The science is crystal clear: too much sugar is incredibly bad for our bodies. According to a study published in the British Journal of Medicine, consuming too much sugar is associated with a number of health conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other issues.
Of course, the difficulty for most of us is that sugar is tasty. Whether it’s ice cream, cookies, candy, or even added sugars in a salad dressing or a slice of bread, sugar appeals to our taste buds. This can make cutting sugar incredibly hard.
Reducing sugar intake has a number of benefits for our overall health and wellbeing. Below, we outline some of the ways that cutting sugar can help you lose weight and gain better health.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found throughout our bodies. We need some cholesterol to make certain hormones, vitamins and other substances. Yet if we have too much cholesterol in our bodies, it can build up in our arteries as plaque and lead to heart disease.
Research has shown that when we consume too much sugar, it can decrease the levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) in our blood. HDL cholesterol “eats” the bad cholesterol in our blood, or LDL. If you cut the amount of sugar that you consume, you could ultimately lower your cholesterol level, particularly when it comes to the “bad” cholesterol that is linked to heart disease.
Boost Heart Health
Too much sugar also leads to higher levels of triglycerides, which are a type of fat that moves through our vascular system. Having high triglyceride levels can increase your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack, or of developing cardiovascular disease.
The bottom line? Decreasing your sugar intake by just 20% can protect your heart health by lowering the level of triglycerides in your bloodstream, and the fat buildup in your blood that can cause serious heart conditions.
Have Better Teeth
Our mouths are an ideal breeding location for different types of bacteria, particularly those that cause tooth decay. Sugars are the primary food source for these bacteria. Eating too much sugar will feed this bacteria, allowing it to grow and cause cavities and other infections.
According to one study, a group of harmful bacteria produce acid in our mouths whenever they feed on sugar. This acid removes minerals from the enamel on our teeth, and over time, weakens and destroys the enamel. This forms a cavity, or a hole in the tooth.
Cutting back on sugars, including those in drinks like juice and soda, can help to slow or stop tooth decay. By brushing regularly and reducing your sugar intake, you can keep your teeth healthy and strong.
Achieve a Healthier Weight
For most people, weight gain occurs when we take in more calories than we burn. Over time, consuming too many calories can cause us to pack on the pounds. An all-too-easy way to eat too many calories is by eating sugar.
Sugary foods also taste really good to our bodies, so we may be tempted to eat much more than we would if the food was even slightly less sweet. At 4 calories per gram, this can add up to significant weight gain over time. By switching to whole foods – like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins – we can achieve a healthier weight.
Have Better Nutrition
Calories that come from sugar are considered empty calories. That is because sugar adds calories to your diet, but provides few or no nutrients. When we eat lots of sugary foods, we aren’t gaining much nutritionally.
By filling your diet with nutrient dense food, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and whole grains, your body will get more of the nutrients that it needs to function, repair itself, and protect itself. In addition, the fiber that is present in many of these foods will help your body absorb sugar more slowly, so that your glucose levels will be more stable.
Reduce the Risk of Developing Certain Diseases
The research is clear. Eating too much sugar – particularly added sugars (as opposed to naturally-occuring sugars found in fruits and vegetables) – is incredibly dangerous for our health. Consuming too much added sugar has been associated with an increased risk of:
- Cognitive decline
- High blood pressure
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Cardiovascular disease
One of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with one or more of these conditions is to reduce your intake of added sugars.
Americans spend untold millions of dollars annually on products to make their skin look better. If you’ve ever shelled out $60 for a serum or scheduled a facial, you understand firsthand just how expensive it can be to keep your skin looking fresh. Yet there is a free (or low cost) alternative path to better skin: reducing your sugar intake.
When we eat too much sugar, it can seriously affect our skin. A diet with high levels of sugar has been associated with acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. Eating too much sugar can also age your skin prematurely. If you’re serious about looking your best, start by cutting out added sugars in your diet.
Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer
In addition to aging your skin and contributing to certain skin conditions, too much sugar can also increase your risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer. While the exact mechanism is unknown, one factor may be that when you eat sugary foods, you may not be getting enough of the vitamins and nutrients from whole foods that are known to protect against skin cancer.
In particular, consuming fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium can reduce your risk of this type of skin cancer. Instead of eating a candy bar – which may increase the likelihood of developing cancer – choosing foods like tomatoes, carrots, raspberries and grapes can lower your risk.
Stabilize Your Mood
We know that eating something sugary can give you a quick boost of energy. Yet over time, eating too much sugar can negatively affect your mood. According to a 2017 study, eating too much sugar has a negative long-term effect on psychological health.
This study found that sugar intake from sweet food and beverages increases the likelihood of mood disorders such as depression, particularly in men. This may be due in part to how sugar affects our brains. While there are many factors that play a role in mental illness, reducing the amount of sugar that you eat could ultimately lead to better overall mental health.
There are any number of reasons why we might experience inflammation in our bodies – an injury, an autoimmune condition, illness, or even just stress. Another possible source of inflammation is dietary sugar intake, particularly beverages that are sweetened with sugar.
Chronic, low-grade inflammation is a critical factor in the development of certain diseases, including diabetes, dementia, and depression. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet – particularly added sugars and sugary drinks – can reduce the level of inflammation in your body. In turn, that may lower your risk for certain health problems.
Feel More Full with Less Food
While the science is still developing on this issue, researchers believe that sugar consumption – including artificial sugars – influence how much food you eat. In other words, the more sugar or sugar substitutes that you consume, the more food that you will likely eat.
By reducing the amount of sugar that you eat, you may feel an increase in satiety, or a feeling of fullness or satisfaction with the food that you eat. That means you will feel full when eating less food – which often has the benefit of helping you to lose weight.
Less “Brain Fog”
We know that high levels of sugar in the blood can harm our blood vessels due to inflammation. This can actually affect how your brain functions, both in the short-term and over time.
Studies have shown that frequent exposure to high glucose levels diminished mental capacity. For people with diabetes, this may lead to deficits in learning, memory, motor speed, and other functions. For those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function.
The upshot? Eating lots of food with added sugars can make it harder for you to concentrate and to perform well at work, school, or in other areas of your life. When you cut back on sugar, you may find yourself more alert and able to take on the tasks of the day.
According to a 2016 study, consuming higher levels of sugar is linked to more restless sleep. In addition, diets high in sugar are associated with lighter, less restful sleep and more difficulty falling asleep. Because sleep is essential for your body to repair and restore itself, and for a strong immune system, a lack of sleep can affect your health overall.
When you reduce the amount of sugar that you consume, you may find that it is much easier to fall asleep – and for you to stay asleep. Over time, you will feel more rested and notice that your feel better overall.
Reduce Diabetes Risk
Earlier, we noted that eating too much sugar is associated with certain chronic diseases. It is worth spotlighting one disease in particular that is associated with eating too much sugar: type 2 diabetes.
When you eat a lot of sugar and other simple carbohydrates, your pancreas releases insulin to bring down the amount of glucose in your bloodstream (remember: elevated glucose levels aren’t good for your body). Over time, this can deplete your body’s ability to produce insulin, which leads to a diagnosis of diabetes. By changing your diet, you can reduce the likelihood that you will develop diabetes – or in some cases, even reverse the condition.
Enjoy Other Foods More
When we eat a lot of sugary foods and drink sweet beverages, our taste buds become accustomed to the taste. If we then eat something without added sugar, it may taste bland, flavorless, or even bitter.
One benefit of cutting back added sugars is that you will likely start to enjoy other foods more. A strawberry that may taste tart to you when you are eating lots of sugar may suddenly taste perfectly sweet. This can help you change your diet overall, as you are able to more fully taste the flavors of fruits and vegetables.
Improve Your Willpower
Study after study has shown that sugar can be incredibly addictive. Just like with drugs, alcohol, and other substances, when you eat too much sugar, you may become dependent on it. Your brain begins to crave sugar, and you may experience binge eating or even withdrawal if you try to stop eating it.
This can make it incredibly hard to say no to your favorite sweets and sugary beverages, as eating sugar creates a toxic cycle of wanting more sugar. While it can be difficult to do so, when you reduce your sugar intake, you could find yourself less interested in sweets overall, and may find that you have a lot more willpower around sugary foods and beverages.
You may think of sugar as something that can give you a quick boost of energy. After all, your body burns glucose to create energy, right? It turns out that it’s not so simple – and that sugar can actually reduce your energy level.
The science behind it is complicated, but in essence, neurons in our brains known as orexin are responsible for stimulating wakefulness and providing energy to our bodies. Elevated levels of glucose in our bodies can actually block or silence the activity of orexin neurons, leading to lower levels of energy. By reducing the amount of sugar that you eat, you could actually feel more awake and alert.
Reduce Belly Fat
If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know that one of the hardest areas to lose weight is in your abdominal region. Unfortunately, fat around your midsection – known as visceral fat – carries the highest level of risk for your health. Visceral fat generates hormones that can cause inflammation in your organs and blood vessels, contributing to conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Consuming lots of sugar is associated with a fat around your midsection. Eating sugar increases the glucose levels in your blood, which triggers your body to release insulin to reduce the amount of sugar in your blood. Over time, this insulin encourages fat to accumulate around your belly.
By reducing or eliminating added sugars from our diets, we can often decrease belly fat. This doesn’t just help us shed pounds – it makes us healthier overall, and less likely to develop a serious illness.
Decreased Risk of Lung Disease
Earlier, we explained how eating too much sugar can lead to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. In turn, having diabetes can lead to a specific type of lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).While the link between the two conditions is not clear, scientists have noted that high levels of glucose in the blood is associated with harmful changes to the lungs. Reducing your intake of sugar may help you avoid being diagnosed with COPD, type 2 diabetes, or other serious, chronic health conditions.
Help the Planet
Cane sugar is derived from the sugarcane plant. In the past, sugar was viewed as a treat, and so there weren’t as many sugarcane farms around the world. Today, given the massive consumption of sugar, sugarcane is grown on megafarms around the world to meet the demand.
The problem is that growing sugarcane requires a lot of water. It can also be incredibly destructive to the habitats where it grows, like the Atlantic Forest, because of its high need for water. When you make a decision to reduce your consumption of sugar, you might just be helping the planet at the same time.
As detailed above, sugar affects our health and well-being in a number of ways. In particular, consuming too much sugar can cause chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. If you are diagnosed with these or other conditions, you will spend far more on visits to the doctor, prescription drugs, and other health-related costs.
Even if you aren’t diagnosed with a chronic disease, eating too much sugar can make your skin break out, cause cavities, and make you feel sluggish. All of these may be reasons why you visit the doctor or dentist, or buy over-the-counter remedies. When you limit sugar, you will reduce the likelihood that you will experience these effects – and save yourself quite a lot of money.
Ready to Change Your Lifestyle? Reach Out to Ideal You Today.
One of the best things that you can do for yourself is changing your diet. By changing what and how you eat, you can lose weight and take advantage of a whole host of benefits – like what happens when you cut added sugars from your diet.
At Ideal You, we understand how difficult it can be to lose weight in a safe, sustainable way. Our program is different. We don’t ask you to buy shakes, bars, or frozen meals. Instead, we offer a healthy approach to weight loss, using a multifaceted approach that takes the latest science on things like added sugars into account.