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8 benefits of cutting back on sugar

Lifestyle — Posted 06/02/14

From weight loss to healthy skin, there are plenty of good reasons to reduce the levels of sugar in your daily diet.

Whether you’re giving up sugar for FebFast, or you just want to cut back to improve your overall health and nutrition, focusing on the benefits is the best way to keep you committed to your plan. Here are some of the ways eating less sugar can help you. 

Weight loss

Cutting back on sugar may help you to slim down. Food and drinks high in sugar tend to be high in calories without the nutritional benefits that fill you up and give your body fuel it can use. Experts say sugar – or more specifically, fructose – can encourage fat storage. Sugary foods can also make you hungrier more quickly, due to the changes in blood glucose, so if you’re snacking on chocolate you’re likely to end up eating more throughout the day overall. Instead of reaching for junk food when you’re hungry, focus on consuming fibre, protein and low GI complex carbohydrates to help your body get the nourishment it needs, and keep you feeling full and energised. 

Stable mood and energy

Sugar sends your energy levels on a rollercoaster. When you eat something sugary, your blood sugar levels spike rapidly, giving you that boost in mood and alertness - then fall shortly after insulin is released into your cells. This big, sudden drop in blood sugar can make you shaky, weak, hungry and moody. By focusing on more wholesome, nutritious food evenly spaced out throughout the day, you can give yourself more stable energy levels that leave you feeling overall much more bright and vital. 

Healthy teeth

If you like having bright and shiny pearly whites, cutting back on sugar is an excellent idea. The naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth thrives on sugar. When sugar from food and drink ends up on the surface of your tooth, the bacteria uses the sugar as energy to grow. Over time plaque can build, which eats away at the tooth enamel, encouraging cavities and gum disease. In a less direct way, sugar can affect your teeth by increasing your risk of diabetes, which in turn can increase the glucose content of your saliva, encouraging oral bacterial growth. For some ideas on snacks to eat instead, take a look at our list of foods for healthy teeth

Clearer skin

Blood sugar spikes and falls create inflammation or internal stress in the body, which can lead to breakouts and dull-looking skin. Sugar sucks all the water out of your cells, dehydrating your skin and leading to puffiness and under-eye circles. Choosing a variety of nourishing foods and drinking plenty of water will help you to look and feel more fresh and vibrant.

Improved mental health

While sugar does not necessarily cause mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, it can accentuate the symptoms. Research shows that a high-sugar diet can impair the body’s ability to cope with stress, which can make you more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety. Some studies also suggest a link between the spikes and crashes of blood sugar levels to symptoms of mood disorders such as depression, possibly because sugar suppresses the activity of a hormone called BDNF, which is low in people with depression. Reducing sugar can help minimise symptoms of mental health conditions, boost your energy and improve your resilience to stress.

Better digestion

Your digestive tract will thank you for cutting down on sugar – the white stuff inflames the stomach, ferments in the gut and doesn’t digest efficiently, because it can’t be broken down into nutrients other than simple glucose. When you blood sugar surges, the stomach becomes a toxic place that can cause you discomfort. Here are some ways you can alter your eating habits to improve your digestion

Care for your heart

Sugar that doesn’t get used as energy converts into fatty acids that become triglycerides – a type of fat that circulates in your blood. One study suggested that consuming high levels of sugar can cause changes to your blood markers in as little as 10 weeks. High levels of triglycerides increase your risk of developing heart diseases and stroke, so reducing your sugar intake may help protect your from cardiovascular problems later in life.

Healthy brain function

There is evidence to suggest that consuming too much sugar can impact your cognitive abilities. A study at UCLA found that a high-fructose diet could negatively affect your learning and memory, by causing insulin resistance, which can damage communication between brain cells. Sugar may also increase inflammatory stress on the brain and interfere with brain waves, making it harder to think clearly. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, nuts, seeds and healthy oils to give your brain the support it needs.

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