Is It Time To Cut Out Dietary Sugar?
The New Year brings a new set of resolutions and goals many of which are tied to our health. Diet and physical activity are two main areas where we want to implement change and cutting out sugar is typically high on the list. This may sound drastic, but making a few small changes may lead to significant health benefits that make it worth the effort.
In general, Americans consume 17 tablespoons of sugar a day contained within the various foods we eat and beverages we drink. This number is nearly triple the recommended 6 tablespoons for women and almost double the recommended amount for men at 9 tablespoons.
Types of Sugar
Sugar is found in two primary forms; natural and added. Natural sugar is what is found in whole foods like fruit. This form of sugar is not considered bad, but some may still need to limit the amount they take in depending on their health.
Added sugar is where the majority of health issues arise. They are added to food and beverages to give them a sweet flavor. Added sugars also add calories, but without any additional nutrients, this is known as empty calories.
Sugar In The Body
Consuming a large amount of sugar can negatively impact your health in many ways.* Sugar is addictive due to the hormonal response that takes place in the body. It causes the brain to release the feel-good hormone, dopamine, which is the primary reason you crave sugar during the afternoon lull.
Sugar can lead to a state of chronic inflammation in the body which may have several negative health consequences. Inflammation might cause joint pain, skin irritations, weight gain, and fatigue.*
Added sugar may increase the amount of fat found in the blood, triglycerides, which might increase your risk for heart disease.* Sugar in any form can cause tooth decay because it encourages the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
Yogurt is a healthy food that tends to have a high amount of sugar, in added and natural forms. Adding toppings to yogurt can also increase its sugar content. Sodas have a significant amount of sugar, especially non-diet versions.
Sugar feeds the bacteria and fungi present in the intestines which can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast, also known as Candida albicans. This overgrowth can lead to poor gut health and may be linked to brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues, and even food sensitivities.*
The less sugar you eat in the morning, the more balanced you will be all day. So try to make good breakfast choices!
Benefits of Cutting Sugar
If you’ve decided to cut down or completely eliminate sugar from your diet you might experience some significant benefits.
Weight Loss – Removing sugar from your diet may simultaneously remove many calories that are leading to weight gain.*
Improved Heart Health – Taking in less sugar may reduce triglycerides and blood pressure resulting better heart health.*
Quality Nutrition – By removing sugar from your diet you may find yourself eating more nutrient-dense foods.*
Healthy Dental Hygiene – Tooth decay is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, and sugar feeds this bacteria. Removing sugar may reduce the amount of this bacteria in the mouth and may lead to better oral health.*
Better Skin – Sugar can also feed the bacteria that lives on our skin resulting in blemishes. Cutting out sugar may improve acne prone skin in this way.*
It's ok to sometimes eat a bite of dark chocolate.
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How to Cut Out Sugar?
Some people prefer to cut out sugar cold-turkey while others do so in a gradual manner. The ideal method is unique to each individual. Some people do better with going cold turkey, which is essentially an all-or-nothing approach. Others need to approach cutting out sugar gradually by eliminating one or two sugar-containing foods at a time.
Cutting out sugar cold-turkey can be difficult as they may experience increased cravings, potential headaches, and irritability. Taking the gradual approach can increase the likelihood of over-indulging or making excuses.
Eliminate Soda - If soda is your drink of choice simply cutting this out you may significantly reduce the amount of sugar you consume in your diet.*
Check for Added Sugar – By simply avoiding any foods with added sugar you may decrease the amount of sugar you take in through your diet.*
Cut Down on Sugar in Recipes - Reduce the sugar called for in your recipes, cutting it back by one-third or one-half won't negatively impact the outcome, but might improve the sugar content.* Unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar in most recipes.
Check for Hidden Sugar – Sugar goes by over 50 names. Always check the ingredients label for hidden sugar like molasses, sucrose, or high fructose corn syrup.
Taking an all or nothing approach to your sugar intake isn’t always an option, especially for those requiring a delicate monitoring of their blood sugar levels. There are other ways to reap some of the benefits of a low sugar diet through vitamins and supplements.
Taking probiotics may replenish the good bacteria in your gut which are important for healthy digestion.* When the gut’s bacteria is balanced, we are able to handle and process carbohydrates in an more efficient manner. This may allow for lower risk of blood sugar spikes and crashes as well as the potential for poor gut health that may lead to Candida overgrowth and digestion issues.*
Lowering your blood sugar may also be done through herbs and nutrients in supplement form. Cinnamon can be added to a health regimen to help bring better control of blood sugar.* Green tea contains polyphenols, plant compounds, that also aid in better regulation of blood sugar.*
You may be cutting out sugar for a short period or making long-term changes to your diet, regardless of your length of time you are sure to see benefits. The benefits of cutting out sugar from your diet range from physical to mental and are both internal and external. The impact that sugar has on our overall health is a weighty motivator for attempting this change.