Many people consume more sugar than they realize.
If you have a sweet tooth and love to eat sugary foods and beverages, be aware that too much sugar isn’t so sweet for your health.
The naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are absolutely fine. The problem starts when you consume more than the recommended amount of sugar that is added to foods and beverages. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amounts of added sugars that one can consume in a day are:
- Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
- Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet. It provides empty calories with no added nutrients and leads to many health issues.
The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, candies, cakes, cookies, pies and processed fruit drinks. However, there are also other foods items that have added sugar.
The benefits of eliminating added sugars from your diet are numerous.
Here is what happens to your body when you quit eating sugar.
1. Prevents Energy Slumps
Eating more sugar can lead to energy slumps, leaving you exhausted and irritable.
Consuming high amounts of any type of sugar appears to raise energy levels in proportion to the amount consumed. But it soon results in a sharp drop in energy levels.
Sugar gets broken down very quickly and causes a spike in blood sugar levels. During this time, the brain stops producing orexin, the neuropeptide responsible for feeling alert.
A 2014 study published in Physiology & Behavior shows that rats fed a low-fat diet, high in sugar and refined flour, were more obese and less willing to work for a reward than rats fed a balanced diet.
Plus, excess dietary sugar affects the brain, nerves, digestive system and muscles. If the body is not receiving proper nutrition, it results in fatigue and tiredness.
Instead of going for a sweet beverage or a sugary dessert, opt for a protein-packed snack to keep you alert and full of energy.
2. Aids Weight Loss
Sugar is just empty calories that you are eating and causes weight gain. When you eat more sugar, your body converts as much as it needs into energy and stores the rest away as body fat. Eventually, this fat starts showing on your waist, hips, thighs and face.
In fact, several studies have confirmed that sugar is associated with weight gain.
A 2001 study published in The Lancet reports that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with obesity in children.
A 2005 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism concludes that the alarming increase in fructose intake is an important contributor to the epidemic of obesity and insulin-resistant diabetes in both children and adults. This study emphasized the urgent need for increased public awareness of the risks associated with high fructose consumption.
Another 2006 study published in the International Journal of Obesity also confirmed the possible role of sugar-sweetened beverages in obesity etiology.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed several short-term and long-term studies and found that fructose consumption results in decreased circulating levels of insulin and leptin when compared with glucose. This contributes to weight gain and obesity.
Quitting sugar can help you finally lose some of the extra pounds and prevent health problems that come with being overweight. You may crave for more sugar in the beginning but over a period of time you will experience lesser sugar cravings.
3. Reduces Your Risk of Diabetes
Excess sugar intake leads to a buildup of fatty deposits around the liver, which contributes over time to insulin resistance by affecting the functioning of the pancreas.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a greater magnitude of weight gain and an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in women. This is mainly due to intake of excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars.
Another study published in Diabetes Care in 2010 concludes that in addition to weight gain, higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
This study even provided empirical evidence that intake of sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.
A 2013 study published in PLOS ONE analyzed several studies and concluded that sugar availability is a significant statistical determinant of diabetes prevalence rates worldwide.
As sugar intake is likely a leading cause of diabetes, those who are at a higher risk of diabetes in the coming years can benefit greatly from avoiding sugar completely.
4. Improves Oral Health
High sugar intake and poor oral health go hand in hand. When high sugar intake is combined with poor oral hygiene, the results can be disastrous.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, there are hundreds of bacteria inside the mouth, many of which are beneficial. However, certain bacteria feed on the sugars and create acids.
The acids can destroy the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective outer layer of the tooth. This in turn can lead to cavities, which if not treated timely can cause severe toothaches and possible tooth loss.
A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates stimulate the bacteria inside the mouth to produce acid and lower the pH level. The resultant action is the beginning of tooth demineralization.
Keep a limit on your sugar consumption if you do not want to suffer from tooth decay, tooth loss or other poor oral health issues.
5. Promotes Sound Sleep
Cutting back on sugar can help maintain blood sugar levels and also increase the level of serotonin within the brain, promoting a healthy and consistent sleep pattern.
Eating sugary foods causes blood sugar spikes, which leads to adrenal exhaustion. This affects sleep quality.
Also, sugar suppresses the activity of orexin, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that helps regulate arousal, wakefulness and appetite. High sugar leads to large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream, which suppress the activity of orexin neurons in the brain.
A recent 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that greater sugar intake is associated with more arousals from sleep. This means high sugar intake is directly associated with lighter, less restorative and more disturbed sleep.
Try cutting sugar out of your diet, or at least limit your intake, to enjoy better sleep. You might be surprised by how much better you are sleeping!
If you need a snack before bedtime, try some oatmeal or a whole-grain sandwich.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Level
Ditching sugar means a healthier heart. It can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
High sugar intake raises insulin levels, which in turn activates the sympathetic nervous system. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
High blood pressure makes your heart and arteries work harder, which gradually damages the whole circulatory system. Eventually, this increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and other serious coronary conditions.
A 2014 study published in Open Heart journal reports that it is not salt but sugar that increases the risk of hypertension and cardiometabolic diseases. In fact, people who consume 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugars have a three times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
After quitting sugar, you may notice a significant decrease in low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) as well as triglycerides. Moreover, your blood pressure level may get back on track.
7. Keeps Brain Sharp
Your habit of relishing sugary items without restriction has a negative impact on your brain power, too. Excess sugar can impair cognitive function. It even reduces protein in the body, which is necessary for memory and responsiveness.
In fact, a diet high in fructose hinders learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiology.
High sugar intake impairs cognitive abilities and disrupts insulin signaling by engaging molecules associated with energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity. Damaged synaptic activity means that communication among brain cells is impaired.
Moreover, sugar intake is associated with poor sleep, which has a direct impact on cognitive performance. It leads to poor attention and weak working memory, along with a range of other cognitive problems.
For your brain to function properly, be sure to quit or at least limit your intake of sugar.
8. Improves Mood
Eating a diet high in added sugars can lead to anxiety, irritability, mood swings and even depression.
A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who follow a standard American diet that is high in processed foods, which typically contain high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and salt, are at an increased risk for developing depression compared to those who follow a low-sugar diet.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that high glycemic index diets could be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women. Progressively higher consumption of added sugars is also associated with increasing odds of incident depression.
To give a boost to your brain, do not rely on sugary foods. Instead, avoid sugar to prevent mood swings.
9. Prevents Fatty Liver Disease
A diet high in sugar can exacerbate fatty liver disease.
Eating a sugary item leads to a spike in insulin and also drives fat into the liver cells, which in turn causes inflammation and scarring.
Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, which are metabolized in the liver as only the liver has a transporter for it. When excess sugar is consumed, the liver converts it to a lipid. Overproduction of lipids leads to hormonal changes in the body, which can affect liver function.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Hepatology concludes that regular sugar-sweetened beverage intake is associated with greater risk of fatty liver disease, particularly in overweight and obese individuals.
At the same time, high sugar intake causes chronic inflammation in the body, which is not good for the liver.
Quit sugar to improve the functioning of your liver and control inflammation.
10. Slows Down Skin Aging
High sugar intake can even accelerate the skin-aging process. It can make your skin dull and dry, which makes it more prone to wrinkles.
Sugar intake leads to a process known as glycation, in which sugar attaches to and damages proteins like collagen and elastin. These proteins are needed to keep your skin smooth and flexible. Damage to the collagen and elastin can make your skin more likely to sag and develop wrinkles.
Also, the high blood sugar level due to sugar intake reduces skin-protecting antioxidants, leaving you more susceptible to sun damage.
Sugar is also related to systemic inflammation, a known acne trigger.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for natural fruits instead of sugary foods. This will help you enjoy youthful and flawless skin.