By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
The average American (and most other developed countries have similar statistics), consumes up to 22 teaspoons a day (88g) of sugar. This amount of sugar provides no nutritional advantage or health benefit and adds on an extra 350 calories per day. Soft drinks, processed snacks and breakfast cereals are the biggest culprits for extra unnecessary, processed sugar consumption.
In fact, more attention is turning to added sugars—sugars and syrups that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to choose a whole foods diet and work to reduce processed, junk foods. Added sugars are different from naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit or vegetables.
Many health organizations suggest that women should not consume more than 6 tsp (24g) per day from added sugars while men should not consume more than 9 tsp (36g) of added sugars to maintain good health and to reduce the risk of associated health conditions.
The worst offender is soft drinks as they provide very concentrated calories, while leaving you feeling hungry. About one can of soda per day causes a weight gain of five pounds per year on its own.
Sugar is addictive, the more we eat it, the more we want it! To really combat a sugar addiction, giving it up completely can be the only way.
Here are some of the benefits to giving up the white stuff.
Improved cognition (no more fuzzy brain)
When we eat added sugar, we often will experience a sugar rush, then a sugar crash, which leaves us feeling tired, lethargic, with poor concentration, feelings of depression, anxiety, increased sugar and carbohydrate cravings, forgetfulness and more.
To enhance and support healthy blood glucose levels we need to eat a naturally low-sugar healthy diet that contains adequate protein, health fats and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
Studies show that eating a high-glycemic diet will contribute to depression in both women and men. These studies have confirmed that a reduced sugar intake has a positive effect on depression and other psychological health issues while a diet containing added sugars has been linked to higher incidences of depressive symptoms and a negative impact on long-term psychological health.
Eating less sugar supports healthy weight control, when we cut down on sugar, we reduce cravings, and therefore our calorie intake will also be less. When we replace sugar with healthy whole foods, our appetite will regulate. Sugar has a domino effect on our weight-gaining hungry hormones, so the less we eat the better our satiety and weight control will be.
Many people don’t realize is that sugar has a negative impact on our immune system and its ability to fight infections and protect our cells. High sugar levels make our blood and tissues sticky and this is a problem for cellular health. White blood cells (our body’s immune army) can’t effectively fight infections in a high sugar environment.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 100g of sugar lowered the white blood cells ability to kill bacteria by as much as 50 percent for up to 5 hours
Reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease
Elevated chronic blood sugar levels can lead into insulin resistance and then onto diabetes. These metabolic diseases will also have a negative impact on cardiovascular disease and liver health. Quitting sugar will help you to reduce the risk of all these health diseases now and in the future.
Sugar has a negative impact by increasing triglycerides in the blood stream, which has a significant negative effect on heart and vascular health. Eating less sugar will have a positive benefit on reducing these dangerous blood fats.
Your liver will love you for it
Each time we eat sugar, our liver is the organ that must process the excess sugar, as its all dumped into the liver where its manufactured into fat, which can cause a fatty liver, due to the blood sugar levels constantly be elevated. The liver effects our health in many ways. If our liver is fatty, this will further perpetuate weight issues and will cause an increase in weight-related health problems.
Giving up added sugar can be one of the most valuable tools you can commit to, to improve your health.
It doesn’t take long for these benefits to kick in once sugar has been given up. Some people may experience sugar withdrawals such as headaches, muscle aches and pains, fatigue, and mood swings, while others who don’t eat much won’t tend to have these symptoms. Sugar withdrawals can last up to two weeks and beyond this the health benefits will really kick in.
Including more fruits and vegetables along with smoothies and juices can be a great way to enjoy sweet flavors, sourced from naturally occurring sugars. These will not have the same negative impact on your health and they can be a great way to get through those cravings and beyond.
Look Out for Added Sugars
Here are some other names for sugar that you may see on food labels. It’s important to become familiar with the nutritional labels and watch for high amounts of sugars.