl of warm rolled oats with unsweetened coconut milk and cinnamon in the morning instead of a bowl of sugar-laden cereal and simple carbs.
Encourage your child to try new foods from the produce aisle, and ask for help while you’re cooking. When your child is involved in food selection and preparation, he or she is going to be more likely to eat the good stuff.
Smoothies are also a good option, but just make sure that they contain more greens than fruit!
Remember to think about your own life as well. If you are eating processed foods as well, it should be something that you and your child do TOGETHER. For more help on how to detox from sugar, check out our article on How to Quit Your Sugar Addiction.
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