We all know that sugar is bad, and many have tried to lessen their sugar intake. When one tries to cut down on sugar, they might do their best to cut back on foods like donuts, ice-cream, and cookies. However, sugar is in many foods not usually known to have it in high amounts, such as breakfast cereals. The average American is unaware that they consume 150 pounds of sugar a year.
Something else many may be unaware of is just how unhealthy sugar is, and why moderating consumption of it is crucial. Nothing moderate about 150 pounds a year. Below are numerous reasons to avoid sugar, as well as tips to eat less sugar.
8 Reasons to Avoid Sugar
1. It Strips Your Body of Nutrients
Sugar is void of all nutrients, and because of this, it has to draw nutrients from our reserves just so it can be metabolized. Taking nutrients from the body’s reserves can lead to serious mineral deficiencies which can lead to a host of health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
2. It Can Be Highly Addictive
Have you ever tried to cut back on sugar? If so, you may know just how hard this can be. When sugar is consumed in high amounts, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is one of the “feel-good” chemicals in our brain, and eating sugary foods often enough will cause our dopamine centers to become desensitized, leading us to eat more and more of these sugary foods to attain a similar effect.
3. It Has the Potential to Cause and Feed Cancer
Over the years there has been increasing evidence that starving cancer cells of glucose, the sugars in your body, is the most effective way of treating them. Refined sugar (the type that is readily available on your supermarket shelves) is significantly linked to cancer. Not only have refined sugars been shown to cause cancer, but when consumed after cancer has developed, have been shown to continue to feed cancerous cells.
4. It is Toxic to Your Liver
Many experts believe that sugar can be just as bad for the liver as alcohol. One liver condition that can be caused by sugar is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when excess calories in the body are stored as fat in the liver. If left untreated, this condition will affect the liver just as alcohol does by causing irreversible liver damage, such as cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the second leading cause of cirrhosis, the first being alcohol.
5. It Increases the Risk of Diabetes
Excess glucose in the body affects insulin’s function in the body. The cells in your body become resistant to insulin, which can lead to a host of different diseases, diabetes included. When our body becomes resistant to insulin, the cells in our pancreas must work harder to produce insulin. Unfortunately, the pancreas cannot keep up with the pressure of producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels low. Blood sugar levels shoot up and dramatically increase the risk of type II diabetes.
6. It Can Cause Depression
That high that sugar can give is usually met with an alarming low when the effect wears off, and research has shown that substantial sugar consumption can increase the risk of depression. Sugar suppresses BDNF activity, a hormone already lacking in people that suffer from depression. It’s also responsible for brain inflammation, which causes a huge impact on brain function and is a powerful trigger for depression.
7. It Aggravates Anxiety
Prone to anxiety? Sugar will make it worse. It worsens symptoms of stress and anxiety. A post-sugar “low” can also trigger anxiety and encourage symptoms like tension and shaking. Sugar itself cause anxiety, but it aggravates anxiety in susceptible to it.
8. It May Inhibit Learning and Memory
A study recently published in the Journal of Physiology shows how long-term sugar consumption affects the brain. This study, conducted on rats, shows that eating sweets and drinking soda on a regular basis significantly affected learning and memory skills.
Tips for Eating Less Sugar
1. Know How Much is Too Much
Staying away from sugar can be difficult because it is in so many foods. Six to nine grams a day is considered the “safe” amount, but the average American consumes 82 grams a day. That’s a little over a pound a week and much more than anyone should consume.
2. Know What Foods Are High in Sugar
You can greatly reduce your intake of sugar when you commit to making healthy choices and cut down on what you know is packed with sugar. Muffins, donuts, candy, cakes and pies are some examples of foods to be avoided. These are the more obvious examples, but sugar is also in many other foods such as breakfast cereals and bars, yogurt, most peanut butter, juice, crackers, and condiments like ketchup.
3. Don’t Go Cold Turkey
Sugar’s addictive nature makes it difficult to abruptly stop consuming it. You’ve more than likely built this sugar habit over time and it may take a while for your body and mind to adjust. Symptoms of sugar withdrawal include fatigue, low mood, lack of interest in things one usually finds enjoyable, and intense cravings. Cut down on your sugar intake over a week or two instead of all at once. While the symptoms you experience will still show up, they will be more tolerable.
4. Stay Away from Sugar-Laden Drinks
According the USDA, sweetened drinks make up for almost 40% of our sugar intake. Soda is the most obvious example (and don’t be fooled by “sugar free” sodas: the artificial sweeteners they’re produced with are just as bad, if not worse), but other drinks high in sugar include iced tea, lemonade, juice, energy drinks, flavored coffee drinks, and more. Commit to drinking water, herbal tea such as matcha tea, or black coffee. Infusing water with different fruits is one way to hydrate in a naturally sweet way. An alternative to soda is sparkling water with added lemon or lime. You can take things even further and start doing lemon detox that will cleanse your body out of all toxins.
5. Get Plenty of Fat and Protein
Snacking on healthy fats and protein throughout the day will help when you decide to cut down on your sugar intake. Think apples, avocados, hard-boiled eggs, or plain Greek yogurt and berries for snacks that will help keep energy levels stable and sugar cravings at bay.
6. Read Your Food Labels
Reading your food labels is a huge part of cutting down on the amount of sugar you consume. When you begin to read nutritional content labels, you may be surprised of just how much sugar you’re eating. Other names for sugar in ingredient lists include high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, corn syrup, molasses, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, rice syrup, and turbinado sugar.
Cutting out sugar, while difficult to begin doing, can greatly improve your health. The difficult early effort will be worth the long-term health benefits.