Yes, sugar is delicious and tempting and even comforting. But it’s also deadly for your health, your waistline, and your mind.
Despite all these obvious ill effects, many Americans are still consuming up to five times the amount of sugar that’s recommended by the American Heart Association. This means women are eating up to 30 teaspoons of sugar per day, while men eat up to 45 teaspoons!
That’s pretty gross when you think about it.
Of course, they’re probably not sitting down eating spoon after spoon of white sugar, but in today’s society, hidden sugar is lurking everywhere. In fact, it’s found in 75% of packaged foods purchased in the United States.
Why not find out how much hidden sugar you’re consuming every day? See these everyday foods that are terrible for your health, and also this list of 15 foods that have dangerous amounts of the sweet stuff.
It might just shock you.
And it’s not just those with a sweet tooth that are at risk of overdoing it on the sugar. If you’re filling up on bread, pasta, chips and fries, it means you’re simply consuming sugar in another form. Starchy foods are broken down by the body into simple sugars and cause all the same problems that candy does, particularly when over eaten.
The bottom line is, sugar is not your friend so banish it from your diet. Sure, it will mean reading labels, forsaking some of your favorite treats and even making meals from scratch.
But when you read on and discover these seven amazing things that happen when you quit sugar, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s totally worth it.
Slow Down The Aging Process
Did you know that sugar ages you?
In a process known as glycation, sugar attaches to the collagen in our skin and other parts of the body. This causes inflammation and reduces the effectiveness of both collagen and elastin, the proteins in our skin that help it stay youthful. When these don’t work so well, your skin no longer looks supple and youthful. Instead it begins to look dull, dry and…old!
While glycation can’t be completely stopped, it can be slowed down. And you guessed it, quitting sugar is one of the best ways to do this.
You don’t have to take my word for it, a study of 600 men and women found that those with higher blood sugar levels consistently looked older than those with lower blood sugar. For every extra 180 g of glucose per liter of blood, their estimated age rose by five months.
Diabetics – whose blood sugar level had been raised over a long period of time – looked older than their peers who did not have diabetes.
As well as aging your skin, too much sugar has been found to aggravate acne, and in some cases, even trigger it. And, according to the Rosacea Research & Development Institute, sugar is the fuel that burns the inflammation seen in rosacea.
Once you begin to wean yourself off the white stuff (including simple carbs) you should soon start to notice a difference in how your skin looks and feels.
Watch The Pounds Melt Away
How great would it be if you could just make one small change, and see the pounds melt away, particularly around the belly and love handles area?
Well, you can! Simply ditch the sugar and you’ll be effortlessly trim in no time.
A recent study has shown that, when calories were equal, those on a low sugar and refined carb diet burned 325 more calories a day than those eating a low fat diet! On the other hand, diets high in energy from fructose (sugar) contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Basically, too many sugary foods over an extended period of time cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which triggers our bodies to store extra fat and slows down metabolism. Once the body starts to get resistant to insulin, it can be a difficult process to reverse…so prevention is the best cure.
But insulin isn’t the only hormone that sugar affects, it also interferes with the function of leptin. This particular hormone is responsible for controlling our appetite and telling our liver what to do with all the glucose stored there. When our body doesn’t read leptin’s signals, it leads to weight gain particularly around your middle, which is often a precursor to diabetes.
Stop Being A Slave To Sugar Cravings
Are you left craving something sweet just an hour or two after treating yourself to a muffin or candy bar? Given that sugar is thought to be just as addictive as cocaine, it’s not really surprising.
Contrary to what many people believe, being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, it’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that cause us to crave sugar and carbs.
When we eat these foods our bodies release serotonin and beta-endorphin, neurotransmitters that improve our mood, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Naturally our bodies crave that source of happiness again and again.
It seems like a vicious cycle, and it is. But the good news is that when you give up sugar those cravings will stop. Dr. Hyman promises the detox will happen in 10 days or less!
If you need some help in getting through the first few days of going cold turkey, check out my post on how to eliminate your addictions. And just keep thinking how good it will feel when you’re no longer a slave to your sugar habit.
Sleep Like A Baby
Blood sugar issues are said to be the second leading cause of insomnia, affecting one third of Americans.
By ditching sugar and refined carbs, especially before bed, you’ll avoid a rise in blood sugar levels that keeps you up all night.
You’ll also avoid the inevitable drop that follows every rise. This drop causes the body to release hormones to regulate glucose levels, while also stimulating the brain, something which can easily cause you to wake. By avoiding this pattern of rising and falling sugar levels, you’ll have a much better sleep.
In addition to disrupting blood glucose levels, sugar and grains are food groups that many are sensitive to. If you’re one of these people, you might experience reactions that keep you up – like excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating, and gas.
If you absolutely need a snack before bed, try some oatmeal or whole grain carbs. These should maintain blood sugar levels and also increase the level of serotonin within the brain, promoting a healthy and consistent sleep.
Reduced Risk Of Illness
It’s believed that conditions like asthma, allergies, heart disease and even cancer are actually caused by chronic inflammation in the body. While a certain level inflammation is normal, when it is triggered unnecessarily, or gets out of control, then we have a problem.
What causes the brain to misread the signals, and trigger an inflammatory response even when no threat exists? A poor diet, rich in sugar and refined carbohydrates, is one of the main culprits.
The blood sugar surge that follows from snacking on white bread, French fries or even a can of soda, causes the body to release inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Eating whole grain products instead reduces cytokine production.
In addition, sugar and white flour are acidic foods and experts believe this is a major cause of chronic inflammation. Given that the average American consumes more than 130 pounds of sugar and 133 pounds of flour per year, it’s not surprising that so many people are suffering from diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other inflammation related issues.
Once you cut out the sugar and simple carbs and replace them with fruit, vegetables and complex carbohydrates you’ll decrease your body’s inflammatory responses and therefore reduce your risk of these illnesses.
No More Energy Slumps
When you hit the 3 pm slump, do you reach for a can of soda or an extra sweet latte?
Sure, they give you a quick energy boost, but if you think about it, don’t they almost as quickly drain that energy, leaving you exhausted, irritable, and craving another pick-me-up?
Because these foods are broken down very quickly, blood sugar levels rise and the brain stops producing orexin, the neuropeptide responsible for feeling alert. It’s not surprising you can’t focus on anything once lunch time has passed.
When it comes to fuel to keep us going, our bodies use two types – sugars and fats. Of course, we should be using fats as fuel, given that they are the most energy-dense macronutrient. Unfortunately, most people are adapted to using sugar as their source of energy, which burns much quicker, leaving them struggling to stay awake.
A study of rats in UCLA showed that those fed a low fat diet, high in sugar and refined flour, were not only more obese than rats fed a balanced diet, but also less willing to work for a reward. Proof that sugar makes you lazy!
By replacing sugar and simple carbs with healthy fats and complex carbohydrates as your main sources of fuel, you can say goodbye to those energy highs and lows that are holding you back.
Feel As Good As You Look
You might think that a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked will put you in a good mood, but actually the exact opposite might be true.
A British psychiatric researcher conducted an analysis of the relationship between diet and mental health and concluded that there is a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of depression and schizophrenia.
This isn’t the only study to link sugar with mental illness. A 2004 study found that a higher intake of refined sugar and dairy predicted a worse two-year outcome of schizophrenia.
Sugar is believed to affect our mental health in two ways. Firstly, it suppresses activity of the important growth hormone BDNF. Sufferers of depression and schizophrenia are known to have critically low levels of BDNF levels in the brain.
Secondly, it causes a chain of chemical reactions that promote chronic inflammation, something I mentioned earlier. In addition to the countless other problems long term inflammation causes, it also disrupts immune system function, and wreaks havoc on the brain.
Why not try cutting out the sugar and white carbs for a few weeks and seeing if you feel healthier and happier? My guess is, you will!
Fill up on healthy fats, complex carbs, and protein as these are nutrient dense foods. Fruits, especially berries, are a great sweet treat and make a healthy replacement to sugar. Even simply adding a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg to snacks can give the illusion of sweetness without the sugar.
If you’re really struggling, these 6 tips should help you reduce your sugar intake without the pain!
And don’t even think that by switching to ‘diet’ or ‘sugar free’ options you’ll be getting your sweet fix without doing your body any damage. Have you read my post on the common but deadly sugar replacement aspartame?
Once your body adjusts to this new, sugar free regimen, your only regret will be that you didn’t do it sooner.
Were you surprised by some of the amazing benefits giving up sugar can bring?