July 20, 2021
Note: This article contains general information only. It is not intended to be used as a medical source. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Sugar consumption is a part of our everyday life. Most foods contain sugar in some capacity. A common misconception about sugar is that it is very unhealthy. Like most things, if we consume it in excessive amounts, then it will be unhealthy. Sugar can be healthy if consumed at moderate levels, as many healthy foods, such as fruits, contain a fair amount of natural sugars.
If you are currently eating too much added sugar, then reducing your sugar intake will provide some positive outcomes. Here are 6 major benefits to reducing your sugar intake.
Typically, foods that are high in sugar are low in nutrients and high in calories. This is called low “nutrient density”. Though the food may taste good, and provide a temporary feeling of fullness, the increase of glucose in the bloodstream could make you hungrier sooner. If you still have some sugary snacks left over when the hunger strikes back, you might reach for these, and take in even more calories and sugar. By reducing your intake of sugary snacks and drinks, you could see a decrease in weight.
To help replace these snacks, opt for beverages like water, carbonated water, or if you’re craving something sweet, a sugar-free soda. For snacks, find ones that contain fiber, protein, or complex carbohydrates. These alternatives will help you get your daily nutrients, stay full, and provide you with a stable amount of energy.
Lowering your sugar intake can also help your long-term health! This includes lowering your risk for diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. A diet that includes high levels of sugar for long periods of time is the biggest risk factor for diabetes. There is no direct proof that sugar causes type 2 diabetes, but if you are overweight, your chances of getting diabetes is much higher.
As stated earlier, foods that consume high amounts of sugar are also typically high in calories as well. This combination can contribute to weight gain and high sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the cells in your body don’t respond as well to insulin (i.e. they become insulin resistant). Insulin is a hormone that is produced in your pancreas. This hormone is used to let blood sugar enter your cells and provide energy to the body. When someone is insulin resistant, their pancreas is working overtime to provide more insulin in order to reduce blood sugar. Eventually, the pancreas will not be able to keep up, blood sugar rises.
High blood sugar can also cause heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. By reducing your sugar consumption, not only will you feel better, but you will keep your resistance to insulin and lower your risk of many health conditions.
Sugar can damage your skin through a natural process called glycation. This occurs when sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins and produces harmful free radicals called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As you eat more sugar, AGEs will accumulate and damage the proteins around them. By reducing sugar, drinking plenty of water, and consuming nutrient-dense foods, you will help yourself feel fresh and younger with clearer skin.
Digestion is also an important aspect of your health to consider with regards to your diet. Having good digestion essentially means your body has an easier time breaking down food into the nutrients that are used to fuel your body for energy, growth, and cell repair. When you consume sugar, your small intestine releases enzymes to help digest it. The molecules are absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream where they can be used for energy.
For people with IBS (an estimated 1 in 10 people), a high-sugar diet may trigger symptoms, as many with IBS do not produce enough of the enzymes used to digest sucrose.
Having a healthy heart is crucial for living a long and healthy life. As mentioned earlier, reducing your sugar intake can lower your risks of certain diseases and illnesses. When you limit excess sugar, not only are you feeling great, but you’re helping your body in the long-term. High-sugar diets have several indirect links to an increased risk of heart disease.
Like alcohol, the liver metabolizes sugar, which converts dietary carbohydrates into fat. Over time, if the liver is required to process high amounts of sugar, more fat may accumulate, leading to fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, and associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Having a high sugar intake for a long period of time can also produce high levels of triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. There are still ongoing studies on the relationship between triglycerides and heart health, but there is evidence linking high levels of triglycerides to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, people with low “good” HDL cholesterol, and people with type 2 diabetes. Though there is a long list of possible issues, eating a nutritious diet, and living an active lifestyle can drastically reduce the risk of any of these complications.
The brain is the most important organ in the body, but many people are unaware of the impact of their diet on brain health. For instance, increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may be linked to improved cognition and memory. As for sugar, some studies have shown that elevated levels in the diet may be associated with an increased risk of depression: in 2017, a study consisting of over 23,000 students found that those with high levels of sugar in their diet were more likely to have experienced depression.
Since we are all human, we like to enjoy ourselves. Like most things in life, moderation is key. Trying to completely erase sugar from your diet can be challenging and make dieting unenjoyable. It is important to find a diet that you enjoy and can easily stick to. Limiting your sugar intake and reaching for healthy alternatives is a fantastic step in the right direction. Being healthy, feeling good, and creating a healthy future are things that everyone wants. Start by focusing on cutting out smaller things like a soda at lunch, or a candy bar on your way home from work. Build off of your successes and continue to reach for a better option. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! You won't kick your sugar habits overnight, but small continuous efforts can result in a great change.