About 20% of Americans eat more than 700 calories of sugar per day, which equates to over one cup. This poses disastrous risks to one’s health and longevity, and can easily lead to weight gain. To put it in perspective, you would only have to drink a couple soft drinks and eat a slice of cake to take in 700 calories. The problem with foods today is that they have way too many calories and not enough nutrients. We generally need to up our intake of nutrients, which help to satisfy our appetites and supply energy to our bodies.
The problem is that even so-called “health” foods such as yogurt, granola bars, and pasta sauce have loads of hidden sugar. It therefore becomes quite easy to overdose on the sweet stuff.
“Not only are we getting added sugar from obvious places like cakes, candy, and soda, but it’s also coming from healthier-sounding packaged products like salad dressing, pasta sauce, and yogurt,” says Elyse Powell, a doctoral researcher at UNC.
Of course, eating natural sugars from fruits, whole grains, and vegetables won’t cause adverse health effects; however, all the added sugars from processed foods can seriously harm your mind and body. Some studies of people who previously ate large amounts of sugar and decided to give it up have found that people experienced withdrawal symptoms similar to those trying to sober up. These symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, etc. This means that sugar alters brain chemistry and can easily lead to an addiction.
Because of this fact as well as the myriad negative effects on health, many people have chosen to wean themselves off of sugar or at least cut back substantially. In this article, we’ll go over what happens when you decide to give up sugar.
It is recommended that humans consume no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. Currently, the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons daily. The average American child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar each day. – The American Heart Association
Here are 7 things that happen to your body when you decide to stop eating sugar:
1. You’ll have a healthier heart.
Your risk of dying from heart diseases will decrease by three times, according to research from James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid-Atlantic Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO. Added sugar raises insulin levels which activates the sympathetic nervous system, in turn raising blood pressure and heart rate. DiNicolantonio says that in just a few weeks of giving up sugar, your LDL cholesterol could go down by 10%. Additionally, your triglycerides could potentially decrease by 20-30%. You could see a drop in blood pressure as well.
Added sugar puts an enormous strain on your heart because your body must work so hard to process it. A high-sugar diet causes the liver to work on overdrive as well, pumping more fat into the bloodstream. The focus of heart disease in the past has largely been on saturated fats and cholesterol. The truth is that studies have shown sugar consumption to be a much greater risk factor in heart problems.
2. Your skin will clear up.
If you have skin problems such as acne, it could be attributed to eating too much sugar. In fact, one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people who normally didn’t drink carbonated beverages drank one 12-ounce can a day for three weeks, their inflammation levels went up by 87%. This inflammation can lead to skin problems because the body considers sugar a toxin. If the liver can’t process it and you don’t sweat it out, inflammation can show up on the skin in the form of acne and other blemishes.
Sugar causes glycation, a process where sugar binds with collagen and elastin in the skin. Collagen and elastin are two proteins that help maintain the skin’s youthful, glowing appearance. Cutting back on sugar will help the body keep these proteins intact.
3. You’ll greatly lower your risk of developing diabetes.
Eating added sugar causes fatty deposits to build up around your liver, which can contribute to insulin resistance and cause your pancreas to work on overdrive. The pancreas normally helps slow down production of insulin, but if you constantly pump sugar into your body, the pancreas and liver won’t be able to keep up. In a study of sugar consumption in 175 nations, Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, found that eating 150 calories of added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 11 times, compared to eating the same amount of calories from fat or protein.
4. You’ll feel happier.
You might feel on top of the world once the sugar high hits you, but coming down off that high only causes the cycle to repeat itself. Eat sugar, feel energized, crash, and do it all over again when another craving strikes. In other words, the happiness you feel from the sugar only sticks around for a short while before disappearing and leaving you wanting more.
A Columbia University study found that women who eat a lot of added sugars have a higher likelihood of experiencing mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability. If you want more stable emotions without the awful withdrawal symptoms, taking sugar out of your diet will help you tremendously.
5. You will have much better sleep.
Added sugar increases cortisol levels in the body, which can disrupt sleep at night. Plus, the crashes you feel when the sugar wears off will leave you sleepy during the day and wanting to take a nap. Sugar disrupts the central nervous system, which causes fluctuations in energy levels and sleep cycles. After giving up sugar, you’ll sleep better at night and feel more alert during the day.
6. Your memory will improve.
Sugar can lead to cognitive impairment and an overall feeling of “brain fatigue.” One animal study at UCLA found that diets high in sugar hinder memory and learning. The study also concluded that eating a lot of sugar may damage communication between brain cells. It might be because the influx of sugar disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals in the body, which can lead to lethargy and mental exhaustion.
7. You will lose weight.
As we said earlier in this article, products with sugar contain enormous amounts of empty calories. If you eat a sugary treat, you probably notice that you feel hungry within an hour of eating it. Why? Because cakes, cookies and the like have a lot of calories but don’t have very many nutrients. So, your body continues having cravings because it needs clean energy from healthy, whole foods.
Cutting back on sodas and bread, for example, will decrease your daily caloric intake by a few hundred calories. It’s a lot easier to dial back on sugary snacks than spend hours in the gym trying to burn off those excess calories, so try to eliminate unnecessary foods from your diet. Your brain (and your waistline) will thank you!
Tips on Cutting out Sugar
While you might find it difficult to eliminate added sugars at first, you just have to start slowly and work your way up. For example, try the tip above and cut out one or two sweet items for a month. Then, start paying attention to boxed and canned products such as salad dressings and sauces. Finally, look at anything you drink other than water, such as smoothies or fruit juices. These products are marketed as healthy, but you can just eat the whole fruit or vegetable instead of blending it up. Our bodies don’t process a large amount of blended fruits very well.
How Fast Will You See Results?
You might think it will take a long time to notice a difference, but it doesn’t have to. In one study involving children who gave up added sugars, they started feeling the positive effects in just over a week. Dr. Robert Lustig and his team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, noticed a 33-point decrease in triglyceride levels on average, and LDL (bad) cholesterol went down 5 points, as well as diastolic blood pressure. In only 10 days, all of the children who participated in the study significantly decreased their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Sugar is abundant in our society, and getting away from it seems, at times, an impossible task. However, by taking small steps toward a healthier diet, you can get rid of unwanted sugar in your diet. Simply begin by making smarter choices. For example, instead of going to the vending machine at lunch for a candy bar, bring some sliced fruit or veggies to work. It might take more time to prepare healthy foods, but the way you look and feel will more than make up for the extra effort.