What do you think of when you hear the word “sugar”? Does a bag of the fine, white baking crystals come to mind? Childhood Kool-Aid®? Maybe you’re more of a salted caramel mocha person. Whatever way you crave your sugar, it still has the same effects on the body. And those effects aren’t so sweet. Simply put, sugar is a harmful, addictive substance. No matter how it’s presented, too much sugar affects the body in not-so-sweet ways. And it’s a bitter pill for every sweet tooth out there to try to break the sugar habit.
Let’s get emotional
Added sugars are found in a huge variety of processed foods, which we Americans voraciously consume. Studies have shown that sugar is addictive, similar to any addictive drug, and brain scans have found that it affects the limbic system of the body, which is responsible for emotional control. No wonder we rely more on sugar when we’re depressed, stressed, or anxious. We have all heard the term “sugar high” and may have experienced the mood-lifting feeling ourselves. It is ALWAYS followed by a crash of energy. Not good. But, hang on; we’re just getting started. Sugar may wreak havoc on our minds, but it’s flat-out deadly for our bodies.
Slowing killing ourselves
Obesity rates are constantly on the rise, and sugar is one of the main culprits, as it affects the body’s ability to understand hunger and fullness signals. Sugar also contributes to abdominal fat, which, in turn, can increase your chance of developing diabetes and heart disease, among other serious health issues. Consuming too much sugar can also lead to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, which open up a whole other can of serious heart problems.
The average American adult consumes about 17% of their calories from sugar, with children not far behind at 14%. In fact, in just one year, many Americans will consume their body weight in sugar; that averages out to 152 pounds a year! Of sugar!! These are staggering statistics, folks, considering the recommended daily intake is only six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men. Let me repeat that with numerals: 6 and 9!! Children should only be consuming five to eight (5-8!) teaspoons a day!
Some no-sugar bonuses
So, we know why we should lay off the sweet stuff, but sugar is, again, a drug. Therefore, it takes more than just willpower to quit. Your body may be addicted to sugar’s taste and effects. In case you need a little inspirational kick in the pants, we’ve rounded up a list of benefits that result from just saying “no.”
- Better skin. Did you know that sugar can cause acne? Also, a diet loaded with sugar can decrease your skin’s elasticity and lead to premature wrinkles. Give up sugar, and you could see a “glow” as quickly as within 14 days.
- Decreased abdominal fat. Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels, creating an insulin release. Excess insulin accumulates around your middle and creates inflammation within the body. Abdominal fat is actually the most dangerous fat to have in the body, as it can affect hormones and sets the stage for both heart disease and type II diabetes, among other illnesses. So, if you’re wanting to lose weight, start with decreasing or eliminating sugar!
- More energy and focus. By replacing sugary foods with healthier choices that include proteins and healthy fats or carbohydrates, you’re setting yourself up for a better burn throughout the day and no afternoon slumps from sugar crashes.
- Fewer cravings. As mentioned before, sugar can impact our ability to read our body’s hunger and fullness signals. This can lead to giving in to cravings throughout the day. By replacing sugar with healthier options, you’ll begin to have a more intuitive eating style based on what your body really needs.
- Healthy heart. Sugar can cause heart disease in a few different ways. It leads to systemwide inflammation in the body, more abdominal fat, and a hardening of arteries. By simply cutting out the sweet stuff, you can significantly decrease your chance of developing heart disease.
- Decreased risk for diabetes. Belly fat and an increased amount of insulin in the body both contribute to diabetes risk. The constant spike in blood sugar from eating too much of the added sugars found in sodas and processed foods increases your risk for developing this difficult and deadly disease.
- Better oral health. You can listen to your dentist on this one: Eating too much sugar does, in fact, create cavities and gum disease. And believe it or not, you really do need your teeth to last. Cutting sugar will also result in immediately improved breath, as sugar feeds the bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Decreased cancer risk. Certain studies have shown that different types of cancers feed on sugar, meaning that an increased blood sugar level can stimulate tumor growth.
- Better sleep. Consuming sugar during the day can contribute to a restless sleep at night. If you add caffeine into the mix, your chances of having a good night’s sleep drop even further. Lack of sleep also increases your chances of drowsiness during the day.
- Better sex. Sugar intake causes an insulin spike that, for men, can reduce sex drive and function. Women aren’t immune, either, as it also wreaks havoc on female sex hormones affecting desire, hair growth, and irregular menstruation.
- Happier. Cutting out sugar can lift your overall mood in just one to two weeks. Why? Sugar leads to chronic inflammation, which impacts brain function.
- Fewer colds. Inflammation caused by high sugar intake lowers our immune system’s ability to fight off colds and the flu. Less sugar may even improve asthma and allergy symptoms.
Change your habits, change your life
Sugar is not only addicting, but when eaten in large quantities, it can devastate the body and mind. It isn’t easy to stop consuming something that’s so prevalent in so many of the foods we eat. From peanut butter to condiments, there are many sources of hidden sugars, not to mention the push for us to devour sugary drinks and processed foods. But by eating a diet rich in fruits and sources of naturally occurring sugars, you can begin to break the habit of reaching for that midday candy bar. Protein-packed snacks, like nuts, make a great alternative and give lasting energy so you can feel full. Now is the time to quit this sweet poison and start living a healthier life on your terms!